Businesswise | Warning: Health-related businesses may cause serious injury
Most of us would be aware of and concerned about the crisis facing our health sector and the deadly consequences we will face if we don't fix health-care access, quality and delivery as a matter of urgency.
But there is another health-related storm on the horizon, which few people seem to be aware of, but which can also result in serious and lethal injuries if left to its own devices. I'm talking about the mushrooming health- and fitness-related trends and fads that some enterprising people are cashing in on, unfortunately and possibly unwittingly, at the expense of the well-being and safety of unwary consumers.
While I'm a foremost proponent of entrepreneurship and enterprise, it's important to stress that people's health and safety should always take priority over profits and the pursuit of personal wealth.
Some of the most worrying trends of late involve weight-loss diets, meal plans, health and 'performance' supplements and pills, personal training and coaching, weight-loss equipment, devices and clothing, among others, being offered to the public seemingly without restriction, regulation and effective protection.
Many of these health- and
fitness-related services and
products are being offered by people who lack the requisite education, training, certification and experience to promote, much less deliver them. Some have even gone as far as to make bold claims that consuming or using certain products can treat or reverse serious illnesses and disease, which are often either exaggerated, untrue or unproven.
Not only are these practices highly irresponsible and dangerous to people's health, but illegal under the fair competition and food and drugs laws, to name a few. Added to that, many health-related businesses lack appropriate safeguards, like proactive risk management, to reduce the likelihood of harm to the public and insurance in the unfortunate event of injury.
In fact, there are local businesses, medical professionals and individuals offering products and services to the public that have been flagged as health and fitness scams in the United States where they originated. For example, the marketers of a well-known HCG product were fined in December 2014 by the US Fair Trading Commission for pitching their product as a fast way to lose weight, and banned from making any such claims in the future.
LeanSpa and Sensa are popular weight-loss brands which also faced multimillion-dollar fines and sanctions.
A few weeks ago, I was watching TV and saw an advertisement for a fitness product that promised fast fat loss, with minimal effort or exertion for a weekly cost to consumers of $2,500 to $3,500.
Interestingly, the hallmarks of weight-loss scams happen to be the promise of quick results with no diet or exercise, language such as 'scientific breakthrough' or 'guaranteed', the ability to target specific areas for fat loss, and testimonials of incredible results.
When I did a quick Google search of the product, I came across several serious health and safety warnings which the marketer and product promoter failed to highlight in the advertisement, including possible injuries ranging from back pain to cartilage damage, possible organ and brain damage, blurred vision, and hearing loss.
Another 'fitness' fad that has taken Jamaica by storm are 'waist trainers'. Tight-fitting corset contraptions that, when worn for hours, promise to squeeze your waist into 'shape' over an extended period.
Apart from the obvious health hazard of constricting your ability to breathe and move freely, they can also fracture your ribs, cause blood clots, damage your lungs, and cause serious digestive problems. But hundreds, if not thousands, of naive women have been buying them like hot bread, seduced by the promise of a shapely figure in quick time, with no diet or exercise.
The positive trend towards improved health and fitness in Jamaica and around the world provides myriad legitimate opportunities for entrepreneurs to build impactful, lucrative and sustainable companies.
However, these are serious businesses, where people's well-being are at stake. Therefore, it can't be a free-for-all, hustling, try-a-thing, trial-and-error, or a hit-or-miss approach to their operation which is unfortunately the case for too many providers.