Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Up and running again...

I have decided to get this blog up and running again after a lengthy sojourn. I have been busily working on a range of research topics in the interval, primarily exploring Alcohol Management Plans in northern Australia. I am still researching medical tourism in India and am in the process of finalising my PhD thesis, along with several related publications that will (hopefully) be finalised by the end of 2014. I am also working on a few other projects that will take me to a number of Aboriginal communities in northern Australia over the next 3-4 months. I have also already posted a couple of my upcoming presentations and events over the next few months.
Keep checking for updates in the coming weeks!

KBS Thematic meeting: Alcohol Policy Research Alcohol Policy Research: Putting together a global evidence base Thematic meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society: Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia, 8-11 September 2014

I am co-presenting a paper at the KBS Thematic meeting on Wednesday 10th September at 11am at @ the Fitzroy Town Hall with Marcia Langton and Richard Chenhall.

Alcohol Management Plans: Understanding best practice pathways to reduce alcohol-related harms in Aboriginal communities 

Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs) have become an important Australian government policy response to the harms from alcohol in Australian communities. Indigenous communities have been central to the development of AMPs in many communities, particularly throughout northern Australia. This paper explores the role and understandings of Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs) and related alcohol interventions in Indigenous communities in Australia. The paper discusses the preliminary findings from an ethnographic study of AMPs conducted in the Northern Territory, based on qualitative, semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted with a range of key stakeholders in Alice Springs, Darwin, Katherine and the community of Jilkminggan. Some of the key themes explored include: the problems associated with complex and intersecting, multi-tiered government policy and legislation; local issues related to the contested interests of industry, public health, communities and government; the absence of integrated, regional responses; and, some of the factors that have led to success within this increasingly volatile context. The paper concludes with an exploration of how these findings can inform State, Territory and Federal policy in developing ‘best practice’ pathways for communities to develop, implement and monitor AMPs.

Medical Tourism Summit: Understanding medical tourism and how recent changes will impact Australia 20-21 November 2014 | Rendezvous Grand Hotel Melbourne

Medical Tourism Summit
Understanding medical tourism and how recent changes will impact Australia

20-21 November 2014 | Rendezvous Grand Hotel Melbourne

I am giving a presentation on the first day of this Summit (see Agenda below).

The Inaugural Medical Tourism Summit will examine the implications of recent changes within the medical tourism industry and the impact on the Australian market. In the last few years, Australia has begun to see more and more tourists arriving to receive medical treatments, including cancer treatment, heart surgery and IVF.
Meanwhile, NIB Health Funds has announced that they will offer insurance for Australian’s heading overseas for dental and cosmetic surgery, with plans to eventually expand this service to cover other forms of medical tourism.
The conference program will also address:
  • The current state of the industry
  • The risks
  • Australian services and marketing
  • Legislative challenges


Thursday 20th November 2014
The Current State of Medical Tourism
9.00      Medical tourism: Opportunities and threats in a Globalised world
With the availability of efficient modern transportation, it is possible to travel long distances in a short period of time in today's environment. As international tourism developed, so has the investment in infrastructure to cater for the tourism industry, from which medical tourism has had the opportunity to develop alongside on an international scale. This presentation examines the scope and challenges of medical tourism in a globalised world. The globalisation of markets and production, provide the medical tourism industry opportunities similar to those available to other service and manufacturing industries. Accordingly, the supply and demand create opportunities and threats to the industry. In addition, there are the ecological threats posed by the microbial world to manage in this industry. A holistic approach is necessary for the sustainability of this global industry.
Dr Christine Lee, Lecturer at the School of Business and Economics at Federation University
9.40      Why people travel for medical care: what we know and don't know
This presentation summarises the latest social science research on the reasons people seek medical treatment overseas. Patterns of travel differ for various groups and nationalities of people and by treatments sought, and appears to fluctuate. Research remains limited, due to the difficulties in accessing a mobile population, lack of consistent statistical enumeration and because much of the information is considered commercial in confidence. Although emphasis is placed upon individual decision-making, governments and regulations as well as insurers and tie-in contracts are important in shaping the trade in medical services.
Associate Professor Andrea Whittaker, ARC Future Fellow in Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences, Monash University
10.40      CASE STUDY: The Patient Experience
A patient's experience is broader than just the clinical aspects of care - all of the various non-clinical interactions impact their experience. Because patients are often at their most vulnerable while receiving health care services, each interaction takes on added significance. All of these interactions, or touch points, are the basis of 'The Patient Experience'. Each touch point offers the health care provider the opportunity to deliver unique benefits to the patient and to create a platform for differentiation and competitive advantage.
Cassandra Italia, Managing Director, Healthcare Hands and Global Health Travel, Thailand

