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We support Unicef … up to a point

02 June 2019
Volume 27 · Issue 6


Unicef's Baby Friendly Initiative has been formally incorporated into the NHS Long Term Plan, but as Mark Allen writes, this could limit midwives' professional autonomy

It all started in Vancouver in the spring of 1993 when I attended the International Confederation of Midwives Congress to launch British Journal of Midwifery (BJM).

I was fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding formula milk advertising when, primarily as a result of its activities in the developing world, Nestlé had become a bête noire. We had prepared for an ongoing, lively discussion after the editorial board of BJM agreed to accept formula milk advertising, but not the venom of a very small group of midwives. The board agreed to the sponsorship for reasons that are as germane now as they were then.

Mark Allen Group is a publisher, not a moral guardian. If an advertisement is legal and does not do incalculable harm, we have a duty to publish it. Imagine the minefield we would enter if selecting advertising were left to the personal whims of the editor or publisher. Formula milk constitutes the vast bulk of advertising spend and, without it, journals like BJM would not be able to provide such a good service. Unlike some other midwifery journals, which have pursued an erratic approach to formula milk advertising, BJM has followed the same policy consistently for 26 years, during which time, it has become one of the world's leading midwifery publications. This is not because of its acceptance of baby milk advertising, but because, as a successful, independent and respected voice, it has never compromised on the quality of its peer-reviewed articles.

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