What you can do

Challenging information provided in advertisments to healthcare professionals by breastmilk substitute manufacturer

#scientificandfactual

1

Write to the editors of journals and magazines that you read or subscribe to

If you regularly receive or read publications that carry advertising for breastmilk substitutes (BMS), please write to the editor citing our report, Scientific and Factual, and asking them to remove advertising for BMS from their pages. You can point out that some advertisements contravene the regulations. Advertising BMS to health workers may be permissible in law but creates conflict of interest and undermines the WHO Code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes and subsequent WHA resolutions, which aim to protect health workers and the families they support. Anyone working in an area which is, or has been, working towards UNICEF Baby Friendly accreditation (over 90% of maternity services and over 80% of health visiting services in the UK) will have received training on how to work within the WHO Code and been advised to remove publications containing formula advertisements from their facilities and to avoid conflicts of interest on study days and at conferences.



Journals rely on subscriptions and losing readership could challenge their financial viability, so feedback from readers and subscribers is particularly important. A list of journals that take advertising and the editors’ details, and some example emails or letters you could send are shown below. 



Click below to access example letters – please feel free to amend and adapt the wording to raise particular concerns you have with editors
:

Peer-reviewed journals

Magazines aimed at health workers

If you are in a Baby Friendly area

Below we have listed some of the magazines and journals that take advertising with the names of their editors.

Journal

Journal of Health Visiting
Editor: Rita Newland

r.m.newland@city.ac.uk
MA Healthcare Group, St Judes Church, Dulwich Road, London, SE24 0PB

Complete Nutrition
Editor: Lynn Garton
info@cm-2.co.uk
faye@cm-2.co.uk
Complete Media and Marketing, Studio 2, Mill Studio Business Centre, Crane Mead, Ware, SG12 9PY

Nursing Times
Editor: Steve Ford

steve.ford@emap.com
emap Publishing Limited, c/o dsb, 3 Queensbridge, Northampton, NN4 7BF

Journal

Journal of Healthcare Assistants
Editor: Peter Bradley
peter.bradley@markallengroup.com
MA Healthcare Group, St Judes Church, Dulwich Road, London SE24 0PB.

Nursing Standard
Editor: Graham Scott
graham.scott@rcni.com
65 Lowlands Rd, Harrow, HA1 3AW

Dietetics Today
Editor: Simret-Bassra-Brar
editor@bda.uk.com
BDA, 5th Floor Charles House,
148/9 Great Charles Street, Queensway, Birmingham B3 3HT

Journal

Practice Nursing
Editor: Kelly Davis
kelly.davis@markallengroup.com
MA Healthcare Group, St Judes Church, Dulwich Road, London SE24 0PB.

Infant
Editor: Lisa Leonard
lisa@infantjournal.co.uk
Infant, 134 South Street, Bishops Stortford, Herts CM23 3BQ

Journal

Pharmacy Magazine
Editor: Richard Thomas
richard.thomas@1530.com
Communications International Group. 162-168 Regent Street, London W1B 5TB

British Journal of Midwifery
Editor: Dame Tina Lavender and Yana Richens
bjm@markallengroup.com
MA Healthcare Group, St.Judes Church, Dulwich Road, London SE24 0PB


2

Write to the Department of Health regulators to complain about the infringements of the regulations and to ask what they plan to do to challenge the current adverts and protect health workers from exposure to misleading information

England

Debby Webb
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Road
London SW1H 0EU

E: Debby.Webb@dhsc.gov.uk
T: 020 7972 1243

Scotland

Scottish Government
Food, Drink and Rural Communities
B1 Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
Edinburgh EH11 3XD
E: goodfoodnation@gov.scot
T: 0300 244 4000

Wales

Health Improvement Division
Welsh Government
Cathays Park
Cardiff CF10 3NQ
E: Lifestyles@wales.gsi.gov.uk
T: 02920 825724

Northern Ireland

Food Standards Agency (Northern Ireland) 
Parnuts Food Notification
Dietary Health Team
10c Clarendon Road
Belfast BT1 3BG
E: infofsani@food.gov.uk
T: 028 9041 7700

F: 028 9041 772


3

Write to your MP or ask a Freedom of Information question

Ask your MP to ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care, Seema Kennedy, what she plans to do to tackle advertising of breastmilk substitutes to health workers that breaks the law and is misleading. One MP is obliged to reply to another and they can ask this as a parliamentary question or in a personal letter. If you live in Scotland or Wales, please encourage your MP to contact Joe Fitzpatrick or Vaughan Gething respectively.

You can find your MP here: www.theyworkforyou.com

Ask a Freedom of Information question by following the instructions here


4

Approach your professional lead body

If you are a member of a professional body that accepts funding from breastmilk substitute companies, such as the British Dietetic Association, you can write to the president, chair or head of professional affairs and ask if they will be doing anything to protect their membership from advertising of BMS. This could be by alerting their members in a newsletter about the issue, writing themselves to the DH regulators, using their contacts in parliament to challenge the lack of action when rules are broken, or making a commitment to ensure members are protected from advertising at meetings, conferences, study days and so on.


