Woolworths Health Checks

Woolworths, or as we know it, Woolies, has been trialling in store health checks conducted by registered nurses http://www.woolworthslimited.com.au/page/The_Newsroom/Press_Releases/Woolworths_trial_of_in-store_cholesterol_and__blood_pressure_checks/

This is a trial but Woolies has signalled an intention to expand this in advertisements for health care professionals and students to conduct these checks. Is this acceptable or not?

The ‘Professions’ are hitting back claiming that the selected health practitioners don’t have the expertise to conduct these checks which might be done at the local GP or maybe the local pharmacy. This is just a land grab….don’t step on our turf.

The real issue is whether or not Woolies can actually produce a flow on effect to influence both shopper (patient?) behaviour and more importantly purchasing in favour of health care outcomes. A risk averse Woolies would have to have strict guidelines about who to refer on to medical practitioners in order to avoid medico-legal problems. The target population is everybody else i.e. the overweight – probably 60-70% of the population, the consequently pre-diabetic, the consumers with mild hypertension, etc, etc.

The other issue is whether this corporate social responsibility approach is duplicitous. What are they trying to sell (after all that is what Woolies does to earn value for shareholders). Will Woolies stop selling high-carb, high-sugar, health damaging products? What about tobacco? Or the alcohol business? What about it’s ‘home brands’? Will Jamie Oliver front the show after the farmers levy debacle?

Finally, is this just the first push into having US-style pharmacies in supermarkets (or as is the case, supermarkets in pharmacies). In the US pharma/markets capture a huge segment of the health care market?

Woolies is ultimately only doing this because it is commodifiable, and monetisable. That’s fine if it also produces health benefits for the population ad also isn’t misrepresenting itself as comprehensive patient-centred healthcare. Woolies also needs to remember its’ real competitors in the health space aren’t the doctors, nurses and pharmacists but the telecommunications companies.

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