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Is accepting free samples sustainable?

Giving health professionals free samples of goods and supplies bearing company logos is not a new marketing strategy, and midwives, like other health professionals, walk a fine line when accepting these freebies.

Midwives are aware of the dynamics at work, and companies’ strategy to be validated by healthcare professionals, according to Lorna Davies, who has researched the place of sustainability in midwifery for many years. Davies presented on consumerism in midwifery at the Ara Research Week 2018.

“Pregnant women and new mothers are a lucrative market and companies know that having an implicit endorsement from a health professional will help to build trust of their product. Midwives may not directly endorse a brand, in fact they are careful not to, but when the logo is on equipment that is being used in a healthcare situation, it can become an effective marketing strategy because it inspires trust in the client.”

Davies argues that consumerism makes midwifery less sustainable in three ways. Firstly consumerism raises environmental issues of waste and resource use through the products being produced and sold; secondly it can be socially divisive because only some people can afford the products; and thirdly in terms of economic sustainability, the value of something like breast milk is not seen as contributing to the economic growth of a country and so receives very little funding for promotion.

New mothers are susceptible to marketing because they want to provide the best start for their baby, and so they are particularly influenced by the strategies companies use to convince consumers.

“Interestingly, the natural healthy scepticism of marketing tactics held by midwives was suspended in the period immediately following the Christchurch earthquakes,” Davies noted. “At that time midwives were happy to receive care packages for their clients and themselves regardless of the marketing messages. We therefore need to be aware that in a disaster scenario our perceptions of the motives of marketing may alter.”


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