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Entries in Michael Bloomberg (2)

Tuesday
Jul312012

NYC Hospitals’ Baby Formula Plan Rankles Mommy Bloggers

Image Source/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Breastfeeding experts are applauding New York City’s “Latch On NYC” initiative, which aims to encourage breastfeeding and curb baby formula use in hospitals, but some mommy bloggers are not happy, and they are taking their grievances online.

One of these bloggers is Katherine Stone, a 42-year-old mother who lives in Atlanta. In her Babble blog post on Monday -- titled “Back Off of the Mamas, Mayor Bloomberg!” -- she criticizes the additional monitoring of formula use in hospitals.

“It’s a thin line,” she said. “I think it’s a little bit scary because it begins to infer that it’s a bad, bad thing to feed your child formula.”

Meredith Carroll is a 39-year-old mother and Babble blogger who lives in Aspen, Colo., and she, too, takes issue with the impending New York City policy.

“This isn’t morphine,” Carroll said. “I’m not a drug addict that needs to be kept away from a drug. I just want to feed my baby.”

Both bloggers said they realized that the initiative would not affect them directly, as they do not live in New York. But the plan will see 27 of New York City’s hospitals implementing its policies on Labor Day, which include keeping formula in locked storage rooms and monitoring its use.

The initiative will also discontinue the practice of hospitals distributing free infant formula at the time of discharge, prohibit the display of formula promotional materials in hospitals, and encourage greater enforcement of existing regulations prohibiting the use of formula for breastfeeding infants unless medically indicated.

It is not the first time the availability of baby formula in hospitals has been put under the spotlight. An August 2011 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lambasted hospitals for not adhering to steps designed to encourage breastfeeding in hospitals spelled out by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

The initiative, sponsored by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, suggests that hospitals “[h]ave a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff” and “[g]ive no pacifiers of artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.”

At the time of its report, the CDC noted that only four percent of hospitals had adopted at least nine out of 10 of the steps included in the initiative, and that nine percent of hospitals had adopted two or fewer of the steps.

Breastfeeding experts said that in light of this dismal situation, the New York City plan is sorely needed -- and they say such policies will not restrict mothers’ choices in feeding their infants.

“Locking the formula up and paying for it does NOT mean it won’t be available for mothers who choose to exclusively formula feed or for mothers who want to supplement or for medically necessary formula supplementation,” wrote Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician at Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper in Camden, N.J. “It simply helps keep track of usage and cuts down on indiscriminate use.”

Feldman-Winter, who is a published researcher on the topic of infant formula use in hospitals, said closer monitoring of formula has been demonstrated to make a difference.

“We have shown that once the formula is kept in a locked cabinet and used only when medically necessary, then the usage is cut in half, resulting in more infants exclusively breastfeeding, an outcome good for the infant, family and our society as a whole,” she said.

Dr. Miriam Labbock, director of the Center for Infant & Young Child Feeding & Care, also agrees with Bloomberg’s move to institute the plan.

“It is amazing to me that so many papers have somehow headlined that this deprives folks in some manner,” said Labbock, who was previously in charge of UNICEF’s efforts to encourage breastfeeding, in an email to ABC News. “All other nutraceuticals and drugs have been controlled under lock and key in all hospitals for ages -- formula had been the only unfortunate exception.”

The point on which everyone seems to agree is that breastfeeding is the ideal approach. Blogger Stone said most of the discussion she has seen online recognizes the fact regardless of position on Bloomberg’s plan.

“People who can have a reasoned discussion about this really do understand the importance of breastfeeding,” Stone said. “It’s important we promote breastfeeding…I support the idea of promoting breastfeeding and increasing the percentage of women who do it. It is crucial thing.”

And according to the Latch On NYC website, there is no requirement for new mothers to breastfeed while in the hospital. “While breastfeeding is healthier for both mothers and babies, staff must respect a mother’s infant feeding choice,” the website states.

But the site does encourage hospital staff to remind mothers of the health benefits of breastfeeding when they request formula. Among the recommendations offered on the website for hospital staff is advice that they can “[a]ssess if breastfeeding is going well and encourage the mother to keep trying” and “[p]rovide education and support to mothers who are experiencing difficulties.”

Stone said that for women who can’t breastfeed, the policy would represent another hoop through which these new mothers would have to jump -- possibly adding to their guilt at the worst possible time.

“I hear from moms who have all sorts of problems related to breastfeeding, whether it is the inability to produce enough milk, or medical conditions they have, or their baby having problems breastfeeding,” Stone said. “There are a lot of things that lead a mother to not being able to breastfeed."

“Many of them do go through the experience of having people judge them for that. People saying they are selfish, or that they don’t care about the baby.”

Carroll said she knows firsthand the guilt that comes with not being able to breastfeed as a new mother. She writes in her blog that, at the time her older child was a baby, she had tried unsuccessfully to breastfeed her.

“It’s not up to me or Mayor Bloomberg to pass judgment on any mother who makes a choice about how to feed her baby,” Carroll told ABC News. “It’s embarrassing for a new mother to go out of her way to ask for something she may need or may want. Maybe someone who hasn’t been in that situation is not aware.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul242012

New York's Proposed Cap on Soda Size Gets People Fizzing

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Are large sugary drinks a health risk or a civil rights concern? That's the debate set off by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugar sweetened beverages to 16 ounces or less.

