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Concerns re Medical Assn comments on health foods


Response from Healthy Living Group re NZ Medical Journal comment on health shops survey

Healthy Living Group is the franchise holder for 25 health stores around New Zealand. While we welcome open discussion about natural health options we are concerned at some of the comments and assumptions made in the Medical Journal.

Firstly, the aim of health food stores is to help customers achieve and maintain optimum health through nutritional supplementation. Pharmacies, on the other hand, dispense medicines (usually pharmaceuticals) to customers who are ill.

We contend that presenting at a food store and asking for a cure for an illness, and seeking advice about a pharmaceutical product, doesn’t appear to be an objective methodology. It simply reflects the different services provided.

Each day we see customers who are frustrated or dissatisfied with the lack of answers from pharmacies or medical professionals and this confirms the desire to seek information that enables people to make their own decisions. We contend that doctors and pharmacies may not be giving the most informed advice possible in some cases.

We take issue with the researchers’ concern about recommendations of Echinacea, and questions on its safety. From our perspective, there is clear evidence of the harmful effects of long-term use of inhalers; while it is possible Echinacea can cause allergic reactions in some people, the herb is renowned for its positive effects on the immune system - as are all the natural products noted in the table in the Medical Journal article. Also, there have been no reports of death from using these products.

Healthy Living Group does not believe that there needs to be an additional layer of regulation for stores. The Medical Journal report indicated that 15% of pharmacies failed to recognise asthma or probably asthma. Clearly this would indicate that regulation is not the answer.

However, we contend there should be a requirement to ensure that the staff in all health stores undergoes training programmes; it is possible that some customers are not getting the most informed advice and this is reflecting on organisations such as Healthy Living stores which has an active and on-going training programme for staff across the Group, nation-wide.

A recent survey of Healthy Living stores showed that there were over 300 degrees or qualifications held amongst the 100 or so employees.

We would be very concerned if anyone in the Healthy Living group of stores were to actively discourage anyone from seeking medical advice.

Essentially, natural health stores are in the ‘wellness’ industry, using natural products to improve one’s health by treating the cause rather than the symptom of a health problem, and ensuring better health through good nutrition by using natural supplements and foods.

Medical practitioners and pharmacies are in the ‘illness’’ industry, treating clients’ or customers’ symptoms with prescription drugs and medicines, rather than the cause of their health problems.


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