Friday, December 18, 2009

"Holistic" Nonsense - Final Response

This is an email exchange that occurred at my workplace. We receive a publication via email called "Be Well" sent by Peak Health Management and is distributed across the whole company regardless of individual consent. The article in question was regarding Reflexology.


I'm writing in response to an article about reflexology. Whilst I have read your disclaimer, I believe you still have a responsibility to ensure that the information presented within your articles is based on current and legitimate medical and scientific research. The underlining principles of reflexology has no physiological mechanism for which it could possibly have any effect especially in regards to organs or any body part other than the immediate area that is being touched and thus would only have the same relaxation benefit as regular massage. The notion of a so called qualified expert and also the fact the article is presented next to legitimate health advice gives an air of legitimacy to an otherwise dubious practice. With all the bad information people can find now, I believe that any reduction in misinformation is a very good thing especially when it's something that is being sent and not just searched for.

Thank you.

And the Reply...

Dear Jay,

Thankyou for your email, we are always very pleased to hear from Be Well readers.

Be Well Magazine has quite intentionally been designed to be "holistic". Here on the production team, we recognise that all individuals have their own ideas about what constitutes "wellness", and we know that personal choices available (by way of remedies, treatments, preventatives and practices) are endless!

Supplementing the traditionally medical or clinic approaches (topics this month include cholesterol, lung disease and skin cancer) are natural or alternative approaches - including reflexology, massage, beauty, acupuncture, herbs, aromatherapy, etc. We love a little bit of everything to mix it up and keep our publication interesting and varied.

This month's article on Reflexology sits in the "Naturally Well" pillar of the magazine, and quite clearly opens with the statement: "Reflexology is an alternative wellness practice." It also states that the practice is based on the "belief" that reflex points correspond to parts of the body - not based on the "scientific fact". I do sincerely hope that you have not been offended by the inclusion of this topic; we merely want to spread the word about all the different types of services available to us here in Australia, including those that may be seen as a little "left-field".

You will find on the contributors' page that the magazine authors include doctors, nurses, dietitians, exercise physiologists, naturopaths and peak bodies for topic areas such as mental health, occupational health and safety, etc. We deliberately seek information from reputable organisations / foundations / associations as they have access to the most up-to-date and accurate information in their given field.

You are more than welcome to send through any other comments you may have - or any topic requests for upcoming editions.

Warm regards,

Emily Troise
Editor | Be Well Magazine
PEAK Health Management
Building 3, 11-12 Phillip Court
Represented in all states
Ph: 1300 360 107

Ok, so I haven't replied to this as yet but believe me I will be doing so and I will post all updates as they occur and I also intend on replying to the staff member that arranged for the distribution.


Hello again, the following is the next instalment in this little exchange, sent 17/12/09.

Dear Emily,

Thank you for taking the time to reply and I do apologise that time restraints have not allowed me to respond sooner.

I do understand and also endorse the notion of personal choice as everyone has the right to choose what goes into and what happens to their own body. My objection is when the information handed to people is of a deceptive nature, there is a reason for the term "Alternative Medicine" as any treatment that has gone through legitimate clinical testing and proven to work beyond the placebo effect is considered just Medicine. When the so called alternative practices including but in no way limited to the examples you give below undergo the rigorous testing that mainstream medical practices go through, like double blind testing, the results show they produce an effect no better than placebo if any.

A problem arises when people who may be desperate or who don't know any better turn to these dubious modalities instead of seeking mainstream medical care and the practitioners gladly accept the business. Giving these "quacks" a public podium which is delivered and not just searched for (one of my larger concerns with the publication) is somewhat negligent. The general public is somewhat naïve of the actual evidence for these practices and allocating space for them next to legitimate scientifically proven medical advice can confuse the public especially when not presented with all the facts.

You say you "seek information from reputable organisations". Well I'd like to ask what your definition of reputable is, especially in regards to alternative medicine practices. A governing body of an unscientific, unproven highly improbable claim giving credence to a practitioner peddling that same claim should probably warrant further investigation, just because a person has received some kind of training even to the level of doctorate does not automatically entail that particular modality is legitimate or that practice is even moral.

I do not write this to personally offend yourself, only to possibly get you and your team to think about the content of your publication, "belief" in a unproven practice should not be a part of a public health advice magazine and again especially not one that gets sent and not just searched for.

Thank you,

Please stay tuned for further developments.



The reply didn't take long and I think you'll understand why...

Hi Jay,

Thankyou for your feedback.
I appreciate the time you have taken to send this through.

Merry Christmas,

Emily Troise

Hmm...  I will have to have a think about the points she brought forward in that response.

I will be bringing this to the attention of the company come Monday in the hopes that they make a more informed choice in the publications they send out to employees. A positive has already come out of this exchange, a few of my colleagues at our particular office agree with me and are happy someone is bringing this to our company's attention. I will post any response I get from my company but it is a fair assumption that this will be the last we will hear from 'Be Well Magazine'... Well in this correspondence anyway.



  1. Great work. I'll be looking forward to reading this exchange as it progresses.

  2. Emily appealling to authority, much?