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Here’s a quick post on a study on,

The Economic Burden of Infant Formula on Families with Young Children in the Philippines

The study is a collaboration of the WHO Representative’s Office in the Philippines, the Action for Economic Reform, and the Department of Health. The authors are H. L. Sobel, A. D. Iellamo, R. R. Raya, A. A. Padilla, F. S. Sta. Ana III, and Soe Nyunt-U.

The study is from 2003 and 2004 survey data. However,  it is only recently that it got published [1].

Although it is known that  breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and the baby’s health, “data on the costs of purchasing formula and additional costs to treat illness from developing countries are limited.” The author’s study shows that poor Filipinos “are economically burdened by the purchase of formula and additional health care expenditure.”

The abstract/ summary provided in the article doesn’t need any explanation:


Infant formula usage places children at risk for illness and death. Studies in the United States demonstrated high economic burden, health care costs, and absenteeism of caregivers associated with formula usage. Despite high formula usage in developing countries, no economic studies were found. This study examines the financial burden of purchasing infant formula and increased health care expenditure in the Philippines, a developing country with a per capita income of $3930. The average exchange rate of the peso to the US dollar for 2003 was $1 to P52, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

This is a secondary analysis of the 2003 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, a national cross-sectional multistage cluster survey of 42 094 households.

Almost half of Philippine families with a young child and one-third of families living on less than $2 per day purchase formula. Nationally, $260 million was spent on infant formula in 2003. Formula-buying families with young children had spent an aggregate of $143.9 million on medical care compared to $56.6 million by non-formula-buying families. After adjusting for income and nonmilk family expenditures, the average formula-purchasing Philippine family spent an additional $0.30 (95% CI: 0.24 – 0.36; r2 = 0.08) on medical expenditure for every $1 spent on formula.

The economic burden from infant formula purchase and out-of-pocket medical expenditure exceeded $400 million in 2003. This cost was aside from other costs, such as absenteeism and the risk of childhood death and illness. These expenses caused an unnecessary burden on Filipino families and could instead have been invested in education and other social services.

The authors added that their calculation is conservative because they did not include other costs “that may result from use of formula, such as lost wages caring for ill children, lost earnings from companies having to hire replacements during absenteeism, costs to governments in building more health facilities, or health worker time to deal with the added burden of illness. It did not consider human cost such as the vastly increased risk of death, chronic disease (eg, diabetes, child obesity, maternal breast cancer), lower IQ, decreased school performance, or employment potential.”

Expenses compared. Courtesy: H. Sobel et al, Journal of Human Lactation 28, 2012.


Journal reference:

[1] Sobel, H., Iellamo, A., Raya, R., Padilla, A., Sta. Ana, F., & Nyunt-U, S. (2012). The Economic Burden of Infant Formula on Families with Young Children in the Philippines Journal of Human Lactation, 28 (2), 174-180 DOI: 10.1177/0890334412436719