You can get garden variety health advice from the daily newspaper, the "health" section of most book stores, and of course thousands of web sites. I'm hoping to present thought provoking and maybe change provoking thoughts about individual and community health. This blog is not just what to do about health, but how to think about it. I'm looking forward to an exchange of ideas with readers. July, 2010


Friday, July 30, 2010

Health For Sale

This week I learned that Amazon is now selling more e-books than hardbacks. This can’t be good news for the a(actual)-book business, and may signal the eventual end of the local bookstore. Time will tell. Did I mention that one of my favorite things is to browse around in bookstores? Yesterday that was my errand, and I soon found myself in the Health section. It wasn’t hard because they had a sign hanging from the ceiling, marking the section’s location. That sign seemed larger than similar signs throughout the store, but perhaps this was only an illusion. I discovered that most of the section was an illusion.

The first subsection I came to was “self-improvement.” This had a curious mix of titles and topics, and it wasn’t clear what rules governed what books were included and what books were shelved elsewhere or not at all. There were two notable finds in the section. The first was called “Tai Chi for Dummies.” Here is my question. Who else would read such a book? The second find was a series called FU books, for example “FU job.” I’m not making this up. Apparently this is self-improvement because readers are given permission to release their suppressed hostility and frustration. I suppose it is cheaper than therapy?

The other main health subsection is diet. I wonder what it says about Americans that a small bookstore has 500 titles on how to eat? Is it really that complicated? Perhaps the salvation of bookstores will come from the Health sections. As we get fatter and fatter, we will rush to Barnes & Noble to buy more diet books? Maybe that’s a new diet idea: walk to the bookstore to buy a diet book.

And speaking of diet books, there is a crazy quilt of titles. Here are some of the more captivating: The ABC Diet; The Belly Fat Diet; Biggest Loser (a multiple title series); Change Your Brain, Change Your Body; The Eat Clean Diet; The 5 Factor Diet; The Flat Belly Diet; Get Fit and Live; The GI Diet (go to Afghanistan and eat K rations); How to Never Look Fat Again; I Can Do This Diet; The Kind Diet; Look Better Naked (Really?); Muscle Chow; The Perfect 10 Diet; The Secrets of Skinny Chicks; Skinny Bitch and its companion Skinny Bastard; This is Why You Are Fat; The Thyroid Solution; and You, On a Diet. Of course the old standbys, The Adkins Diet and The South Beach Diet were there. I noticed The Complete Beck Diet; you burn calories by yelling at Obama on YouTube for 30 minutes a day. I also thought it ironic that the diet section has shelves labeled for oversized books!

This set of material defines confusion. Book stores operate on a business plan to move books by the cash register. If the “health” books were not doing that, they wouldn’t be given shelf space. The health literacy level of many people is not up to the task of sorting the wheat from the chaff among and within these books. Here there is also a metaphor for the U.S. market-driven health care system. Those who despise government’s participation in health care decisions believe that bureaucrats will interfere with what is best by getting in between us and our physicians. However, unfettered market driven health care is like market driven health books on a grand scale.

As I was leaving the store I wanted to change the section sign to read “Health, sort of.”

1 comment:

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