The business of healthcare is rife with targeted marketing for the health conscious. And that’s actually a good thing. It helps prompt people to constantly be aware of their health, and to seek appropriate care in a timely manner. But there’s also another side to healthcare marketing, one that promotes questionable interventions.
All geared towards profits that mostly accrue from the most vulnerable. You are either going to get targeted directly with new health promotion ads, or indirectly through your healthcare provider.
Most health ads have a solid scientific basis, and the linked interventions will likely benefit you. Quick examples are reminders about cancer screening, or regular health checks for non-communicable diseases. No hidden agenda here, these can only be good for you. But you will also come across some health promotions that have questionable value. These mostly come along as new-age fads, and are easy to recognise them as such.
A few examples will do: herbal treatments that will cure any disease; magical supplements that you must ingest daily; genital cosmetic surgery to enhance your sexuality; whole body screening to pre-empt future disease, and many more.
Such medical fallacies are a multi-billion dollar industry. You should see them for what they are. Your healthcare provider should desist from promoting questionable treatments or procedures.
Getting you to undergo some unduly promoted interventions may make business sense to your healthcare provider, but may not be beneficial to your health. You may even get harmed in the process. You must remain on your guard at all times. Question everything. Who is doing the promotion? Is it your trusted doctor, a savvy sales rep, or some fancy medical entity hunting for quick gains? Ask about benefits and harms.
Go further and ask for scientific data to back up what’s being promoted. But be careful with the data that gets shared. It may be skewed, or just anecdotal. True, there will always be new medical breakthroughs that need to be promoted. But such novel interventions are unlikely to get to you solely via fancy ads in all sorts of media.
Be wary of incessant medical promos that seem to resonate with most of your symptoms. It’s more likely to be medical hype, with no tangible health benefits, but with a significant cost attached to it.
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Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist.