Sunday, May 19, 2013

Midwives and sponsorship

I was digitalizing some old photos the other day and came across this one. I am at the far right of this lovely crowd of very happy, and slightly inebriated midwives. The photo was taken at the Scarborough Royal College of Midwives' conference around about 1992/93. I remember it well because it was my first days away on my own after having my two kids, and when I went home they both had chicken pox!

My question is...what is so horribly wrong about this photo?

The answer is that this evening function is sponsored by Farley's, a formula company.

These days, this form of sponsorship breaches the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and theoretically should not be happening. However, what we find is that sponsorship is a lot more subtle and it can be very difficult for midwives to work out what activities or products should be avoided. For example, there has been a campaign running recently against the sponsorship of Cow and Gate, a formula company, who supports free professional development for midwives. It is intertwined with the British Journal of Midwifery and difficult to spot.

As for midwifery associations, they can find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they are not always well funded and appreciate all the financial help they can get, but on the other hand, they must stay true to midwifery philosophies, as well as ethical and legislative requirements for product placement.  

So...what can you do, as a midwife, to minimize the impact of unethical sponsorship?

The obvious thing to do is boycott companies that use unethical marketing or sponsorship practices, as well as lobby any organization, conference or activity that aligns itself with these companies.

The second thing is to work with your midwifery association or professional body so that it does not need to rely on external funding. Support your professional association by becoming a member, get involved with its activities and governance functions, and attend its conferences and study days. Not only will you have a voice in how the association engages with commercial companies, but your financial and volunteer support will help reduce the association's reliance on outside financial incentives.

What are your thoughts of the sponsorship of professional midwifery organizations and activities? How do you think midwives can best engage with commercial companies?


Ethical Sponsorship Ireland said...

Hi Sarah Stewart

We have a facebook page called Ethical Sponsorship Ireland, May we link to this blog??

Please do look us up to see what we have been writing about...... and you will see why your blog is relevant.

Sarah Stewart said...

Yes, by all means. Sarah