First, an anecdote.
When I moved from the United States to Spain and created Jazztel in 1998, I opted to offer health insurance to my employees—a very North American concept. I asked them if they would prefer that Jazztel pay for a private health insurance plan, or instead, that I give them that money directly. It wasn’t substantial, something like 60 euros (75 dollars) a month. It surprised me to learn that hardly anyone chose the private health insurance plan, that few were interested in private health care, that they were remarkably content with the public health system and that they preferred to earn 60 euros more a month.
Later, I was given the chance to check out the Spanish public health care system for myself, partly due to my mountain biking injuries and also because of my children’s various accidents. I saw firsthand that it was really very good and very free. Especially coming from the US where health care costs some 600 euros (750 dollars) per month and, you have to pay for additional things that are included as insured here in Spain.
Now, let’s “fast forward” to 2012.
We have a bankrupt Spain being bailed out by the EU day-to-day. A bankrupt health care system and with massive defaults, but still with good quality medicine and full of new hospitals freshly equipped with the latest “bubble” models from when we still had credit. All this accompanied by a great debate over the topic of copays and the plan to charge 710 euros (890 dollars) a year to illegal immigrants. Seeing the situation and being an entrepreneur, it occurred to me to make a business out of this tragedy.
Or let’s just say: make the tragedy less tragic by constructing a business to help it.
Spain is the fourth largest tourist destination in the world. We receive almost 60 million tourists per year and almost all of them come from countries where medicine is more expensive. Why don’t we sell our medical services—that are so good and so cheap—to our tourists? Why don’t we launch medical tourism to a larger scale? Why don’t we transform public health care into an export-oriented industry?
How do you do this? The government could launch a big publicity campaign in which they offer medical insurance to foreigners and allow them access to public health care for 100 euros per month. And for those foreigners who travel here without an insurance plan, they would be charged 40 euros (50 dollars) each time they wanted medical attention and not be seen for free as they are now. North American friends that had health problems in Menorca, for example, couldn’t believe it when after receiving medical treatment, were released without being charged. They were willing to pay 100 euros for a consultation; 40 euros would seem like a bargain. Foreigners don’t expect it, but they receive free medical treatment in Spain.
From here we can start to promote medical tourism. Come get yourself treated with the Spanish national health system! We are the longest-living of all big countries in the world!
If the government ensured that one million of the 60 million tourists pay this medical tourism insurance, it could obtain 1.2 billion euros (1.5 billion dollars) a year. To North Americans, being able to come to Spain and while here, go to the doctor for free, all for an insurance premium of 1,200 euros annually, would be very beneficial. The Germans pay 300 euros a month for insurance. And we won’t even speak of the uninsured people in many countries who have money but not enough to afford insurance in their country. In Argentina, for example, insurance that provides the same quality of service as Spanish health care costs about 300 euros per month. I know that getting a million customers isn’t easy, but the market has 60 million. Later we will have to determine the costs of treating these patients, but I find it possible to make a profit. Especially when there is so much infrastructure already in place.
I think the Spanish government has a possibility to finance a part of the health of its people with medical tourism, and that this opportunity should at least be studied. I know many Spanish people think that health care should be free for everyone, but it isn’t—we pay for it ourselves and we can find more customers overseas. It’s time to be creative and sell medical insurance to foreigners with the Spanish national health system.
Most people who are concerned about the health effects of food are concerned about the quality of the food they eat. But in the vast majority of cases where food sickens or kills people, it is not the quality of the food they eat but the quantity. Why are all diets about eating something different of what people normally eat? Why isn’t there a simple diet that says, eat whatever you normally eat but less. And not much less, not starving less, but just a little less, so you may get into a new eating habit for the rest of your life and not just during the diet. So you change nothing but eat a slightly smaller amount. That is my diet. My weight is incredibly constant over the years, I just eat the same diet every day. And when I don’t work out, I just eat the same but in smaller amounts.
It’s not what people eat that kills them, the global obesity epidemic and its toll on life is happening because of how much people eat.
At first he shows a picture of polio patients in iron lungs. Speaks about the polio vaccine. The last polio case was in 1980 in USA. Polio still exists in some parts of Africa, India, Pakistan and Afganistan. And in 2 countries that had not had polio for a long time polio came back. In Russia they got polio again. But epidemics is being controlled. We need to completely erradicate polio. Polio can only survive in people so we have to make people polio free. We are doing a global partnership to erradicate polio. Disease erradication os the venture capital of public health, great risks but great rewards. Smallpox erradication was an incredibly successful investment, it pays off every 26 days again and again. Same would be true with polio. But the polio vaccine is very fragile and deteriorates in warm climate. And as opposed to smallpox that is so easy to see because of the rash, polio does not show itself when it first strikes, you can’t see the enemy.