The Risks

11.20      Medical tourism and bioethics: Imprints left by the global neoliberalisation of health
Internationally, healthcare has been intensively privatised and commercialised over the past 20 years. Medical tourism has emerged in this context as an economic development strategy for many developing nations, and provisional remedy to the rising costs and waiting lists for healthcare in developed nations. Through a focus on research carried out in India, this paper will explore how medical tourism provides a window through which to view some of the broader, exploitative economic practices occurring within and between nations. It will also discuss how national and international regulation can guard against predatory practices and promote social justice, or alternatively, exacerbate current inequalities.
Kristen Dawn Smith, Research Fellow for the Centre for Health and Society at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne
1.00      CASE STUDY: Travails of hope and the real cost of stem cell tourism
Buoyed by the promise of regenerative medicine, Australians are pursuing 'stem cell' treatments - both abroad and within Australia - in increasing numbers. Often referred to as 'stem cell tourism', this emerging service industry is a discrete and worrying sub-set of the medical tourism sector. Rather than offering access to established techniques and medical procedures, the 'stem cell' tourist is being sold unproven interventions with little or no evidence to substantiate the claims made - and high fees charged - by providers. Indeed the potential cost extends far beyond financial considerations for the individual, with real implications for the biotechnology community.
Dr Megan Munsie, Head of Education, Ethics, Law and Community Awareness Unit at the University of Melbourne; Policy and Outreach Manager at Stem Cells Australia
1.40      Does medical tourism trivialise the severity of plastic surgery?
Dr Tim Papadopoulos, President of the Australasian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Marketing and public relations

2.40:        The need for a systematic and integrated approach to develop the medical tourism industry
Dr Hemani Thukral, Director of Medical Tourism, Australia Indian Travel & Tourism Council; Managing Director, MyMedicalChoices
3.20      CASE STUDY: The difficulties of trying to develop a medical tourism market for Australia
  • Early attempts to define and establish the sector
  • Early conferences, their findings and resolutions
  • Attitudinal and structural hurdles
  • The "tourism" side of medical tourism
  • The ongoing opportunity
Matthew Hingerty, CEO and Managing Director, Barton Deakin
4.00       Measures to Develop and Promote “Down-Under Medical Tourism Hub”
Medical tourism is one of the fastest growing multi-million dollar global healthcare service industries. It is also  known as healthcare tourism, medical outsourcing, medical refugees, international medical travel, bio-tech pilgrims - where patients seek cost effective, first world quality of heath-care with latest medical technology in another country. It is a complex phenomenon influenced by interactions between medical, economic, social, legal, ethical, and political factors operating either singly or in combination, such as high health and insurance costs, globalisation, digitisation, regulation, long waiting periods, and non-availability of treatment. Medical tourism combines access to invasive, diagnostic, cosmetic and alternative lifestyle healthcare services with exotic locations, medical specialist and caring local staff, and travel itineraries. It incorporates the appeal of achieving positive health outcomes for improving once quality of life, with the adventure of heritage, spiritual, and cultural tourism. Therefore, in order to be competitive medical tourism development, information distribution and promotion should be of great interest to Australian marketers, medical profession, policy makers and medical tourism industry as a whole.
Anita Medhekar, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Central Queensland University

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tune in to the Body Sphere on Sunday 30 September 5pm (ABC Radio National)

Granted,  I am a little remiss with my posts here, but I just want to give an update on the Nip Tuck seminar that was hosted by Amanda Smith from Radio National's the Body Sphere. I headed down to the Southbank studio yesterday to record some more material alongside Meredith Jones (UTS), who also talked about her fascinating study exploring cosmetic tourism. Will air on Radio National on Sunday 30 September @ 5pm. Some really interesting discussion...check it out!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Come along to the Public Forum on Medical Tourism

I am speaking on a panel on Friday night at the University of Melbourne. Here's the details if you want to come along:

Amanda Smith is hosting a free public forum called Nip & Tuck, Treatment & Transplants about Medical Tourism in Asia.

