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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Breastfeeding Numbers

It all boils down to numbers.

MarketMan recently did a post on income/poverty levels in the Philippines and painted a pretty dismal picture.
Essentially, based on Pulse Asia’s classifications, they estimate that categories “A/B/C” make up just the top 7% of all families in the Philippines, while another 67% fall into the “D” category, and 26% are in the “E” category.
He estimates that a decent lower-middle class existence in the Philippines for a family of 5 costs about P50,000 or about US$1,080.00 (that's $216 per person per month!). He also presents a picture of how much Filipinos are earning per month from P122K for the top 1% to P2,667 for the bottom 10%.

Meanwhile, according to Nielsen, Mead Johnson spent $2M in 2008 and $4M for the first 8 months in 2009 for media, excluding online efforts or direct marketing. I stumbled upon a Twitter post from Elita showing how much Mead Johnson earns from formula sales in third world countries, which includes the Philippines!

The $2.83 billion company gets about two-thirds of its sales outside the United States and its Enfamil brand was the global leader with 11.7 percent of the $22.3 billion baby formula market in 2008, the last year a ranking is available, according to Euromonitor International.

The company is gaining market share in China and is also in a host of other emerging markets, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. It is starting to move into India.

Formula is used much less widely in emerging markets than in the United States. In China, children ages 0 to 3 years consume about 8.8 kilograms of formula a year, according to Euromonitor International. In India, that figure is only 0.4 kilograms, while in Brazil it is 1.6 kilograms. That compares with 12.9 kilograms in the United States.

A recent study published early this week in the US talks about how U$13 billion could be saved yearly if breastfeeding recommendations were properly complied with. Apparently, there was an ABC News report which presented an unfavorable view of the study.

Interestingly, although the study presented estimates, it was well-supported by experts.

"The health care system has got to be aware that breast-feeding makes a profound difference," said Dr. Ruth Lawrence, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics' breast-feeding section.

The findings suggest that there are hundreds of deaths and many more costly illnesses each year from health problems that breast-feeding may help prevent. These include stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, juvenile diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and even childhood leukemia.

The magnitude of health benefits linked to breast-feeding is vastly underappreciated, said lead author Dr. Melissa Bartick, an internist and instructor at Harvard Medical School. Breast-feeding is sometimes considered a lifestyle choice, but Bartick calls it a public health issue.

What is disturbing is the goal of Mead Johnson to increase its market share outside the US - where legislation and enforcement of laws protecting breastfeeding and the implementation of the International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes is not well established. Actually, I don't see advertisements promoting formula for babies 12 months and below. But for children 1 year old and above, formula companies have bombarded parents with studies, ads by "experts", celebrities etc. In fact, one breastfeeding friend still nurses her 3 year old at night but gives him Enfagrow (a product of Mead Johnson) during the day while she is at work. Companies have realized that formula for toddlers is a huge market here and have exploited this segment, despite the fact that formula milk is no longer required for toddlers.

It makes me wonder how supporting our own Philippine Pediatric Society is towards breastfeeding. Almost all the pediatricians I know give out baby books printed by formula companies. It is certainly quite sad especially when you see the startling differences between the numbers showing poverty levels in the Philippines as compared to the advertising expenses of Mead Johnson.


mamanimax said...

Jen, those ads are really effective. Somebody asked me recently what milk I was going to give Max when he turns one. I said that I will continue to breastfeed and If Max doesn't want to, there's no need na for formula. The reaction was as if I wanted to starve my baby.

clarabelle said...

I agree that the ads nowadays are powerful. When a certain formula milk ad was airing on TV, I was so surprised that my son (now 23 months) was able to form a "triangle" with his fingers, without any of us teaching him. My only consolation is that when my son breastfeeds, he tells me "Sarap mik (milk), Mamang. Tatu (thank you)"...No, haven't given him formula milk yet.

Jenny said...

thanks for visiting! there are monitors who report violations but still there is a long way to go to change the mindset of people into pro-breastfeeding

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