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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: In Peru, Baby Formula Reps Target Doctors In Low-Income Community Despite Decades-Old Ban

A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that baby formula makers are wielding influence over health professionals in a low-income community on the outskirts of Lima, Peru through unauthorized visits and incentives.

Peru has prohibited marketers from promoting infant formula through health care centers and providers since 1982.

This influence, the researchers say, led health professionals to encourage their low-income patients to feed expensive formula to their newborns, according to the study published June 10 in the journal Social Science & Medicine. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age for its health benefits to babies.

Formula feeding in low-income countries can be particularly dangerous to the child’s health due to a lack of hygienic conditions that can prevent thorough cleaning of bottles and lead to the use of contaminated water in mixing formula.

Women who took part in the study — all from the low-income community of Villa El Salvador — were 10 times more likely to stop exclusively breastfeeding their babies in the first two months of life if their doctors suggested they supplement breastfeeding with formula.

Dr. Jessica Rothstein, associate faculty in the Bloomberg School’s department of international health, was the study lead.

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