Baby food marketing and promotion undermines breastfeeding because it can change mothers’ attitude to breastfeeding and their feeding behaviour. Thailand’s Control of Marketing Promotion of Infant and Young Child Food Act B.E. 2560 (the Act) has been implemented and enforced since 2017, to control inappropriate baby food marketing. According to established policy processes, it is timely to assess its implementation and enforcement, and the compliance of industry and others with the relevant regulations.
This study aimed to study breast-milk substitutes marketing and promotion and its effects in Thailand and assess the impact of legislative change addressing inappropriate breast-milk substitutes marketing. This study employed multidisciplinary approaches, involving both qualitative and quantitative method, and adapted the WHO NetCode protocol for cross sectional surveys of mothers and health professionals in Thai health facilities.
Key findings presented that there was inappropriate baby food marketing, and promotion did not comply with internationally and domestically relevant regulations. This was due to gaps in the monitoring system and in enforcement, such as important omissions from the provisions of the Act, insufficient budgets and inadequate human resource capabilities. The inappropriate promotional marketing resulted in positive attitude of mothers to formula, and it affected formula feeding. Furthermore, we found that Corporate Political Activity (CPA) caused the monitoring and enforcement gaps.
Recommendations from our study are, first, strengthening Thailand’s monitoring and enforcement system by improving the skills and competencies of officers authorized to monitor and enforce the Act, assessing contents of regulations, and communicating the Act to the public. Second, breastfeeding policies and the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative in health facilities could be strengthened to protect mothers and health professionals from inappropriate baby food marketing. Last, measures are needed to assist non-industry stakeholders to disengage from CPA and manage conflicts of interest to avoid policy interference or interruption from companies.
Nisachol Cetthakrikul, PhD Student in Department of Health Services Research and Policy, is supervised by Assoc Prof Dr Julie Smith, Prof Dr Cathy Banwell, Dr Phillip Baker and Dr Matthew Kelly. She has a background in Nutrition. She has been a researcher at International Health Policy Program-the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand for nine years, and her work focuses on breastfeeding policy.