Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

The winning pumpkin in Public Citizen’s annual Pumpkin Carving Contest. This depicts an unsanitary, poorly regulated compounding pharmacy.

In addition to having super-smart, hard-charging and hard-working people here at Public Citizen, we have a great deal of creativity.

It goes on display every year at Halloween, when we have our magnificent Pumpkin Carving Contest (all caps for emphasis).

The event is just for us here at Public Citizen. It’s a chance for us to do something fun and different (sculpting and decorating is not really part of the “and other duties as assigned” clause of our job descriptions).

Each department receives a pumpkin and has the day to carve and decorate it. Judging occurs later in the day at a small party we have here at our Dupont Circle headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The pumpkins get more elaborate every year. Suffice it to say that some departments start brainstorming pumpkin themes several weeks in advance of Contest Day.

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I love being the bearer of good news. Eliminating infant formula marketing in hospitals is decidedly a best practice employed by the vast majority of U.S. News and World Report’s top-ranked hospitals.  Public Citizen’s new report, Top Hospitals’ Formula for Success: No Marketing of Infant Formula, co-released by the Ban the Bags campaign shows how the vast majority of the nation’s most reputable hospitals are acting ethically and thwarting pressure from formula companies to aggressively market their harmful products.

Numerous studies show that mothers breastfeed with less frequency and for shorter durations when they receive formula company-sponsored bags with formula samples in hospitals at discharge. The bags often lead moms to believe hospitals endorse formula feeding and give up more easily on breastfeeding. Healthcare professionals overwhelming recommend that women breastfeed exclusively for the six months after birth, given its numerous health and economic benefits.

The report makes the following findings:

- Sixty-seven percent of top hospitals in gynecology (30 out of 45) reported not distributing formula company sponsored discharge bags, formula samples or other formula company promotional materials to mothers in their maternity units. Another 11 percent (5 of 45) reported limiting formula company-sponsored discharge bag and sample distribution to mothers who request them, or based on other criteria.

- Eighty-two percent (14 of 17) of U.S. News’ Honor Roll, of overall best hospitals, reported having a policy or practice against distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags or other promotional materials.

- Eleven percent of hospitals in gynecology (5 of 45) still distribute formula company-sponsored materials, and a handful of hospitals did not respond to the survey.

The report re-affirms other data showing that hospitals have been steadily trending toward ending formula promotion over the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey, 27.4 percent of hospitals had discontinued the formula discharge bags in 2007 and by 2011, 45.5 percent had ended the practice. The number of Baby Friendly designated hospitals, prohibiting formula marketing, is increasing. Further, all hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have voluntarily banned discharge bags, while others including Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma and New York are progressively moving in that direction.

The formula companies should be the first to comply with the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and stop co-opting hospitals into advertising their products. But with profits at stake, they’re ignoring the Code. More than 16,500 people have signed Public Citizen’s petition calling on the three major formula companies – Abbott, Mead Johnson and Nestle—to stop marketing in healthcare facilities. Sign the petition and forward to friends before we deliver it to the companies next month. Visit our to learn more about Public Citizen’s campaign to end formula marketing and what you can do to make change in your community.

Eva Seidelman is a Researcher for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert.

By Sam Jewler
Press Office Coordinator

I’ve been in tense police-protester situations before, but generally in more of a civil disobedience context. It was the last thing I expected at a press conference with renowned doctors in suits and a family with a six-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy.

But that’s what happened today when we held a press conference outside of the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where a public forum was convened to discuss revelations we publicized last spring of an HHS-funded study that put premature infants at great risk without fully informing their parents of the dangers.

As we set up our minimal props for the press conference, we were informed that we were on government property and would have to move elsewhere. We briefly debated with the security guards the difference between “government property” and “public property,” but that didn’t go very far. (Side note: Can I pay less in federal taxes now that I know I can’t put up a sign and speak to reporters in front of federal buildings?) The guards went inside, so we continued to set up, and then we started the press conference.

