Questioning the private/public health divide

The UK newspaper The Guardian published an article this weekend called Drinks firm sponsors midwife training on dangers of alcohol in pregnancy: Scheme aims to help one million expectant mothers but the public-private initiative has been criticised as a conflict of interest (June 12, 2011).

Diageo, the alcohol company that produces brands such as Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness, has agreed to pay more than £4m to a training programme run by the UK National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. The money will be used to educate over 10,000 midwives on how to support pregnant women around alcohol use over the next three years – hopefully reaching over a million expectant mothers.

The agreement comes with a number of criticisms. Diageo’s investment is part of the UK government’s controversial “responsibility deal” on public health in England. Six major independent health groups, including Alcohol Concern, the British Medical Association, and the Royal College of Physicians, have refused to be involved in the deal which seeks to involve the private sector in public health campaigns. Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern has said: “It is deeply worrying that alcohol education is being paid for by the drinks industry, as it is then unaccountable and not necessarily based on evidence or public health guidance.”

The Alcohol in Pregnancy – Training for Midwives Project is an initiative of NOFAS-UK to provide useful positive health information about the consumption of alcohol in pregnancy to midwives who play an important role in preventing FASD. The video below provides an overview of the project from trainings conducted earlier this year.

Read more

Critics line up as alcohol giant funds health campaign (The Independent, June 12, 2011, Kunal Dutta and Matt Chorley)

Too close? The drinks industry’s unsteady deal with government (The Guardian, April 7, 2011, Jo Adentuji)

Can the government’s ‘responsibility deal’ work? (BBC News , March 19 2011, Dominic Hughes)

Hastings, G. and Angus, K. (2011). When is social marketing not social marketing? Journal of Social Marketing, 1(1): 45 – 53.