The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) is continuing to closely monitor the infant formula shortage that is impacting maternal and child health (MCH) populations across the U.S. In addition to supply chain challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortage can be attributed to a recall in February 2022 of formula products manufactured by Abbott Nutrition that were linked to a bacterial infection. The infant formula facility where the recalled products were manufactured was subsequently shut down to investigate unsanitary conditions.
Local health departments (LHDs) are key providers of resources and information in their communities and play a critical role in disseminating information about the shortage to help support MCH populations across the country. As one of the few sources of public health services in many areas, LHDs are heavily impacted by these kinds of public health crises. NACCHO recognizes the impact of the infant formula shortage across LHDs, especially those that support Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC programs).
NACCHO works to support MCH populations during public health emergencies through several CDC-funded projects that incorporate maternal and infant considerations into emergency preparedness and response efforts, as well as reducing disparities in breastfeeding through the Continuity of Care project. These projects equip LHDs to address MCH needs, including infant and young child feeding, during emergencies and help prepare for future public health threats.
NACCHO has been gathering information about how LHDs have responded to and been impacted by the formula shortage, including what resources and messaging they have disseminated within their communities about the issue. Key themes and common actions identified by LHDs in their responses to the infant formula shortage include:
- Stress, anxiety, and fatigue: LHDs receive frequent calls from worried and frustrated parents looking for guidance and information on how to navigate this crisis.
- Impact on vulnerable populations: The shortage poses geographic constraints, forcing individuals to travel long distances between counties to find available products, which is time-consuming, expensive, and not a viable option for many families.
- Importance of flexibility in program provisions: Flexibility in state guidance has allowed some LHDs that support WIC programs to make changes to assigned food packages based on local availability so that individuals can buy what is available in stores through their WIC provisions.
- Consistent and timely messaging: LHDs have worked to clearly and consistently communicate information around the shortage to their communities, including providing nutrition education regarding formula alternatives, directing individuals to donate unused formula to local food pantries, and disseminating valuable resources to help families during the shortage.
NACCHO will continue to provide updates on the situation and amplify resources as they become available to help inform and support LHDs during this time. Below are additional resources to assist LHDs and community organizations as they continue to navigate this ongoing issue: