All posts by hannaheileenc

Dairy PhotoVoice

During my time in this class, working on this blog, there have been two industries I’ve hit particularly hard: the pharmaceutical industry and the dairy industry: both of which may come off as hypocritical, as I do consume things from both these industries. I take a hormonal contraceptive to combat a scourge of hormonal acne that has struck me in my early 20’s, and when I make a sandwich, a slice of swiss really does make it great. However, the beef I have with these is misleading marketing about healthful effects of their products.

Who’s selling me what?

Here’s the really interesting thing about the dairy industry in the United States – it is one of the main receivers of farm subsidies in the country. Starting in the great depression and continuing into World War II, the industry was subsidized for economic reasons – the depression because dust bowl areas were suffering, and just a general decline in consumption – these subsidies were to keep these small family farms afloat. During World War II, it was to keep these farms producing while people were away at war and the United States was such a powerhouse. Production and subsidies continued – with the government having an investment in whether or not that milk got sold – the farm lobby has a good stake in many policymakers. So the federal government, on top of these subsidies, bought milk and stored it in Missouri as reserves for cheese and butter. But here’s the kicker: these reserves, in 1983, were valued at over 4 billion dollars. So the government switched gears and began to take a pro-dairy approach to policy making – it implementing an advertising board and commission that made a choice to heavily market dairy products such as cheese. Got Milk, if you’re familiar, is a product of this commission, known as ‘Dairy Management Inc.”

That’s the who, here’s the what:

The dairy industry most definitely wants you to look at their product as wholesome, and healthy. A glass of milk on the side of your meal is their recommended consumption: so much so that school lunch programs are not allowed to call it a meal unless milk is served with it. Again, I don’t think milk is per-say bad for you – you’d be better off consuming a glass of milk than an equally sized glass of vodka, or even soda; but rather, the products that milk can end up in in the normal American diet (the ones that Dairy Management Inc. is promoting especially heavily – they’ve worked with pizza chains to make sure there’s MORE cheese in certain products) are at odds with what many dieticians and, even other government agencies, say is healthful to eat.

How Healthy is it?

Again, I’m not doubting the benefits that milk can have on your calcium intake – it’s, weight-wise, the best thing you can consume if you’re looking solely at calcium levels. A glass of whole milk is a 103 calories, so it’s not especially bad calorically either. However, don’t let the milk lobby talk you into thinking it’s the only source of calcium: dark, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach or okra; white beans and soybeans; and some types of fish such as salmon, perch or rainbow trout are also good forms of calcium.

Milk, however, is something people can be sensitive to: lactose intolerance is relatively common among humans. It also can aggravate acne in those who are prone to breakouts; and those who consume skim or nonfat are more likely than those who consume whole to be overweight.

But milk itself is not the problem – rather, the problem is the things that milk pops into as an ingredient.

Dips and Syrups

These products are some dairy products that I found in my family’s fridge – all of these are not especially healthy uses for dairy. These items include sundae syrup; various dips and coffee creamer.

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Other dairy in our fridge also included cheeses – while the Brie and Provolone were slightly healthier, and more high quality in production, the shredded mexican cheese was not incredibly healthful.

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This is the creamer – while the calorie count doesn’t seem to be high, it’s also an artificially low amount for coffee creamer. Just a tablespoon?

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100 Calories for a topping? Wow.

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2 tablespoons as a topping is 18% of your daily saturated fat.

Why is it difficult to be healthy/unhealthy?

It’s difficult to know what’s healthy because people like to make clear-cut choices – “I won’t eat X because it’s not healthy” is a really good rule until you get into a complex process, such as the dairy industry. While it’s not bad for you on it’s own, and can have nutritional benefits, it’s difficult to make these close calls because they are able to add things to it and make it not-healthy-at-all.