5

If you are a health worker who belongs to a local network, branch or group, ask to have this as an agenda item at your next meeting

Encourage others to think about this issue and complain if they are unhappy. Blog, Tweet or share on Facebook to highlight the issue to other health workers.


6

Say no to study days or events where makers of breastmilk substitutes are sponsors, or allowed to advertise.

Wherever possible avoid going to events and study days where there is marketing of BMS. If you can, write and say why you are not going so that the organisers are aware. If attending an event is unavoidable, write to the conference organiser and express your dismay at this advertising. You could ask whether the conference pack could include details of where health workers can obtain independent information on BMS and a statement that some advertising and marketing by BMS companies may not be in line with current UK policy.


7

Tell us about adverts or other marketing activities that you see aimed at health workers.

We will continue to collect examples of marketing to health workers, examine the science cited to support claims, and publish the results.

If you see adverts or other activities aimed at the general public, rather than health workers, contact Baby Milk Action (part of IBFAN) who monitors the marketing of BMS to families in the UK. For details about how you can contact them please click here.


Unicef links/further reading

Unicef – A guide for healthworkers to working within the Code
Baby Milk Action – conflicts of interest for health workers poster 
LIFIB - lifib.org.uk

Fiona Godlee on conflicts of interest in the British Medical Journal (BMJ): conflicts of interest policy developed because ‘making clinical decisions based on information biased by commercial interests can cause harm’ Click here to access

Sample Tweets

Please Tweet to your followers, or direct to journals, conference organisers or your MP. 

Here are some suggested tweets:

  • Advertising of breastmilk substitutes in professional journals is misleading, emotive and not #scientificandfactual @1stepsnutrition report

  • See @1stepsnutrition report for flawed science behind ads for breastmilk substitutes in journals for health workers. #scientificandfactual

  • Companies that make breastmilk substitutes target health workers to recommend products, but claims made in ads are misleading, not #scientificandfactual @1stepsnutrition

  • Fed up with ads for breastmilk substitutes in journals? @1stepsnutrition report exposes misleading science behind ads. Tweet journal eds! #scientificandfactual


Sample letters

 

Peer-reviewed journals

Dear [Editor],
As a regular reader of your journal, I would like to ask what the rationale is for including adverts for breastmilk substitutes. Although companies are legally allowed to provide scientific and factual information to health workers, the adverts are often based on flawed science and many claims do not support current health policy in the UK. I do not believe that these adverts are helpful for your readers since they undermine the otherwise evidence-based, peer-reviewed articles that are provided. I am sure you do not wish to mislead your readership, or knowingly allow inaccurate information to be placed in your journal.  If you want to see a review of how advertising is often misleading and out of step with current policy and scientific thinking First Steps Nutrition Trust have reviewed some advertisements and this information can be found on their website www.firststepsnutrition.org. You may be quite surprised by some of the information companies use to support their claims.



I hope you will discuss this issue with your editorial board.

Yours sincerely

Name 

Job Title

Magazines aimed at health workers

As a reader of your magazine I am writing to ask about the inclusion of adverts for breastmilk subsitutes. I understand that the companies are legally allowed to provide scientific and factual information to health workers, but the adverts are often based on flawed science and do not support current health policy in the UK. If you want to see a review of how advertising is often misleading and out of step with current policy and scientific thinking, First Steps Nutrition Trust have reviewed some advertisements and this information can be found on their website www.firststepsnutrition.org. You may be quite surprised by some of the information companies use to support their claims.



I do not believe that the ‘information’ in these adverts is helpful to readers, and their inaccurate content undermines evidence-based information that may appear in other articles in your magazine. I am sure you do not wish to create conflicts of interest or mislead your readership. Would you consider adopting an advertising policy that reflects these concerns?

Yours sincerely

Name

Job Title


If you are in a Baby Friendly area

Dear [Editor],
I am an [insert job title] in [insert area]. We are working towards Baby-Friendly Initiative accreditation and have recently received training on how to work within the WHO Code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes and subsequent WHA resolutions. We have been advised to remove publications containing advertisements for breastmilk substitutes from our facilities and to avoid conflicts of interest on study days and at conferences.
We are thus no longer able to have your magazine in the office, which is a shame because many of the articles you publish are of interest to me and my colleagues. Would you consider changing your advertising policy? Many of the adverts for breastmilk substitutes contravene regulations that say that they should be ‘scientific and factual’, and the science behind them is often flawed. If you want to see a review of how advertising is often misleading and out of step with current policy and scientific thinking First Steps Nutrition Trust have reviewed some advertisements and this information can be found on their website www.firststepsnutrition.org. You may be quite surprised by some of the information companies use to support their claims.

Yours sincerely

Name

Job Title