the devious commercialisation of public health

I have been quite surprised before, but now I’m pregnant again, it struck me once more: what is it with Bounty, a ‘parenting club’, and the NHS?

The folders and information you are given when you are pregnant by the midwives and in the hospital are from Bounty, and I remember well how when r. was born the bounty lady just came in my room with the authority  of a midwife or doctor and gave me a bag full of stuff such as samples of disposable nappies, laundry powder, wipes, but also important documents related to getting child tax credits. I found this collusion quite perplexing, and the intrusion of this woman uncomfortable. She offered to take pictures of r., and did it, but it was all a bit strange for me, I did not really understand if it was a public or private thing …especially because I am not from the UK, and those first few days after birth, with the worry and anxiety of those first days as r. was born tiny and I could not manage to breastfeed, my milk was coming in and hormones were flowing in turmoil, and sleep deprivation made everything more hazy.

Now, again  I faced this quite tight weaving of comercial interests with public healthcare. Again the dutiful Bounty folder, and on my first scan, I was given a Bounty bag full of stuff and was told by the receptionist of the hospital that I had to fill a form. I looked and looked and the only form I could find was the Bounty form to give my details to Bounty, and thus, to different companies. I looked at the contents of the bag and found disposable nappies, laundry powder, etc – luckily not formula milk!- but these were things I did not want. So I went and asked the receptionist which form did she meant, thinking it would be something official, since I ‘had’ to fill it in. No, she explained, it was the Bounty form. When I said I did not want to fill it in, she looked at me sourly and told me curtly to give back the bag then. I found this outrageous, why did they make you think it was an official ‘public’ form, why did I HAVE to sign it? She got her bag back.

Recently, this article in The Guardian shows that I am not the only one worried about this, and gives more details of what is involved, which sure enough is, guess what? money. As this article states

The Independent today reports the National Childbirth Trust’s (NCT) findings that “parenting club” companies are paying maternity units £5,000 for the right to access their wards, approach their patients and sell their wares. These generally constitute sets of pictures of your newborn for around £20 a print, and in some cases – notably by the largest of these companies, Bounty – the right to distribute “new mother” packs, which contain free samples of baby-related commercial brands, along with promotional literature and some discount vouchers.’

The article concludes with the following:

‘That maternity units are struggling and need all the money they can get is a major cause for concern, but by allowing them to be subsidised in this way the NHS is colluding with private companies exploiting people at their most vulnerable.’ 

I think this sums  up nicely what I felt then, but more so now, as I understand the system better… I’m glad someone is digging into this. The NCT is looking to ban this practice, and I, as the author of the article also states, would gladly add my name to that petition.



3 responses to “the devious commercialisation of public health

  1. Noooooo…not my Bounty bag! I love those things.

  2. The irony is that for some women it’s the only info that they end up reading during their pregnancy and postpartum period. The pamphlets, though filled with advertising, also give tiny tidbits of info that are usually in pregnancy books etc – weight gain, basic nutrition and the like. I worked with a non-profit support group in my area trying to give women support who had postnatal depression and we found that the only way we could be sure women found out about our support groups (which the NHS in no way funded because god forbid the NHS fund support groups for something like postnatal depression…..) was if we got our slips into the Bounty packs.

    There is a significant problem with getting women to recieve regular ante/postnatal care and so many women slip through the net when it comes to things like postnatal depression.

    Having said that I hate the Bounty packs. I stupidly filled in one of the forms, not realising it was for Bounty and now they will not leave me alone, despite several attempts at getting removed from their mailing list. It’s absolutely offensive how Bounty reps are even allowed to be on maternity wards. Why don’t we just get someone from Nestle in to offer to bottle feed our newborns for us!

  3. Thanks, I haven’t thought of the Bounty packs that way…You are quite right, but should’t there be an official thing instead of the Bounty packs??Though as Jen commented, some love them! I remember being excited to see what there was first time around and then found myself recently throwing the unused samples in an attempt to declutter! But, for me the issue is nto that you get a smapel of goodies, which you could accept or refuse, but the way it is weaved into the system as if it was official NHS news, and not a hardcore marketing tactic. I especially take issue with the Bounty lady coming in the wards, and I find it too, as you say third culture mamma, that it is very close to having some Nestle reps coming in!!


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