 

Reflection:

Overall, I thought taking these pictures and putting together this post was fun – I really love doing research, so learning so much about the dairy industry and its subsidies was something that I really took in stride. As a history buff, I also LOVED being able to dive into some Great Depression and WWII history. (I most definitely had the Molly American Girl doll!) Plus, learning about billions of dollar in what is basically cheese reserves parallel something I learned about Canadians – that they have a syrup reserve. We’re not the only crazy ones, apparently.

I thought it was interesting seeing what my parents had in their fridge – I got home for the holiday last night, and this morning, rustling through the fridge, I noticed their eating patterns while we were gone. My parents are fairly health-conscious people, but the holiday season (and I’m thinking, having their two daughters home from college) may have spurred them to spring on some items they may not usually dive into. I’ve realized I’m not an incredibly artistic person, through my PR degree, but at this point I’m comfortable enough behind a camera to construct something that doesn’t look like it came out of Blair Witch Project.

Being not versed in iMovie (I’ve tried!), putting together a long-form blog post was a little more my speed. I thought it was an intuitive project for me – even though I wish I was a little more humorous with my captions. I try incredibly hard to be funny and witty, but not quite sure that this topic could support something like that.

I’m also shocked about how calorically dense caramel syrup is – I’d make a joke and say I should “Switch to magic shell”, but I’m convinced that’d be even worse… somehow.

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Peer Review

For my peer review post, I decided to review “Pharmaceutical Prompt One” by Emilydieteics. From her post, I learned that the FDA does not require an exhaustive list of side effects to be discussed in commercials – I also learned that physicians feel pressured to prescribe a certain medication if a patient mentions it by name, when they saw it in an ad.  I also learned that actors, as of 2008, were not legally allowed to play doctors prescribing the medication – perhaps the strange commercials that sometimes pop up (I’m thinking particularly about the bladder that holds hands with it’s person). Perhaps limitations in what can be presented make for some wacky writers rooms.

I think anyone could benefit from learning this information, but those who consume more traditional media, such as cable watchers or those who read magazines, may want to be most aware of this information, because many of these advertising rules seem to be catered to these traditional media forms. Online advertising, while needing to be truthful, seems to be a little less strictly regulated than print and broadcast.

The strongest part of this contribution, in my opinion, is that they mention, in very plain terms, without embellishment, an effective solution. They say “An acceptable public health solution is to require companies to provide and exhaustive and detailed list of the side effects to consumers and to only allow endorsements from patients with which the drug has succeeded in doing its job.” This is a definitive statement that I feel truly contributed to the blog in an effective way, offering some personal insight; as well as utilizing strong verbiage and thoughtful rhetorical device.

The weakest part of this contribution is perhaps the paragraph spacing and the general formatting of the post – I feel, especially because this a blog format, that the author could have benefitted from breaking up the second paragraph. It felt a bit long and monotonous after a while, and I think if there were some space, it would allow the piece to breathe and for the information to be communicated more effectively.

During proofing, I found one spelling error and eight minor punctuation errors. The spelling error was “adds” in lieu of ‘ad’s’ in the first paragraph. The punctuation errors included missing commas in the first paragraph after the words ‘medications’; ‘slides’; and ‘practice’. In the second paragraph, punctuation errors included a missing comma after ‘consumer’; ‘doctors’; and ‘illness’; as well as a needed movement of apostrophe in ‘patients”. I would also advise to change ‘prescription only’ to ‘prescription-only’ by introducing a dash, for readability.

One part that wanted me to read more on this topic was most definitely the rules about what can be in advertisements – I really want to know more about the strange world of designing and pitching something that complies with the FDA but also sells pills.

Overall, I would rate this post a 3/4.

GB 5

When it comes to consumer health, I’ve found that you have to be aware and conscious of the bargaining and selling – but one thing that I found particularly interesting was the idea that supplements and the FDA don’t always operate on the same plane. I was drawn to this in an interesting way – I was listening to a podcast hosted by Pete Holmes, a comedian. He’s an advocate for hemp oil, a particular hemp oil called Charlotte’s Web, which was created specifically for medicinal purposes, for a young girl who would experience multiple seizures a day. However, while listening to the podcast, which was an interview with the creators of this hemp oil, they would use statements that were interesting – they could say it was intended to do ‘x’ and give testimony, but couldn’t claim that it did any of the things that it had done through this testimony.

