Despite global evidence for the life-long benefits of breastfeeding, and a progressive health policy environment, South Africa is challenged with sub-optimal breastfeeding rates and a child health profile that is of great public health concern. In the commercial determinants of child health and nutrition, evidence points to the negative impact of the manipulative and insidious marketing strategies of the infant formula industry. Without accelerated and concerted efforts to build a pro-breastfeeding environment, countries will not realize the health and economic benefits of improved breastfeeding resulting in negative health and compromised development of future generations.
The Infant and Young Child Feeding Advocacy Project is based on intersectoral action to create an enabling environment, where women’s breastfeeding choices are not unduly influenced by the marketing of infant formula. The project is aligned with and in support of the strategic initiatives of WHO to work with South Africa to strengthen the legislation and the monitoring and enforcement of Regulations, R991. The project is hosted by the University of the Western Cape and guided by a coalition of like-minded organizations working towards the realization of women and children’s health rights. The project is transdisciplinary, multi-pronged and follows a systems approach based on multi-sectoral actions. While the project is aligned to the national health policies, as a coalition of civil society organizations, the project provides a platform for collective action for government accountability.
The project is principled on co-creation and evidence-informed decision making following a systematic documented process. The project is built on a large existing body of knowledge and draws on the learnings from experienced entities in communities and across systems with evidence from fields outside of mainstream child health and nutrition. Central to the project is understanding industry influence and interference as it relates to health professional training, research and provision as well as conflict of interest in academia. A project output is a synthesis of meta-knowledge and promising practices to raise awareness and strategies to counteract industry interference in academia, especial health professions teaching and research and health care provision of mothers and infants.