Wellness woo? Wellness industrial complex? What do these things mean? What's the context? How big is the sickness industrial complex?
Timothy Caulfield is one of a few debunkers using Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop as the "models" that define the "wellness industrial complex". And he's done quite well with it; a book, regular speaking engagements, television and radio appearances, and even a Netflix series. To suggest he has benefited from the terms he uses would be an understatement.
Quoted from a recent article in the Vancouver Sun, Caulfield States:
"We live in an era where the wellness industrial complex — a $4-trillion-a-year industry — recommends regular colonics (don’t do this), the steaming of vaginas (don’t do this), the consumption of activated charcoal (don’t do this), extreme and unsustainable diets and detoxes (don’t do either), the ingestion of massive amounts of supplements (don’t do this), the boosting of your immune system (not really possible and, again, don’t do this), and, yes, the use of IV vitamin therapy."
He further adds:
"The wellness industry is built on the embrace of magical ideas, including the acceptance of the existence of things like a life-force energy that can be manipulated by the waving of hands, the sticking of needles and the deployment of magnets. The wellness industry also depends on a belief in super foods, mega supplements and scientifically implausible therapies like homeopathy."
Wait, what? So what portion of the four trillion dollar "wellness industrial complex" is he actually describing? Perhaps he can help us with some context? Timothy, how big is the sickness industrial complex? What percentage of the adult population is diagnosed with chronic disease? Hint: it's between 50 and 60%. Perhaps the wellness industry actually exists in order to offset the sickness industry? Perhaps people are looking for answers? Perhaps they're looking for 'root causes'? Perhaps they'd rather not resort to another prescription drug? Perhaps?
Now In fairness, Caulfield does call out a whole lot of bunk that should be called out. But let's stop throwing out the baby with the bathwater. He has been very successful at using Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop to make this sound much bigger than it really is. There are massive problems in healthcare, there are massive problems in population health, and there are some solid solutions and anecdotes (he loves to downplay these) coming from the "wellness industrial complex". Calling out the bunk at the extremes of the "wellness industrial complex" may be good for getting speaking engagements and TV shows but it is not doing much to solve the problems in healthcare or population health.
In honor of Timothy's book, I ponder "Is Timothy Caulfield right about anything?"