This started to make more sense, when you look at other advertisements for supplements that aren’t moderated by the FDA – think hydroxycut on daytime television shows. It made me interested in the exact rules and regulations about these dietary supplements and their rules and regulations – so I went onto the FDA’s website and did some poking around to find out exactly how we should be analyzing these supplements.

“Excellent Source Of…” – The FDA defines the usage of ‘excellent source of’ as something that doesn’t quite have a definition. The website is very vague, but seems to give an example when it comes to vitamin C – but doesn’t give exact guidelines on whether or not something needs numerical value. Excellent source of, seems to be unreliable in the actual vitamin content of a supplement. It says something about needing that actual vitamin, but not much else.

Structure Function – To have a health claim, it has to substantiate and make correlation – for example, folic acid is known to be good for prenatal health. So any supplement that has folic acid can then be passed as ‘good for prenatal health’, as long as no ingredients are NOT.

FDA/FTC – The regulating bodies of these supplements – the FTC deals with the general business side, while the FDA deals with the regulation of certain consumable materials.

Greenwashing

So, people greenwash.

Marketers take it into their hands to make sure you KNOW or think their product is environmentally friendly – when in reality, it may or may not be.

I know, this may come to a shock to you – that certain plastics, say the one’s on Dasani bottles aren’t good for the environment. Just because they’re MADE of recyclable materials doesn’t mean that they’re good for the environment – plastic bottles cost more water in the world than the actual water that is inside them.

I’ll even call out a company I’m a fan of for this – I like Lush cosmetics a lot, a brand of skincare and bath items. They have signature black pots embossed with a logo thats says if you bring in 5 of their pots, you get a free face mask so they’re able to recycle these pots. Not only does this create clutter in your own home (I have a pot of Snow Fairy and Turkish Delight taking up room in my small room), but it’s also a ploy to get you into the Lush store. I’ll always pick something up other than the free mask, without fail.

Recognize these ploys – doesn’t mean you can’t participate, just know.

My OWN Snakes On A Plane

I crafted a challenge post at the end of October, and unfortunately, nobody seemed to do it. But it’s fine, as I’ve decided to let my own demons out of the closet and come talk with the blog about my flawed consumption habits that I choose to perpetuate.

We could start with teriyaki. I love it. It’s a regional delicacy, and people have compared it to the Seattle Philly Cheese Steak. While I’m not from Seattle proper, I did grow up on the Sounder train line, so I have a little perspective on the sheer importance of teriyaki on PNW culture. It’s good stuff. But when I’m in Ellensburg, I admit I do things that aren’t the best consumption-wise: my consumer habits are awful for the environment. Between the styrofoam, the plastic bag, the plastic fork and the footprint the chicken put on this earth before giving it’s life to be in my meal, my spicy chicken teriyaki with sides of rice and salad with that tangy dressing is an environmental disaster.

In the Snakes on A Plane initial post, I talked about my adoration of leather goods. But don’t get me started on the procurement of luxury goods in general – particularly perfume. Perfume is a frivolous product, and my problem with it is that I don’t seem to adjust my spending based on where I could get it less expensive – my commitment to brand loyalty and 2-day shipping (again, a terribly environmentally unfriendly practice) is this.

Continuing on with things I perpetuate, despite being a bad consumer choice – I burn incense, despite it being bad for upper vascular health. I consume alcohol, which is proven to increase breast and other cancers in women, especially. I own clothes from fashion brands that only produce one size. I take placebo L-Lysine and Emergen-C when I have a cold. It goes on.

