Consumer health is a critical area of public health. And yet education surrounding consumer health is often reduced to some oversimplified basics: Don’t get scammed, be smart and skeptical, and use information literacy.
That’s not enough. The world has changed since the time of the snake-oil huckster, and even since more recently when, for example, most people bought their eggs from a person with several chickens down the road. (If you’re lucky enough to live where you can do that, take advantage of it if and when you decide you can. Some things seem easy, or easy to some people, but they’re just too hard when it comes to making that decision personally. I get that. I do. I will never tell anyone that they always need to make the “best possible” choice – mostly because I live in that glass house myself. I know that I simply don’t always have the time or energy to make every single decision the healthiest or otherwise best one it can be, even when the best option is relatively convenient and affordable.)
This site exists for two reasons: 1) we need change, and 2) we can make change. Most individuals – and all of us, as a population – are in trouble when it comes to health, in large part due to the personal and societal choices we make.
Working to improve consumer health actually works to improve people’s health. Classroom teaching about the issues, as well as about the ideologies and societal choices underlying the issues – that works. Supporting people to make healthier decisions, know what they need to know, and believe what they need to believe in order to decide they want better options and choose those options when it’s easy to do so – all that works.
Sometimes that stuff feels political, and it is. It’s “small-p” politics, though, in the classical sense of how things work, who gets what and why. It doesn’t have to be “big-p” party politics. In fact, many on both sides of the red/blue divide agree on a lot more than we think we do, once we start talking about the individual choices we want to have as consumers: All of us want to be able to make healthy decisions for ourselves and our families when we decide to spend money on a product or service. All of us want to be safe. And many times, when we understand the realities of our consumer health issues – the ways we are and aren’t protected, the choices other people have available based on the decisions their governments have made – we see there’s a common ground. And finding that common ground works. We all want enough protection to know what we’re buying is, at least, safe; we all want enough freedom to know that we’re making our own choices, without those choices being arbitrarily limited by some entity beyond us. Understanding that we share those desires even if we don’t agree on how to get there – that works.
But deciding that it’s all too political to talk about – that doesn’t work. Calling those who want stronger consumer protection bleeding heart liberals and those who make and sell products and services greedy capitalists – none of that works. It’s time to change what we all know and believe about our individual and societal decisions, and it’s time to help ensure all of us can get to better consumer health related outcomes.
To begin that change we have to know more. We also have to know more about what we all know, believe, and want.
In short, this site exists because consumer health matters, and because I thought it was time to bring my undergraduate course (and my students’ voices) out of the classroom and into the real world of the web. You’ll find lots to think about, wonder about, and consider how small change can lead to big change. You’ll find the course syllabus, assignments, and resources here so you can make use of any or all if it seems useful.
Ready to put some small, individual effort toward changing the things you just can’t accept any more*? Think it’s time to at least learn some new information about some things you thought you had to accept? You’re in the right place. Welcome.
*Nod to Angela Davis for one of many thought-provoking statements about rights and making change.