Here were some of the most powerful quotes from the day, after the break:

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August has been designated National Breastfeeding Month to highlight the significant health and economic benefits of breastfeeding to mothers and babies. However, three mega-corporations – Nestle, Abbott and Mead Johnson – continue to spend millions inappropriately marketing infant formula including inside the hospitals we trust. Reputable authorities including the U.S. Surgeon General formally promote breastfeeding over formula feeding because studies confirm that breastfeeding, whenever possible, is the healthiest option for mothers and babies. These companies know that if they can get free formula samples into the hands of new mothers while they’re still in the hospital, moms are more likely to rely on formula, interfering with their initial intentions to breastfeed. While those samples appear to be “free,” mothers, babies and U.S. taxpayers pay large sums for the formula itself, and the associated healthcare costs, in the long-run.

I recently joined Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert and will be coordinating our campaign to keep formula marketing out of health care facilities so that mothers can make objective, informed choices about how to feed their babies. When they hand out discharge bags with free samples, hospitals are essentially signaling to mothers that they recommend or endorse formula. According to studies published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Government Accountability Office formula marketing discourages breastfeeding for this very reason. Formula marketing in hospitals is not only manipulative, it is a violation of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

We’re on the Right Track

The good news is we’re making significant progress, hopefully as a result of our and others’ campaign efforts. In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mPINC study found that 45.5 percent of hospitals nationwide had stopped distributing formula samples. This is a notable improvement from 2009, when 34.2 percent of hospitals had ended the practice, which itself was an improvement over 2007. Certain states have made extraordinary progress. Over the past few years, nearly all hospitals in Maryland committed to stop distributing formula samples to new mothers, among other changes. In July of 2012, Massachusetts became the second state after Rhode Island to ban discharge bags in all of its hospitals thanks to the Ban the Bags campaign. Many more hospitals, including in New York City and California, have followed. These efforts likely led to the significant increase in breastfeeding initiation nationwide, which may have contributed to declines in obesity among preschoolers from 2008-2011.

But the fight is far from over. The majority of the nation’s hospitals still provide discharge bags with free samples. The majority do not exclusively breastfeed during the six months when it matters most. Over the next few months, we will be pressuring the nation’s highest-ranked hospitals to ban formula marketing. Some have, but all of these industry leaders need to set an example.

There are many challenges to exclusive breastfeeding, and new moms need much more support at home and work, and in the broader society. But one thing is clear: Corporate formula marketing in hospitals provides no support and sends the wrong message. What can you do to end it? Sign this petition to Nestle, Mead Johnson and Abbott and demand that they end formula marketing in health care facilities. Then visit our campaign page for other action ideas.

Eva Seidelman is a Researcher for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert.


A protester in front of the US Capitol holding a sign that reads "Medicare for all"To celebrate Medicare’s anniversary, I thought I would share my top 10 reasons, out of literally thousands of others, to support a single-payer health care system:

10.  Under single-payer, say goodbye to medical bankruptcies in the United States.

According to Physicians for a National Health Program and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), more than 62 percent of the more than 2.2 million personal bankruptcies in the United States are due to medical expenses.

This problem does not just touch those with health insurance.  Many of those who need to file for bankruptcy due to medical costs had health insurance coverage. Single-payer health care would provide health care for all and ensure that no one goes bankrupt due to illness.

This video explains the problem and the solution very well.

9.  If it’s good enough for the royal baby, George Alexander Louis, it’s good enough for the United States.

Here’s my previous blog on this topic.

8.  Single-payer would cover everyone.

I believe health care is a right – not a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Regardless of how much you have in your wallet, you would have access to doctors and hospitals under a single-payer system. In the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity, it is the least we can do.

7.  If members of Congress tried to shut down the government to defund single-payer, they would be defunding health care coverage for themselves and their families.

Unless members of Congress and their families participate directly in a particular health care system, they can hold it hostage for political gain. Case in point: 60 members of Congress recently sent a letter to their leadership requesting that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shut down the government if the administration doesn’t “defund” Obamacare. If those representatives and their families received their health care through a single-payer system, they would be less inclined to defund it.

6.  It works well in other countries.

 Dozens of other industrialized countries can’t all be wrong. Their people live longer, their child mortality rate is lower and they have unrestricted access to maternity care. This is an example of where we could learn something from studying how other countries provide health care.

5.  Transitioning to a single-payer system would save billions of dollars.

If the United States was able to move away from its private health insurance system, we could save more than $400 billion a year in administrative costs. Further savings could be obtained by adopting European-style drug pricing and provider payments.

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