GB 4

When we’re discussing consumption of health, and particularly while doing research for my greenwashing post, I was reminded of classes I’ve taken as part of my public relations major. Many of these classes refer to branding, and what greenwashing is (and it’s even more nefarious cousin, pinkwashing!) and offer a behind the curtain look at the motivations behind greenwashing, and how things are meant to look environmentally conscious, when in reality, they may not be. But before we dive right into the idea of greenwashing, I think it’s important to learn a few other terminologies and slang that could potentially pertain to this topic, and give you a more comprehensive view of the suffix “-washing” and what it can potentially do to consumers and their consumption patterns.

Now, in the world of public relations, there’s a certain news cycle that perpetuates itself – referred to lovingly as a ‘news jack’ – where it starts with a breaking news, or a breaking campaign. Say, a soap with microbeads is 25% more environmentally friendly than other, similar soaps on the market. This can be released through a news release. Then, journalists will look for information, public excitement grows, the story peaks and interest subsequently dies down. This campaign, without any snags or hiccups, would be successful – unless you look at the underlying issue of microbeads in soap not being environmentally friendly at all. This spin can perpetuate and send things out of control.

This also exists in other industries, here are a few -washing’s to keep your eyes on:

  • Pinkwashing (Breast Cancer) – Promoting something as ‘breast cancer awareness’ without having any true motive to perpetuate. A good example of this is Five Hour Energy donating  5 cents a bottle of a particular kind of Five Hour Energy to breast cancer research, or pink buckets for KFC chicken.
  • Pinkwashing (LGBT Community) – Aligning a seemingly unrelated brand with LGBT rights – while a company coming out and saying they’re supportive of rights is fantastic, it is most definitely a marketing ploy in some cases. This happened a lot after the Supreme Court Decision of the US to nationally allow LGBT couples to marry. Oreo is an offender.
  • Bluewashing – Humanitarian-driven. A company that benefits directly from its “humanitarian” causes, despite not being particularly beneficial to the community they claim to serve – TOMs shoes is a good example.

Glossary III

One thing I’ve learned during this class is most definitely about the development of certain aspects of industries – one that piqued my interest, especially from a rhetorical and explorative perspective, was the pharmaceutical industry. It’s an industry that all walks of life tend to take beef with, and just so happens to be an industry that lines lawmakers pockets rather well. This doesn’t exactly align with consumer preferences, but at the end of the day, it’s incredibly interesting to see the alignment of certain consumer choices and what they may or may not know about the drugs they’re consuming.

All drug pamphlets come with information about risks and other things, but it’s interesting that what they’re required to present in their advertising and in their general sales pitches (don’t get me started on the pharmaceutical industry’s propensity for sending attractive young women to doctors offices, armed with a lunch and a set of plane tickets).

Those who are targeted by the industry are also interesting – it shows aggressive marketing tactics, reflecting people’s desires and hopes. Especially when it comes to drugs that are for those who are considered to have mental illness – the vague portrayals of life with a mental illness (depression, for example) may make people worried they’re experiencing what the ad is describing, potentially driving up sales.

I’ve decided to drudge up some buzzwords used in marketing pharma circles, so you are fully aware of the language that goes with a particular thought:

Patient Empowerment – A buzzword used to justify the actual marketing of prescription medications. This essentially says that patients should have autonomy and a say on their medical care – which in theory, sounds nice, but can be detrimental… because they’re not doctors and they’re being ’empowered’ by an industry that makes money off of people consuming their product.

Beyond The Pill – Another buzzword, meant to expand beyond just the pharmaceutical, but also including various softwares and external services that may or may not be conducive to a good patient experience. While federally set up, and not necessarily an industry example, but the ipledge program, for accutane prescriptions in the US, could be considered ‘beyond the pill’ (pills, plural, in the case of women of childbearing capability. It’s interesting stuff to read into, if you’re interested.)

Breakthrough Therapy – A pharma company may brand something as a breakthrough therapy – it makes you think cancer’s been cured and insulin shots have been turned into something as easy to remember as a birth control pill. But no, breakthrough therapy is a term used that may represent the first or most innovative thing of a certain kind, but generally, it’s just that – a marketing ploy.

