Background: 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).
Methods: This is a secondary analysis of the 2003 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, a national cross-sectional multistage cluster survey of 42 094 households.
Results: 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; r(2) = 0.08) on medical expenditure for every $1 spent on formula.
Conclusions: 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.