Ano is a Justmeans staff writer for health, and an instructional designer for the newly created Master of Health Care Delivery program (mhcds.dartmouth.edu) at Dartmouth College. Ano brings over a decade of evidenced-based health research and writing, and a Masters of Public Health from Dartmouth Medical School to the Justmeans Editorial section. Special interests include health policy, conflict ...
Organics Too Expensive, But Cable TV Isn't?
A recent posting on Justmeans' Facebook page raised a great point about health decision-making worth exploring more. "When people complain about the price of organic food in the US, but still carry a $100/mo cable bill, it makes me wonder where our priorities really are," the post professes.
Three possible contributing and interrelated factors:
1. Known versus unknown benefits. The choices are not between TV and food, but likely hinges on the perceived marginal benefits, or lack there of, that higher cost organics provide. There's no apparent difference between an organic and conventional banana, except $2-a-pound in cost. And while its logical that lower pesticide, non-GMO food is healthier (not to mention more socially responsible), there's to date no slam-dunk 'proven' benefit from organics (more on this later). Many shoppers may even harbor skepticism about Organics. Any benefits from organics likely take a long time and manifest themselves in ways that can't always be attributable with any degree of certainty. TV, meanwhile, provides known and instant 'value' to viewers.
2. Compounding this is a general sense of social support and what's considered the norm. Dishwashers, TVs, microwaves all considered household essentials. Social support is known to help improve health behaviors and support health-related behavior change. Wellness Layers is an example of a business that has leveraged the power of social support to impressive effect. When all your neighbors have cable, its easier to justify, and perhaps going without would feel like deprivation.
3. Revisiting the concept of proven benefits, even known risks and benefits aren't well understood. A classic example is childhood vaccine. Though vaccines provide known, quantified protection against known health threats, they also carry risks. The fact that the protection against often deadly disease is large, and the risks are often trivial and exceedingly small isn't enough to convince some skeptical parents to vaccinate their kids. Never-mind the fact that it should be considered the social responsibility of the healthy to face those miniscule risks presented by vaccination in the name of "herd immunity" that provides protection for those at higher risk. Even doctors aren't immune from such avoidable ignorance: Studies have found that most doctors believe that stents (also known as PCI) save lives in people who haven't had already had a heart attack, even though there's no evidence of this. The result is a lot of unnecessary procedures that can only cause harm (not to mention waste money). All this means that even if known benefits of organics were widely publicized, it may not be enough to prompt folks to make smarter purchasing decisions. If I really want to watch TV, I really want to watch TV, and I can always throw water in the face of scientific or financial facts that suggest a different course of action.
What other factors weigh into such seemingly illogical decisions? And how about you, do you forgo unnecessary expenses such as cable or the latest cell phone so that you can contribute to healthier and more socially responsible decisions?
Photo credit: The author, via flickr