Junkfood Science: Two thumbs up

September 24, 2007

Two thumbs up

Just when you think that the entire world has lost all reason and that no one will ever get any of this, someone comes along who actually does. :-)

Dr. Westby G. Fisher, MD, FACC, a board certified internist, cardiologist, and cardiac electrophysiologist in Evanston, IL, has written two great posts that will renew your faith — he did mine. Please do read these in their entirety.

The first discusses the magical belief in “wellness” and the promotions of preventive health and “wellness” initiatives mostly by those trying to sell us something, as has been covered here extensively. It’s not popular to admit— by healthcare professionals or by consumers — that such feel-good initiatives are based largely on junk science and on selling fear.

Illness vs. Wellness — What is "wellness?"

I could not find a reference to the word "wellness" before 1995. (It is interesting that this correlates to the time when managed care took hold in medicine.) Could this word have been born of pure marketing fluff?... If one looks closely at how "wellness" is used by some insurers, we see a very different definition (and I suspect motive) for the word. Could it be that insurers have concocted these programs to save their skins in the eyes of the gullible consumers by providing a “feel good" aire to themselves while reaping ridiculous profits and making our patients pay increasingly more of their own health care costs? After all, insurers should be about insuring illness, not providing healthcare in "wellness" clinics.

Take for instance, the wellness initiatives from UnitedHealth. We find that "wellness" means they want to store your health information online through an online database called a “Personal Health Manager." [Or Blue Cross Blue Shield’s version here and Cigna’s here.] Any shread of evidence this promotes “wellness" (whatever that is)? Nope....Could it be that “wellness" is intangible (and therefore non-existent)?

Public health initiatives like smoking cessation is also commonly promoted in “wellness" clinics. To be fair, smoking bans appear to have had a huge impact on the health of societies worldwide. But while insurers offer some tips on smoking cessation to many of their members, their efforts fall flat compared to the efforts of grass-roots organizations enacting legislation. And now, nicotine blood levels are being used to discriminate between insurance rates for smokers and non-smokers. Where's the “wellness" love here? [And the same thing could be said about weight loss programs being sold to members.]

And then comes “health screenings” by “wellness" initiatives. Mammograms. Glucose and cholesterol levels. Colonoscopies. But do these really prevent disease, or provide “early detection” of disease for the insurer? You see, early detection helps insurers know who’s going to be “naughty and nice” regarding costs to their system - it's another way to weed out “high risk" members of your insured population under the guise of “wellness." What happens when insurers find you have coronary disease or hyperlipidemia? Your premiums rise. In the case of mammograms and colonoscopies, early detection with these tests certainly can save lives – but importantly, it does nothing to prevent disease. Many of these maladies are genetically predetermined. The public dissembling by insurers when they encourage people to “live a healthy lifestyle” is ludicrous. People still socialize, people still drink, people still drive, people still age, people are fallible, and yes, despite such smoke-screens, people get sick, and people still need someone to provide insurance when they're ill, not when they have “wellness."...

The second post humorously points out that health discrimination is increasingly real and that, as discussed here, failing to comply with insurers’ ideals of health indices isn’t about health at all.

Health Discrimination is Here

“Sorry, Mrs. Smith, while we appreciate your excellent attendance and work ethic here at Clarian Health, it's come to our attention that you're fat, so we want you to submit to a blood test to measure your cholesterol. If you refuse, you're fired. If your cholesterol is high, you're going to pay more for our insurance."

“What's that you say? Drawing your blood without your permission is assault?.... Our company policy requires this test be taken because ...we know what's best for you."...

“You want us to speak to whom? The ACLU? ...

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