Why are so many people going to Asia for medical treatment these days? And how does this growing phenomenon of medical tourism impact on the communities that provide treatment to international clients? Thailand, India, South Korea and Malaysia have become the hottest destinations for this new form of niche tourism, providing not just the usual sun, surf and sex tourism, but also a range of private biomedical, complementary and alternative medical services such as reproductive procedures, organ transplants, heart surgery, dentistry, cosmetic surgery and yoga and spa retreats. In spite of the rapid growth of health care travel in Asia, very little research has been conducted to date regarding the socio-cultural and bioethical issues surrounding the industries and practices that more and more Australians are buying into
It’s at the Melbourne Brain Centre, University of Melbourne this Friday 20 July 2012, 6.15pm.
Admission is free but you need to make a booking:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Call for Papers: Medical Tourism in Asia

This is an invitation for participants to join a panel I am organising on medical tourism for the inaugural international conference of the Travel Research Network (2012):
Travel ideals: Engaging with Spaces of Mobility

18-20 July 2012 at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Panel Title: Medical Tourism in Asia

Description: The practice of cross-border medical travel has dramatically increased over the last decade. In this time, global shifts in the patterns of patients’ origins and destinations have occurred alongside alterations in modes of supply and demand. Although international medical tourism is growing significantly in both magnitude and scope, it has received comparatively little academic attention to date.  A number of Asian countries, such as Thailand, India, Singapore and Malaysia, are proving to be front-runners in this growing industry. This border-crossing panel encourages interdisciplinary papers, particularly within the social sciences. It will examine medical tourism within the context of globalization, development, human rights and the commercialization of health.

Presenters from broad disciplinary backgrounds and experiences are invited to submit abstracts of 250 words for this session to Kristen Smith ( by April 25, 2012.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

From 'Brain Drain' to 'Patient Drain'

Although the issue of First World - or richer - countries becoming concerned about the impact of medical tourism in terms of 'Patient Drain' (ie. the perception of patients being 'poached' by external providers) was discussed quite a bit in the duration of my research in India, I was under the perception that this was possibly a little overstated.

However, after seeing this issue popping up in the media lately, I am beginning to wonder. (See this article spouting about the problems of Patient Drain from the perspective of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries - who, mind you, do quite a bit of medical tourism trade themselves:

The view coming from some of the doctors I talked to in India was that they believed there were an increasing number of - specifically US - doctors concerned about the loss of health dollars through a 'patient drain' facilitated by medical tourism. A few surgeons I spoke with in India even talked about international patients telling them stories of how their doctors had actively tried to deter them from coming to India with horror stories of what could happen. Additionally they spoke about the change in some of their friends/colleagues  who are practising medicine in the US where now, instead of referring patients to them, have joined in on attempting to stem the 'patient drain' away from the nation.

The Great Patient Drain

I suppose, I really should not be surprised about this shift in discourse away from looking at 'Brain Drain' of health care professionals from Third World to First World nations.

 The first vital question to ask in this situation is who is it that benefits from this change in focus? Here all becomes it becomes a little clearer in terms of motivations. Instead of the First World (who is getting all of the doctors/nurses etc) being the 'bad guys' for 'poaching' the healthcare professionals from places such as South Asia and South America, it is now the Third World who are the naughty ones, stealing away 'healthcare consumers' from places like the US and UK. Also it shifts the framework of the discussion from that of public healthcare problems in the Developing world (caused by the imbalance of power which favours rich countries), to that of economic health issues in the Developed world.

What we are talking about here in terms of the shift in focus is really more about power, and who it is that holds this power.

 Perhaps we could all give a big cheer to the countries of the Third World participating in medical tourism if it was as simplistic as all of this. Of course it is not. Have a read of my article: "The Problematization of Medical Tourism: A Critique of Neoliberalism" in the special edition of the latest Developing World Bioethics journal on medical tourism if you are interested in some of the wider issues at play here.