What I’m Reading: The Medicalization of America by Peter Conrad
What I’m Listening to: Sage Francis – A Healthy Distrust
What I’m Watching: Game 7 of the World Series (My first baseball game of the season!)
Hey, how have you been? Are you taking care of yourself? I hope so. You look well.
I got my g̶o̶v̶e̶r̶n̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶m̶i̶n̶d̶-̶c̶o̶n̶t̶r̶o̶l̶ ̶s̶e̶r̶u̶m̶ free county-administered flu shot this week, and I’ve been feeling under the weather (to the tune of taking two sick days), and then while looking for a theme for this Morning Buzz, it hit me: let’s talk public health!
Now, I am not a doctor. Indeed, I am but a humble civil servant with a fever and an opinion, but boy howdy do I ever have those things.
Have you ever stopped to think about the medicalization of our society? As science advances, and thus our understanding of the human condition advances, it only makes sense that the things that we consider “medical” will expand.
Unfortunately, something this brings along is far more nefarious, and that’s biomedicalization. Biomedicalization is the type of thing that takes those newly-understood conditions and turns them into stigmatizable differences so that they can then be capitalized on. This, in turn, causes those differences and their treatments to become status symbols.
Yes, you read that right. Having a condition is a status symbol in America. Just watch the World Series with me! (Well, you can’t, because it’ll be over by the time you read this, but you get what I’m driving at.) There are ads where Mater from Cars tells you that if your lifestyle is causing you gastric distress, don’t change your lifestyle, take a pill!
Think about it; how stressful are all those important jobs we see in our TV and movies? We ape that behavior by choosing to work more than we have to. In fact, we’re so adamant as a society that we have (or worse, need to be associated with) these crippling ills that states are currently having to ban fake service animals!
Of course, I think the number one public health crisis facing our cities and towns today is a direct function of biomedicalization, and that’s (obviously) the opioid crisis. This week, we struck a small victory against the drugs when 750 grams of the heroin analog Fentanyl was seized on Long Island. It’s rare that such a robust pat on the back sounds this hollow, but it doesn’t really do anything to address the root cause of the addictions, nor the addicts themselves.
Finally (and because I want to end this on a positive note despite myself) we have a great example for public health advocates in the US to follow, in the form of the Tokyo-based marketing firm who’ll be giving their non-smoking employees smoke breaks … in the form of a 6 day off lump sum!
So what can we do, the humble civil servants we are? Well, first, we can emphasize wellness – and really, that’s about it – but wellness is so much more than blood pressure checks at an annual event.
Wellness starts with understanding your own physical and mental condition. Wellness is helping our colleagues understand themselves, too (when you’re asked – otherwise you might be risking unwellness). Then, once we understand ourselves, we can start to help the people we’ve been hired to help. Encourage them to take part in local workshops. And then by emphasizing wellness, you can chip away at the biomedicalized stigmatization.
But most of all, take care of yourself. You can’t help anyone if you’re out of commission, or, worse, a bad example.