Category: Culture

A moving experience

published date
January 28th, 2007 by

While in London over the weekend I saw the play Rock ‘N’ Roll, a Tom Stoppard story about Marxism, Czechoslovakia, England and rock and roll. It was less intellectual and easier to follow than Stoppard plays I saw in the 80s, such as Hapgood and Jumpers, but I found it more moving.

In particular, the early Pink Floyd songs from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets sent a chill down my spine like nothing in many years and reminded me of my long lost high school friend Derek Scott Farmer (find him and I’ll reward you).  The focus on Syd Barrett was especially poignant, considering his recent death.

If Marx were alive today he’d have to substitute “hospital systems” for “means of production” in the post-industrial West. Workers of the world would be less likely to unite.

Men’s Health UK

published date
January 26th, 2007 by

I’m in London for the weekend after spending the week bopping around Europe visiting pharmaceutical manufacturing plants. I went to the gym –for some reason called the “Leisure Room”– at my hotel and picked up a copy of the UK version of Men’s Health while I was there.

I used to subscribe to the US version when it first came out, and I kind of enjoyed it, despite its somewhat lowbrow appeal. It’s a good motivator for healthy living. Once I read it for a year, though I realized that most of the articles started repeating in one form or another.

The UK version uses a similar formula to the US one: a man with “six pack abs” on the cover, and articles about healthy food, weight, fashion, sex, and relationships inside. I did notice a couple of differences: more emphasis on stopping smoking and reducing drinking (more of a problem over here, it seems) along with some female nudity that would be too risque in the States.

There are many references to the latest research along with practical tips on how to take advantage of it. If you tried to eat and drink everything the magazine says is healthy (based on the latest research) your calorie count would double. I did like the recommendation on how to reduce prostate cancer risk:

Scientists at Oregon State University, USA have found a chemical [xanthohumol] in beer that could help ward off prostate cancer…The bad news is to obtain the level of chemical found to make a difference, you would have to drink a liver-bashing 17 bottles of beer. For a solution that won’t require a stomach pump try Xan beer. Microbrewed to contain ten times the amount of naturally occurring xanthohumol, just two bottles will be enough to protect your prostate.

The problem with medical tourism

published date
January 15th, 2007 by

I’m an advocate for sending patients overseas for medical treatment when it’s justified by quality and cost considerations. However, I really object to the term medical tourism. To me, tourism connotes an entertaining, fun-filled vacation trip made with discretionary dollars. I suppose spa treatments and some cosmetic procedures could fit the definition, but tourism seems like just the wrong term for a trip to another country for a hernia repair or kidney transplant.

It’s really more like a business trip than tourism, though I don’t think medical business would be the right term either.

Promoters will make some progress marketing a trip that combines fun with medical care, but I think positioning the services more seriously would be a much better idea.

Chinese capitalism, US socialism

published date
January 5th, 2007 by

When I first visited China in 1990 I was surprised at how capitalistic it was. Somehow I’d always thought of China as a communist country but especially in the southern provinces near Hong Kong I experienced some of the most capitalistic attitudes and practices I’ve seen anywhere. Even to a dyed in the wool capitalist like myself the brash materialism and focus on money was a bit nauseating.
As I wrote in (In health care, the rich and powerful aren’t really insulated):

Overall, the rich and powerful are highly constrained in their ability to get exceptional service and quality in health care compared to other spheres in their lives.

Of course there are differences, but they are nowhere near as stark as in sectors like housing or travel.

In China it’s a different story, according to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (Hospital Caters to China’s Wealthy and Poor):

At the TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital just outside Beijing, patients can choose from six levels of service.

At the lowest end, for about $6.70 a night, patients must share a small room with others. The biggest suite at the hospital, on the other hand, costs about $3,200 a night and occupies half the floor of a building. It offers satellite television, an indoor garden, a conference room, two bedrooms, a massage chair and a private gym.

“It’s just like an airplane,” says Liu Xiaocheng, the hospital’s president. “In the front of the plane, they have the first class. In the middle, business class. At the end they have the economy class. But they’re all going to the same destination. It’s the market!”

The article focused on the differences in amenities (essentially the hotel aspects of the hospital). The article implies that the level of medical care  is the same for everyone  –mentioning, for example, free care given to orphans to build goodwill with the government.  To some extent that’s the situation that prevails in certain US hospitals –VIP suites for extra charge, but  the same medical care for all (mostly).

It would have been interesting if the reporters probed more on this point.  I’d be interested to know how many levels of medical care are being provided and how the hospital chooses what resources to commit to those in the lower service tiers. I wonder whether Liu’s statement about everyone “going to the same destination” is a fair metaphor.

Death by fashion in Iran

published date
January 4th, 2007 by

Women in Iran are providing sex in exchange for discounts on fashionable clothing, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation:

The “increasingly common” practice in Tehran, Iran, between commercial sex workers and shopkeepers of trading sex for no-cost or discounted fashion clothing is undermining efforts to fight the spread of HIV in the country, according to health education workers, London’s Guardian reports. One business owner in north Tehran’s “affluent” Tajrish district said that about 50% of shopkeepers in the mall had accepted sex in exchange for clothes, the Guardian reports. Another worker in the same mall, who admitted to accepting sex for clothes, said that the sex workers provide their phone numbers and services in exchange for an increased discount on clothing.

Perhaps these newly fashionable ladies will do everyone a favor by paying a visit to Iran’s nuclear scientists and engineers.