Heading: What is the Wellness Industry?
Subheading: A look at the health system.
There has been of late, a great deal of talk about the new – “wellness industry” – and I think it might be useful to establish what some of its defining aspects are.
Looking back historically, humanity has always been interested in its own mortality, how to preserve it, improve it and prolong it. At the same time, these primary urges have also often provoked an economic response, as those with the knowledge and/or skills to heal, have sought to be remunerated for their services. A fare exchange being the bedrock upon which we have based our capitalist system, and which allows those so inclined to practice their specialised craft.
For the last hundred years, or so, the state sponsored health industry in our country has been the exclusive domain of those trained via the allopathic school of medicine (defined as the use of opposites in treating disease* and is commonly referred to as ‘modern medicine”). A consequence of this proliferation of a “one school” specialised approach, has been the dis empowerment of the individual in his or her responsibility for their own health. Our failure, to include a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing, when educating our young has further removed the individual’s ability to manage his or her own health.
However, despite some magnificent breakthroughs in the treatment of diseases such as childhood leukemia, heart disease and many more, there has been a growing general disaffection with modern medicine and its inability to treat chronic illnesses. Perhaps also in part due to its failure to respectfully deal with the mind, as distinct from the body, and science’s continuing inability to understand human consciousness; but also in it’s arrogant dismissal of alternative healing approaches. Modern medicine is after all a big business, and like many big businesses, it prefers a monopoly to competition for those health dollars. Funded by large pharmaceutical corporations it treads a precarious path in its bid to fulfill its Hippocratic oath,** and not be swayed by the often unseen lure of filthy lucre.
It is the general overview of the modern medical/pharmaceutical behemoth, that there will be a pharmacological cure/treatment for every disease/medical condition, if you can find or fabricate the right drug/ingredient. Whether this premise is indeed correct, or not, cannot hide the fact that for many people the current crop of available pharmaceutical drugs is not the panacea that they are searching for right now. Many in the community (a recent Victorian survey confirmed up to two thirds surveyed had consulted an alternative non-allopathic practitioner) have turned away from the local GP, prescribing pain killers and antibiotics, in search of an alternative, that is possibly more inclusive and often gives them more time, care and understanding. In response to this market led shift away from complete dominance of the health industry there has been some small cross fertilisation by doctors learning acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy and the like – and the renaming of alternative health as complementary health (proving in business that if you cannot eradicate your competition then the next best thing is to incorporate them into your own business).
This just about puts us where we are, at the beginning of the 21C, and in the midst of a trend or movement toward wellness or preventative medicine, where a growing proportion of the population are self-medicating with vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic food. This is generally, I believe, in the hope that they will avoid many of the diseases, that their parents and grandparents have fallen foul of, and indeed beyond that- to live longer and better lives. Enter the wellness industry with its rapidly growing nutriceutical manufacturers, associated bodies representing natural practitioners, natural health media and a host of astute businesses, recognising a hugely expanding market, that have jumped on the band wagon.
As in many sections within the business community, you can find a mixture of motivating reasons why these people are involved in this particular industry: personal commitments based on health issues that have affected themselves or a close family member; vocational destiny; avarice, pure chance and a combination of the above. However, as more and more existing companies seek to align themselves with this push toward health, the number of people, who will find themselves working in a health related field, will continue to grow exponentially; and these people will need to be educated beyond their current level of knowledge.
The recognition and accreditation, recently achieved by many of the natural health educational institutions, is tantamount to this fact. The establishment of the Complementary Healthcare Council, under the direction of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and the ever growing legislative requirements of this body- is further testament to the size and recognition of the natural health industry. Recent problems, best illustrated by the Pan Vitamin Crisis, saw the largest recall of vitamins ever seen in this country. Hundreds of lines of vitamin supplements were recalled, in defiance of the fact, that Pan, was also a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, and that the Travacalm product, which caused the serious complaints, which led to the TGA action, was actually a pharmaceutical item. This disturbing incident has created a certain unease within the general public and I am sure has had long lasting negative implications for the industry.
However it seems regulation is necessary, and for the industry to continue to grow, certain requirements will need to be met. History shows, that pioneers, who establish new industries will often resent government interference at first, but that it is part and parcel of the natural evolution from small to big business. Of course many of the vitamin manufacturers are primarily pharmaceutical companies, who have developed the vitamins as a side line or who recognising the market growth have bought in. It does raise certain questions about their positions on the Complementary Healthcare Council and could be seen to be somewhat compromised. Who are they representing, and what hat are they wearing, when decisions affecting both the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry and the traditionally less regulated natural health supplement industry are being made. It is in my view, always a shame, when the expense of regulation moves an industry out of the financial reach of many of those who wish to take part in it, but the upside of this is the removal of many of the so called “snake oil” salesmen who inhabit it (the future possibility that snake oil is found to actually contain the ingredients of some wonder drug would render this metaphor obsolete). Welcome to the wellness industry.
* whereas homeopathy uses minute doses of substances that create similar effects to the existing symptoms of the condition.
**Hippocratic Oath — Classical Version
I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art – if they desire to learn it – without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.
I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
If I fulfil this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.
Quick and Easy – Transformation Guaranteed!
We have all seen these words splashed across advertisements, books, and websites; and heard them coming out of the mouths of sales people everywhere. There are doctors, naturopaths, therapists, and other ‘so called’ health professionals, extracting dollars through the promotion of pills, courses and products – all claiming to do the hard work for you. Well it’s not true! There are no quick fixes in health, weight loss, and just about anywhere else in life. Ask yourself honestly, have you ever really taken a pill and instantly achieved whatever it claimed to do for you? Of course not, occasionally they have been an accessory and encouragement on the road to your goals – a bit like gym clothes really.
If you want a few guidelines in life that really stack up, this is point one – there are no quick fixes. Now immediately you have one structure in your life to guide you away from delusional situations, involving those who claim to be able to facilitate change in your life, instantly and without some sacrifice. This is not a case of mere exploitation with you and me as the victims; no we are actively involved in the whole fraud, because we want a quick fix too- as we do not want to do the necessary hard work to achieve change. We want to have our cake and eat it too – and we want to be thin and attractive at the same time, as we want to stuff our faces with cake. This is the modern dilemma of humankind in the consumerist age.
Quick and easy meals! Just 4 ingredients! Dinner in 5 minutes! Cookbooks around the globe are emblazoned with these headlines. What is the mass appeal of this message saying about us? Well maybe that we don’t enjoy cooking and that we would rather be doing something else. There are a number of issues here of course – mothers who are traditionally coerced into cooking meals for an often unappreciative family audience; singles who would rather work or play elsewhere and do not enjoy cooking for one; and those who do not know their tastebuds from their haemorrhoids, to name a few. However health is derived from a good nutritional diet and if we continue to take the easy option, popping a few multi-vitamin pills to prop up our neglected nutritional selves, we are heading for a state of disease. Quick and easy cancer in just a few years!
Become a Reiki master in 3 days! Learn to heal your emotional self in one weekend! Re-birthing in a single session! Wow when I flick through the pages of the monthly, throwaway, holistic journals I can see how easy it all really is. World hunger, victims of the devastation of war and suffering watch out – there is a Reiki master waving his hands right now. Refugees from the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, where our Australian soldiers are fighting now, are however not benefitting from these ads for instant transformation – in fact they cannot even get into our country.
Horny goat weed; fat blaster; tiger penis; snake oil – products packaged and sold in pharmacies, multi-level marketing pyramids, and TCM shops around the globe – all promising transformation in exchange for money. The health industry! We have doctors and pharmaceutical companies (who now own all the vitamin producers) on one side, ready to chop you up and medicate you with anti-depressants, and on the other side we have a mish-mash, containing a few good hearted healers interspersed with the providores of the all natural, quick fix, in various forms. The former bunch do not respect you at all and see you as meat, muscle and bone and the latter are predominantly ineffectual and unrealistic in their claims for you and for themselves – because in many cases their training has been as inadequate as the one they are now selling to you.
All however is not lost. Put down the newspaper, magazine, and mouse. Close your eyes and ask yourself – really ask yourself, where do I go next? What is the next step for me? How can I heal myself? Keep asking the questions – this is no quick and easy solution. Meditate upon them and follow your fears into the unknown. It may take a lifetime but the journey is worth taking, and really you don’t have a choice anyway. It’s your life after all!