The campaign grew out of efforts in Massachusetts to stop aggressive formula company marketing tactics in hospitals. Multiple studies have shown that formula sales campaigns undermine mothers who choose to breastfeed, and coopt medical professionals to promote expensive brand-name formula.
In December, the state’s Public Health Council passed regulations that stopped hospitals from distributing formula company gift bags to new mothers. The regulations came after extensive testimony and public review, and are supported by multiple physician’s groups and public health organizations. In an unprecedented move, Gov. Mitt Romney scuttled the ban in February. The Council voted to revisit the issue in three months. Families and health professionals gathered to protest the governor’s polical maneuvers on Mother’s Day weekend. In the interim, Romney’s office squelched Department of Public Health efforts to readdress the issue and removed two council members who supported the ban immediately before a scheduled vote.
Debate about the proposed ban drew national attention, and leading Massachusetts hospitals voluntarily changed their policy, removing marketing gimmicks from their maternity wards. The national Ban the Bags campaign is working to educate the public about the issue and encourage families and health care professionals to move marketing tactics out of maternity hospitals.
Hospitals should market health, and nothing else.