Advocates on both sides of the issue faced off at a public hearing Tuesday in Queens. Beverage companies, their advocacy groups and some consumers vehemently object to the ban. Aside from the obvious reason that it will cut into profits, they claim it will limit choice and amounts to "nanny state" policing of personal nutrition.

"While we feel the mayor has good intentions, his proposal seems arbitrary," said Eliot Hoff, a spokesperson for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a group that receives a portion of its funding from the National Beverage Association. "We believe that we can choose what we drink and how much we drink."

Should the proposal be adopted, it would only apply to establishments under the supervision of the Department of Health, which includes restaurants and movie theaters but not grocery and convenience stores. So any business that receives a letter grade from the city could not sell super-sized drinks under the proposed rules -- but the 7-11 or bodega right next door could continue to sell Big Gulps or giant-sized beverages.

This did not sit well with many of the 100-plus people who attended the hearing, including most of the elected officials who spoke on behalf of their constituents. Even as he expressed admiration for the Mayor's ongoing commitment to health, Daniel J. Halloran, councilman for the city's 19th District in Queens, warned that small business owners would be unfairly penalized by the ban. He called the initiative "absolutely ridiculous, unenforceable and hypocritical."

Others objected to consumers being forced to buy two smaller drinks at a higher cost if 16 ounces didn't quench their thirst. This, they said, will stretch the already tight budgets of New Yorkers.

"Families who typically share one large drink will no longer be able to do so and will definitely wind up paying more," said Hoff.

On the other side of the aisle, groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said it's about time someone addressed the ballooning portion sizes of sweetened beverages.

"For more than 100 years, the soda industry has had free reign and for many years it was not a problem because people mostly drank in moderation," said Michael Jacobson, CSPI's co-founder and executive director. "Now container sizes have jumped and the marketing of these drinks -- especially to adolescents -- has exploded to more than $2 billion a year."

The current default container size for a soda is a 20-ounce bottle, more than triple the 6.5-ounce size that was once standard. And that's tiny compared to McDonald's 32-ounce serving, Burger King's 42-ounce serving and the 54-ounce soda sold at Regal movie theaters. When you factor in sports drinks, sweet teas, vitamin waters, and energy drinks, Jacobson and other health experts who attended the hearing say it's no surprise the average person drinks 40 gallons of sweetened liquids per year.

The Bloomberg proposal has no precedent; this is the first time a U.S. city has so directly attempted to limit sugary-drink portions. Even the experts in support of the size limit say it's impossible to predict whether it will help cut sugar and calorie consumption or make an impact on the percentage of obese New Yorkers.

However, Bloomberg and his supporters say the data are on their side. They point to the success of other ongoing initiatives such as the posting of calorie counts on menus and the trans-fat ban as models of how effective the super-size ban could be.

"If people shifted from one 20-ounce serving to a 16-ounce serving just once a week, this could potentially prevent an estimated 2.5 million pounds of weight per year," Jacobson said.

Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for food policy and obesity at Yale University, cited research linking increasing portions of sugared beverages -- as well as soup and foods such as macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, pasta, and potato chips -- to a 25-50 percent increase in overall consumption. Worse, he said, liquid calories don't create the same feeling of fullness as solid foods do, so consumers often don't make up for the excess by cutting back at subsequent meals.

People also tend to consume food in the size of the bag, bottle or box it comes in, a phenomenon known as unit bias. When packaging is larger, people consume more. With the steady growth in package sizing over the last few decades -- especially soda bottles -- this has consumers subconsciously eating more than they intend.

However, many obesity researchers say limiting drink sizes is a useless gesture that gives a false sense of accomplishment.

"It's never been definitively shown that the obesity epidemic is due to drinks larger than 16 ounces," said Nikhil Dhurandhar, an obesity researcher from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. He did not attend the hearings but is familiar with the Bloomberg plan.

He said there is no way to compartmentalize eating and that limiting or removing a single food from the diet is no guarantee it won't be replaced by another source of calories.

Indeed, studies by the Centers for Disease Control have not indicated a definitive link between soda consumption and obesity. And a recent study published in the Journal of Behavior Nutrition and Physical Activity found that when schools eliminated unhealthy foods and beverages from campus, children did make healthier choices -- but obesity rates didn't decline and were no different from schools without such bans.

Regardless of where they stood on the issue, just about everyone who attended the hearing conceded that Bloomberg's proposal was likely to pass when it comes up for vote this September by a panel of health experts handpicked by the mayor himself. If the rule is adopted, it will go into effect in March 2013. Establishments that violate size limits can be fined by up to $200 per violation.

In addition to the public health policy experts represented at the meeting, a slew of celebrities, including chef Jamie Oliver, filmmaker Spike Lee and former president Bill Clinton have publicly supported the Bloomberg initiative.

Still, some said the ban could be a slippery slope.

"What will they be telling me next," councilman Halloran wondered. "What time I should go to bed? How many potato chips I can eat? How big my steak should be?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio