Health seekers and healthy misery; the perfection of a healthy death.
Article Type: Editorial
Subject: Medical advice systems (Usage)
Life style (Health aspects)
Public health (Management)
Author: Christodoulou, Irene
Pub Date: 04/01/2009
Publication: Name: International Journal of Health Science Publisher: Renaissance Medical Publishing Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Renaissance Medical Publishing ISSN: 1791-4299
Issue: Date: April-June, 2009 Source Volume: 2 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Company business management
Product: Product Code: 8000120 Public Health Care; 9005200 Health Programs-Total Govt; 9105200 Health Programs NAICS Code: 62 Health Care and Social Assistance; 923 Administration of Human Resource Programs; 92312 Administration of Public Health Programs SIC Code: 7389 Business services, not elsewhere classified
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Greece Geographic Code: 4EUGR Greece
Accession Number: 203660873
Full Text: The search of good health is today a smaller part of the life-style industry. Every person who is interested in health news is now able to find a large amount of information for acquiring and maintaining good health. A well established business network stands behind the boosting of health marketing which supports new concepts for what health is. Pharmaceutical and para-pharmaceutical companies, healthcare and well-being products, fitness and anti-obesity industry, food industry, make up the world of health-oriented business; an extremely successful business. With the aforementioned partners were gradually joined plastic and bariatric surgeons. The same happened with gastroenterologists who decided to be devoted to endogastric balloons.

The role of TV in marketing of health business is powerful. Numerous commercials and shows perform mass brainwashing for health and longevity, available for sale! Simple people participate in shows that aim to improve their health status, their physical appearance and consequently their quality of life; family members breaking into tears surround the main show scenes that take place in operation rooms!

Practically, health business products and services are offered for people who can pay for what they get. In a smaller degree, individuals who want very much to taste the participation in this new world may pay more than they can afford (credit cards, consumer loans). For example in Greece, at this period, huge amounts of money are spent for buying bottled green tea drinks, in extremely high prices; the company that sells that drink promises good health, loss of weight, antioxidant actions etc. Inside the crisis, such a success of a health promoting product became the talk of the country! It is such the sellers' greediness of gain, because of the awareness that the consumers' mania for green tea is continuing, that they are currently selling the product in small bottles only--so that the price will be the highest possible! This is a good example, that with a good marketing plan, people can spend much more for health promoting products; even by working more to afford them or by spending less for other needs.

The importance of adequate and high quality sleep in health is not emphasized so much in health shows because the products for sleep disorders are cheap. On the contrary, the importance of a nose surgery operation, for the improvement in breathing is highly assessed! Smoking reduction and walking in the street are not popular versus fitness equipment (treadmills, exercise bikes, vibration plates, and other) as well as anti-smoking centres, because the latter are advertised. The importance of relaxation during day and night is not advertised, and it is ironic that people rest for less hours because they wish to buy more health promoting products; not hopeful reality! Because if health is becoming a product with barcode, people are misleaded for what they really should do to live better. The confusion of people, who buy health promoting products, is obvious when many of them consume i.e. expensive cholesterol lowering drinks/yogurts together with their classical high lipid diet as if they were receiving an antidote! This happens because the active part of consuming is ending with the payment of the product; and this happens because marketing weapons target to sell and not to cure; if one is cured, he may stop buying!

Unfortunately, the same role is given to bariatric surgery. Desperate obese patients pay for losing kilos with the belief that money can save their lives in a miraculous way; they do not even know that after the bariatric operation they will eat 500 kcal per day, and will lose 20 Kilos only in the majority of cases. Which means that, many of them would not have been operated if they knew that the postoperative period is not at all pleasant, and that second and third operations will be needed soon if they continue to eat as they did in the past. What makes up a misery, is that many bariatric surgeons hide important information about the real indications of bariatric surgery, the complications, the mortality risk (especially when concomitant diseases and lack of caring environment are present) and the long postoperative period of very low calorie diet.

In Greece, the fake ticket to the Healthy-Land has now been sold out! But Greeks have financial problems, do not sleep well, do not rest adequately and do not eat properly, and therefore cannot be saved with the use of health promoting products and services ... Recently, the Greek Banks advertise the new service of offering health examination tests via their partnership with luxurious private Hospitals; in this way they hope to attract customers who either are not pleased with the services of public hospitals or do not have health insurance (common in immigrants and low- income people without working experience). However, what this offer means in practice does not make up such an offer! Because if you visit the aforementioned centres, you are requested to make a large number of examination tests (because their doctors ask for them) that in the end you should sell your car to pay the "discounted" bill! They also may tell you that you need an operation (while this is not needed) and in that case you should sell your house, too (if you don't own a house then you may be saved from the operation).

How happy and colorful is life if you see it through the pages of a lifestyle magazine! Publications that are oriented to young and middle aged women, advertise except of perfumes and fashion products, also plastic surgery operations and anti-obesity treatments (and operations). The childish way those operations are advertised is really dangerous for people who believe easily what they read in magazines. Furthermore, a very specific and small group of famous--according to the magazine--plastic surgeons is giving interviews, smiling and encouraging the readers. If you read those magazines every week/month, you may think that Greece is a small village (since it has only 3-4 plastic surgeons). What about medical ethics? Where are the medical associations? On the contrary, some lifestyle doctors are presidents of the associations they belong!

A crazy scenario is when old customers of plastic and bariatric surgery centres find new customers (among their environment) and are paid in the form of services (minor improvement operations)! This of course is the surrealistic truth of living in Healthy-Land long-term consequences. Because these old customers are not evil persons but they are addicted to plastic surgery and they cannot afford further payments; is this a psychiatric disorder? Yes, it is! Who is usually trapped in the Healthy-Land? Mostly women of all ages, and persons with predisposed, vulnerable personalities (in addictions).

Of course real health information is now more available than ever, but even in the most serious publications for the public, numerous advertisements are inseparable part of their work. Those advertisements are tailored according to the target group of each publication. Health marketing has special campaigns for each age group. For the elderly for example, longevity, memory disorders, osteoporosis and arthritis, as well as metabolic syndrome make up the concept of the advertising business plans. Thus, an old lady buys yogurt enriched with calcium and low cholesterol drinks, spending too much money for non cost effective benefits. Because calcium tablets are already a part of her daily routine, and low cholesterol drinks can be replaced with a low cholesterol diet. The only real benefit of this addiction is that these people feel better when they buy health products.

The greatest scandal comes in summer campaigns for anti-obesity products and services, for young and middle aged women. For women in general, the interest is focused except for the abovementioned on hair products ("vitamins and hydration"--healthy hair products), healthy and rejuvenated skin (... "become 10 years younger/according to prospective studies in 40 women in France" ...), wellbeing and control of mild depressive symptoms related to menopause or pregnancy. For male target groups, the advertisements of health products focus in sexual impotence, longevity and skin/ hair rejuvenation, metabolic syndrome and obesity. For children (mothers decide hear) normal development, teeth health, immune system integrity, and mental performance boosting are the prospects given (the last is popular for University candidates, too).

All this continuing advertising for health products and services creates needs to people, and creates anxiety when they cannot afford to pay for those newly occurring needs. Not that all health related products are useless- sugar-free products help diabetics or individuals who run the prediabetic period of their lives. Also, some multi-potent products that cure "dozens of diseases" are very useful for hypochondriasis (where symptoms change every week). Medical equipment for home use is very helpful for elderly and people who live far from healthcare facilities; the patients pay less to be examined and do not have anxiety as the ones who travel to distant Hospitals just for simple blood tests. For example, special medical devices for the control of anticoagulation treatment are saving the patients from extra costs, time loss for them and their families and anxiety.

Last but not least is the chapter of unorganized prevention activities, where people are checked in outpatient departments or during travelling screening campaigns. A common mistake that happens is that young, enthusiastic and inexperienced medical doctors over-diagnose cancer and put many "patients" in the difficult position of an unneeded operation. The most common unneeded operation was cholecystectomy in Greece of the past decade, but it currently gives its position to breast "tumor" operations. So, prevention is good, but it should be served by experienced medical doctors.

Finally the patient who searches for better health may become the victim of modern technologies; this may happen if the surgeon wants to acquire experience in new medical equipment and obliges the patient to undergo an operation with much longer operation time than the regular. This may cause increased operative mortality and morbidity, especially in older patients. Or the patient may become the consumer of new technology consumable parts (very common in treatment with radiofrequency ablation currently in Greece (1)), because the medical doctor (surgeon or interventional radiologist) receives bonus in cash by the seller company!

In conclusion, healthy life may not need consuming behavior to be acquired and maintained. Natura non facit saltus, which means "Nature does not make sudden jumps"! (2)

REFERENCES

(1.) Christodoulou Ir. Truth and myth for free health services in Greece. International Journal of Health Science 2008; 1:2-4.

(2.) Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natura_non_facit_saltus.

Irene Christodoulou

Editor-in-Chief
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