Prescriptions & Pharmaceuticals

When you’re accessing the prescription drug advertising portion of the FDA’s website, one thing we can be thankful for is that it at least lets people know what their drug ads should contain, and how they should be approached. While it doesn’t give the rundown of drug advertising history, or let people know that they exist in one of two developed countries that allows it, or the reasoning behind it. (We’re talking donations from the pharmaceutical industry to politicians, under the guise of ‘consumer-driven’ medicine, but that’s a story for another time. PR has a lot to do with how things are spun and advertised, even within the political realm, so I feel my background here can actually help in some way!)

One of the most useful things, and I would argue to be the most beneficial for consumer protection, is the glossary of terms that comes with the territory – I feel as if it’s a great tool for people to have in their hands, as is provides an extensive reach of information for people in an organized way.

By organizing it into alphabetical order, people are able to seek out the information they need, and are able to effectively identify what they need to be aware of – they are able to utilize it as an index or a glossary in a book, and can be on active alert for buzzwords that may or may not pertain to their particular case. It gives a reasonable explanation for various terms, especially as the terminology isn’t in everybody’s wheelhouse.

Photovoice I

For my photovoice, I’m planning on addressing the dairy industry at length and how people are led to believe it is healthy. I also plan on addressing the marketing schemes and how governmental intervention can perpetuate this myth.

I plan on tackling these questions:

“Why is it so difficult to be healthy/unhealthy?”

“How healthy IS is?”

“Who’s selling me what?”

Glossary Building II

Consumer health in general is an incredibly important thing to know about –  what plastics are okay to use, how the things you do impact the environment – but one of the most important things to know about consumer health does always involve the side that we aren’t actively exposed to on the day-to-day. When we talk consumer health, we also talk about the things that lie in the background, the unseemly things like the ‘profit margin’ and why these companies are producing things. Sure, some may argue that there are some holistic, thoughtful retailers who genuinely want to make the world a better place, but that can be far and few between – when we’re discussing consumer health at length, we must look at the economic implications of what we’re doing before we dive headfirst into a discussion about the moral and more prevalent side of consumer health.

When we discuss economics, we aren’t talking about supply and demand, however, we’re talking about the economic theories of externalities and the importance of understanding motive behind particular marketing tactics. When you’re utilizing terminology, it’s not lost on the the supplier that the rhetoric they use is telling a story. People get hired to construct and create the various representations of their brand, their image, and with that, there is an importance in acknowledging that you, the consumer, are the target for these specific rhetorical techniques and tactics. By being aware of the background terminology being used in the rooms looking for this return of profit, you are better able to understand and comprehend why being informed is so important.

Return On Investment – This is essentially, when you put ‘X’ in, you better get ‘XYZ’ out. It asks what the value is of a certain campaign, a certain idea, or a certain product change – and you, the consumer, are the person who creates the return. Thus, there’s an incentive to get you to create that return – by purchasing the good or service, even if it may not be in your best interest. It can be, but isn’t always. Because of this interest in ROI, there’s typically two ways they stray – either offer high-quality service and charge a much higher price, or cut corners, depending on the market they’re looking to serve. Think Nordstrom vs Walmart; just with the application of things that can actually have affect on your health: ingredients in food, impacts on the environment, etc.

Positive Externalities – These are externalities that are positive from an action you take – things that don’t impact you but have positive effect on the world. Think vaccines and how they help people who have immunodeficiency not contract diseases, think environmentally sustainable products made of bamboo, or a purchase you make that gives to a charity. However, due to people not noticing these externalities, people tend to underproduce and under procure the goods with positive externalities.

Negative Externalities – This is the same thing as positive externalities, just flipped on it’s head. If you don’t get a vaccine, that’s a negative externality – environmental practices that pollute, or buying from a company that uses unethical labor. Not saying I’m perfect, but recognizing the negative externalities is important. These goods tend to be overproduced, however, due to the effects not affecting the party producing the good.