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Sponsorship of national and regional professional paediatrics associations by companies that make breast-milk substitutes: evidence from a review of official websites
  1. Laurence M Grummer-Strawn1,
  2. Faire Holliday2,
  3. Katharina Tabea Jungo3,
  4. Nigel Rollins4
  1. 1 Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2 Global Health & Health Disparities, Colorado School of Public Health, Ft. Collins, Colorado, USA
  3. 3 Institute of Primary Health Care (BIHAM), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  4. 4 Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laurence M Grummer-Strawn; grummerstrawnl{at}who.int

Abstract

Objectives Professional paediatrics associations play an important role in promoting the highest standard of care for women and children. Education and guidelines must be made in the best interests of patients. Given the importance of breastfeeding for the health, development and survival of infants, children and mothers, paediatric associations have a particular responsibility to avoid conflicts of interest with companies that manufacture breast-milk substitutes (BMSs). The objective of this study was to investigate the extent to which national and regional paediatric associations are sponsored by BMS companies.

Methods Data were collected on national paediatric associations based on online searches of websites and Facebook pages. Sites were examined for evidence of financial sponsorship by the BMS industry, including funding of journals, newsletters or other publications, conferences and events, scholarships, fellowship, grants and awards. Payment for services, such as exhibitor space at conferences or events and paid advertisements in publications, was also noted.

Results Overall, 68 (60%) of the 114 paediatric associations with a website or Facebook account documented receiving financial support from BMS companies. Sponsorship, particularly of conferences or other events, was the most common type of financial support. The prevalence of conference sponsorship is highest in Europe and the Americas, where about half of the associations have BMS company-sponsored conferences. Thirty-one associations (27%) indicated that they received funding from BMS companies as payment for advertisements or exhibitor space. Only 18 associations (16%) have conflict of interest policies, guidelines, or criteria posted online.

Conclusion Despite the well-documented importance of breastfeeding and the widespread recognition that commercial influences can shape the behaviours of healthcare professionals, national and regional paediatric associations commonly accept funding from companies that manufacture and distribute BMS. Paediatric associations should function without the influence of commercial interests.

  • conflict of interest
  • infant formula
  • paediatric associations
  • sponsorship
  • funding

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors LMG-S conceived the project, drafted the overall paper and tables and is responsible for the overall content as guarantor. FH oversaw and conducted the data collection and managed the data repository. KTJ participated in the data collection, conducted the data analyses and contributed part of the text. NR contributed to the project design and suggested significant revisions to the paper. All four authors reviewed the final revision.

  • Funding All authors are staff or interns at the World Health Organization. No separate funding was obtained for this study.

  • Disclaimer The authors alone are responsible for the views expressed in this article and they do not necessarily represent the decisions, policy or views of the institutions with which they are affiliated.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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