Monday, October 16, 2006

Exhibition space

Into the office on Monday and Alison, our Office Manager, has already unloaded the boxes she took to a mother support group annual conference. Alison not only manages our stock of publications and other merchandise, she develops and produces much of it.

She attends the main mother support group conferences and other relevant ones, such as UNICEF's Baby Friendly Initiative and the Baby Café Conference. These bring in a significant amount of income, provide information to health workers and make sure Baby Milk Action is seen. Participants flock to the stall, looking for something new. Alison has produced new posters and postcards (including a humorous set), t-shirts and our 2007 breastfeeding calendar, which sells around the world and is a useful alternative to company produced ones. At the risk of making this sound like an advertisement, you can also purchase through our on-line Virtual Shop.

We usually have to pay to have a stall. Exhibitors can be a big source of income for conference organisers to help cover costs. We encourage organisations to put in place funding policies and to avoid companies that violate the World Health Assembly baby food marketing requirements.

Some of the health professional association conferences do allow the baby food companies in. They are not there to provide scientific and factual information on their products, but over health workers manicures and gift vouchers for their contact details. We have attended with a stall in the past to try to ensure health workers also hear about the marketing requirements, but these days generally cannot justify paying the high exhibitors costs.

On the other hand, we generally do not attend as participants or speakers where there is baby food company sponsorship, unless it is to denounce it. Caught out a few months ago, I turned down the small speaker's fee I had been offered and complained to the organisers when I found companies violating the marketing requirements in the exhibition hall after I had spoken. The organisers thought they had been careful, but a breast pump company was pushing feeding bottles and a baby food company had leaflets promoting complementary feeding before 6 months of age.

The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has a straightforward policy. No funding from companies with an interest in infant feeding - whatever the products.

Baby Milk Action is stricter still - no commercial funding.

We rely on those t-shrits and poster sales. Did I mention they can also be found in the on-line Virtual Shop?

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