Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Opportunity for Wellness or an Opportunity for Advertising?

About 6 months ago I took Aias to the Crossroads walk-in clinic at Cambie and Broadway in Vancouver.  I can't remember exactly why, I think it was because he had vomited for the first time or something (he ended up being fine).   This clinic is seriously gorgeous; unlike most walk-in clinics in Vancouver, you sort of feel like you are at a spa when you walk into it.  It was even a Georgia Straight 2011 Best of Vancouver winner.  We could actually have gone to a closer clinic but this one really does look fantastic.   I like pretty things as much as the next person, so sue me.

On this occasion one doctor had called in sick so we waited about 20 minutes in the examination room.  During this wait, I noticed a LOT of Nestle and formula related "stuff." I decided to take some pictures with my cell phone.

These are the changing pads they use on all the changing tables in the clinic.
They also lay these down on the examination tables under the babies.
They also lay them on the weight scales as liners.
That's behind the reception counter,  you can see the cans of sample formula there in a box on the left.  This formula is actually Enfamil.
These cans were in several places throughout the clinic. 
All of the tables had these little plastic Nestle brochure holders on them.
You can see an Advil post-it note too.
A metric weight conversion chart, courtesy of Enfamil!

Nestle and Enfamil snuggling  in one cabinet in the exam room...
...and in another cabinet in the exam room!
Some Nestle weight scale liner boxes.
Now, I don't think formula is the blood of Satan or anything.  Like I've said a million times before, I really think that in a country with clean water and luxuries such as being able to sterilize a bottle people should be able to feed their babies whatever they want without fear of people coming at them with pitchforks.  That being said, this marketing fest really bothered me because:

1. Nestle is a jerk company.
2. Supposedly BC is committed to supporting and encouraging breastfeeding but I don't think the formula decor really drives that point home.
3. I find pharmaceutical/supplement advertising tacky and disturbing in general.

I have to say, I understand why the clinic may have all this branded stuff... it saves them some money on pen holders and scale liners for one, and who doesn't love freebies? Not to mention if you are saving money on weight charts and scale liners, that's extra money you can use for bamboo floors and modern furniture, right?

I actually called Crossroads today and asked about the Nestle/Enfamil stuff.  I was curious if they had some sort of deal with Nestle/Enfamil.  I had this whole conspiracy theory forming in my mind and I wanted to prove myself wrong, which I (sort of) did.  The woman I spoke with said that as far as she knows they have no arrangement with Nestle/Enfamil but that sometimes pharmaceutical reps show up with tons of swag and they use it because it's free. From what I can tell, the Nestle rep must have shown up with a freight cart full of stuff. She said that right now they have Nestle and Advil stuff in the office and it changes from time to time.  It's free, it's stuff they need anyway, so they use it.

I'm sort of disappointed in Crossroads, other walk-in clinics, Nestle/Enfamil/Advil and pharmaceutical companies that do this sort of thing.  It may seem a little silly, but I don't think patients should be marketed to in a health care environment, whether the product is formula or otherwise. An ill person paying a visit to a doctor's office should not be perceived as an opportunity for a company to advertise a product.  It's one thing if a patient inquires, but marketing it like it's the next coolest toy or a hip new product just seems shady to me.  As much as I like free things, if I'm offered a free product that represents a company or an idea I don't necessarily align myself with, I either decline it or dispose of it.  I wish Crossroads would do the same.  Even if the clinic is totally cool with formula, advertising Enfamil or Nestle certainly implies that as professionals they recommend these brands; from my conversation with the people at the office, this apparently wasn't necessarily even the case.  These companies just happened to be the ones toting the swag and freebies. Allowing for advertising in a medical clinic like this certainly implies some sort of medical endorsement of the products.  I am careful to avoid this in professional settings.  This is particularly true if I'm in a position of power or influence; I don't market specific health care products when I'm volunteering in a clinic setting, for example.   I go to extreme measures at times to ensure Aias isn't exposed to extraneous advertising and I'd like to think a place of wellness and health wouldn't be a place I'd have to shield him from. 

*I'd like to add, it's not just Crossroads that does this, it's other clinics as well. I remember going to an entirely different clinic for Aias's 6 month check up and the stat charts were Heinz Formula branded.  Another clinic I'd visited had Tylenol advertising.  Crossroads just happens to be where I took these photos and what prompted my post.

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