Since the launch of BrandWatch a year ago I referred several times to the emergence of new social norms and their consequences on brands. One of these standards is the "Health Obligation". We have yet another example in the USA.
One of the most reputable hospitals in the United States (which President Obama recently visited as part of his U.S. health care system reform), Cleveland Clinic, is fully involved in a health strategy:
- It hosts a farmers market within the premises to help its employees, patients and their families go back to eating healthier food;
- It organizes sessions for the inhabitants of its community to help them quit smoking.
Two years ago the hospital decided to move forward and stop hiring smokers. In a recent interview in the New York Times, its CEO goes even further: he thinks that if the law allowed him to do so, he would refuse to hire obese people. "People's weight is a reflection of how much they eat and how active they are. The country has grown fat because it's consuming more calories and burning fewer. Our national weight problem brings huge costs, both medical and economic. Yet our anti-obesity efforts have none of the urgency of our antismoking efforts. We should declare obesity a disease and say we're going to help you get over it "... "What we should really be doing is taxing the companies that make fatty foods. We do it to cigarette companies, don't we? And obesity and heart problems kill far more people than cigarettes".
The New York Times implicitly takes the same view, saying that obesity costs $ 147 billion to the community annually and that this "disease" is the consequence of shortfalls in comportment. They put personal responsibility at the heart of the problem as also changes in the environment - with the increase of take-out dinners, falling prices of soft drinks, rising prices of fruits and vegetables, etc. ... Nothing is said about the normalization of foodstuffs, the nutritional deficiencies of industrialized foods and beverages.
Readers responded passionately, going so far as to speak of "bigotry": "America, the land that will legalize gambling and then blame the compulsive gambler for not having enough "will-power" to stay away from the casinos. Are you crazy? We have fructose in everything - ketchup, pop, macaroni and cheese. McDonalds and fast food parlours on every block. We have decentralized cities that require you to drive everywhere. Vegetables and fruit are very expensive. Yet, we want to "cure" obesity by making it legal to bar the obese from employment".
We're heading straight for a world where, sooner or later, each one will have to shoulder their own responsibilities and which will strongly encourage - and in some cases oblige – us to avoid smoking, avoid being fat, avoid being ill. In countries like the U.S. or Japan where the legal framework is not the same as ours, this standard is gradually being implemented. It will soon happen in Europe, of this we can be sure.