Empowerment or exploitation - the Wellness Industry
In a world where chronic illnesses go undiagnosed for years and access to medical support for mental health illnesses is either prohibitively expensive or subject to gargantuan wait times, it’s easy to see how there is a gap in provision for people with medical needs. Stepping enthusiastically forward to fill that gap is the wellness industry, with its claims to give patients control over their health, to empower them to make medical choices that suit their needs, and to give them the gentle ear of a practitioner who’s always willing to listen.
But is ‘wellness’ truly empowering patients? Or is it exploiting their need for answers in difficult times, support in the face of challenging symptoms, and certainty when they’re exhausted by understanding the complexities of their health issues?
This panel discussion will be chaired by Nicola Throp, who will be joined by:
- Dr Alice Howarth is a scientist and skeptic who is also disabled and chronically ill. She’s spent years navigating the healthcare system while trying to learn how to manage her health conditions at the same time as working in academia and juggling a bunch of roles in the skeptical community. As a podcaster with Skeptics with a K and writer for The Skeptic, Alice has researched a wide variety of wellness industry hacks and products and practitioners and the reasons people might be pushed to make use of them.
- Britt Marie Hermes is an ex-naturopathic doctor turned science communicator and biomedical researcher. Having realized she had fallen prey to the misinformation machine of alternative medicine and the wellness industry, Hermes gave up her naturopathic practice in the United States and began vocally criticizing her former profession. She writes about her experiences in a woo-filled world of cognitive dissonance and flawed critical thinking on her blog, Naturopathic Diaries. She also contributes to Science 2.0, KevinMD, and Science-Based Medicine.
- Jonathan Jarry is a science communicator with the McGill Office for Science and Society, dedicated to separating sense from nonsense on the scientific stage, where he has written extensively about key figures and claims from the wellness industry. He brings his experience in cancer research, human genetics, rehabilitation research, and forensic biology to the work he does for the public. He is the creator of the YouTube show Cracked Science, and with cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos he co-hosts the award-winning medical podcast The Body of Evidence. He has been featured on the BBC, CBC, Wired.com, Global TV, RDI, and La Presse.