To erradicate polio we have to create a 20 million people social movement. They are vaccinating half a billion children every year. It is oral and easy to administer but the problem is to reach all children of the world in the worst places and conditions. They have to operate in war conditions. This is foreign aid at its most heroic. Rotary international is doing this, with over i million volunteers. Results are good.
Polyo Type 2 has been totally eradicated. There’s been 99% reduction 1000 kids in the whole world now, a lot but nothing compared to 20 years ago. But even with 1000 now if we don’t eradicate the disease in 2030 we will have 300K kids again with polio again. A new polio vaccine was developed, old one was 50 years old. New vaccine is much better. Northern India is the perfect storm when it comes to polio. Sanitation is terrible. But with the new vaccine not a single got polio.
In 2007, Loic Le Meur and I came up with the concept of La Fatera. It is described here. The idea was a scale that would share your weight over the internet and help you lose weight socially. At that time the plan was that Fon makes the Fonera and the Fatera. But while at Fon we stuck with the Fonera, a successful strategy (this year alone we sold close to 2 million), others picked up on the concept of the Fatera. The most successful implementation is Withings the WiFi scale. And new social sites to lose weight keep appearing. Fatdrop is a good example.
The obvious reason for the success of the scale and the weight losing sites is the obesity epidemics. 20% to one third of the population of developed countries obese or overweight. Interestingly obesity is so global and popular that in the world now there are as many obese people as hungry people, an estimated billion of each. But other than obesity the psychology of overeating lends itself more to sharing the activity socially to stop it than other addictions. Drug addictions, alcoholism are generally treated in secret in places like AA because taking drugs alters your behavior and there is a shame factor associated with it. Few people tweet something like “I have gone 134 days without shooting heroin”. Yet many people are tweeting their weight with Bob Metcalfe the creator of ethernet is a good example. Over eating is an activity that can be done in public, without shame and that other than the occasional barfing it does not produce any obvious social problems (it’s legal to drive after you overeat for example). But in this case, the shamelessness nature of over eating is a big plus for society to get you to stop. And sharing your weight over the internet is the objective measure of your eating. I see tremendous potential in weight sharing as a way to socially lose weight.
Since its start in 2002, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has spent $19bn and saved 4.9 million lives. And you have not heard about them. Or at least I had not heard about them. And that was fine. Until now. That is because The Global Fund is in the process of organizing its next commitment round for another estimated $20bn. But what is interesting about this new campaign is that The Global Fund is not asking for your money. Or, at least, it is not asking for your money directly. And that is because, knowingly or unknowingly, you are already a contributor to this campaign, as a taxpayer wherever you live.
In these times of huge government deficits, however, it is important that your voice be heard. That you let your government know that you believe that saving lives around the world, that preventing the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is a worthwhile use of your tax money, that you are in favor of what The Global Fund is doing.
The Global Fund is starting a campaign on May 19th that will attract personalities from around the world to alert citizens of donor nations to how important it is that these efforts go on. And you will be asked to sign a digital petition saying that you endorse these efforts. Your signature counts in the sense that governments need to know that their citizens care.
On May 19th I will sign. I hope you do as well.
Avian Flu is proving that blogs may provide adequate balance to global media coverage of important issues such as the Avian Flu. Initially, when global media was not covering the Avian Flu, news were appearing in many blogs as to the dangers that the disease posed to humans. Now that the national media and Bush himself has gone overboard with the dangers of the Avian Flu, blogs are toning the whole issue down and putting it into the right perspective.
I am sure that he´s been called that before. Mehmet Oz, I mean. Still, to me he is the Wizard of Oz and so I will call him that. This is how the Wizard of Oz is described in the classic book:
“So Oz brought a pair of tinsmith’s shears and cut a small, square hole in the left side of the Tin Woodman’s breast. Then, going to a chest of drawers, he took out a pretty heart, made entirely of silk and stuffed with sawdust.”
“Isn’t it a beauty?” he asked.
L Frank Baum
The Wizard of Oz
And it perfectly suits my friend, Mehmet Oz, who one recent morning became a Wizard to me when I saw him perform two open heart surgery operations in a row. This was the closest thing to its art form I had ever seen!
I read in Bill Bryson´s book that our brains makes only 2% of our body mass but demands 20% of the energy we consume. And not only that. Since the brain manages how energy is distributed around our body, when there´s an energy shortage the brain makes sure that other organs suffer first. Not unlike elaborate computer chips, our brain seems to have tremendous energy requirements to function properly. If this is so, here is an idea for a new diet….think more and less of your food will become fat.