Obesity

As western (mainly American) culture leans most heavily on biomedicine for healthcare, the role of medication is immense.  Logically, medicalization predated biomedicalization as it is first necessary to cure the body’s threatening illnesses before we can choose additional improvements.  Now that many of the most deadly diseases are prevented due to better sanitization and sufficient nutrition, a larger part of the healthcare industry is dedicated to making our bodies the best that they can be.  Of course the meaning of “best” is decided by societal view.  Thus cultural values and ideologies are becoming more and more influential in what it is to be “healthy” and “successful” in America.  This increases the voluntary use of medications.  Medicine has become infused with culture since the industrialization of World War II.  After this, pills could be mass produced in factories and sold to capitalist consumers like any other product.  However, in more recent years, the developments in mass media has allowed for general access to medical information and created the “expert patient”.  As with the lecture example of birth control, people watching advertisements are told that natural processes are actually illnesses, how they are hindering living life at its best, that they should talk to their doctor, and even what symptoms they need to have to get medication.

As we all know, obesity is a growing problem in the United States that can lead to various illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.  While obesity can be a serious health concern, American culture favoring skinny over fat may cause people to medicate even if they are not unhealthy.  Many things can be noted in the commercial for the dietary supplement “Hydroxycut”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8BeGgT1v5M.  First of all for advertising strategies, every person is filmed in a tropical, outdoor setting near the water.  Secondly, as each person was chosen to be attractive and wear a swimsuit, we see that there is a cultural stigma in America to feel self-conscious in a swimsuit and that those who are skinnier are viewed as socially superior.  The medical information was presented by a man in a white lab coat in a clinical setting while he referenced a study’s bar graph and an official appearing certification.  While this made the supplement seem doctor-approved, it did not say to “ask your doctor”.

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