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HHS Softened Breast-Feeding Ads

Plans by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to run blunt ads to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed infuriated the politically powerful infant-formula industry. It hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby HHS and, not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

Originally, the ads featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples. The revised ads ran with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity.

In a February 2004 letter, the lobbyists told then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson they were "grateful" for his staff's intervention to stop health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding," and asked for help in scaling back more of the ads. Congress is scrutinizing the intervention in the wake of last month's testimony by former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona that the Bush administration allowed political considerations to interfere with his efforts to promote public health.



Read the whole story at The Washington Post »

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