Editor's Note

Food for Thought

Food for ThoughtYou know what I’ve decided? Medications cost far too much to formulate, test, fine-tune, test again, take through trials, manufacture, distribute, prescribe, regulate and deliver. Even over-the-counter meds are too expensive.

So I’ve cooked up a replacement that costs far less. Look left: That’s a photo of my miracle cure. It provides hydration, can help clear sinuses and could help to reduce inflammation. And it’s so much cheaper than those medications that treat bacterial infections. You’re welcome.

Does that sound familiar? How about if I substitute wheelchair for medications? Now does it sound familiar?

Among my daily tasks is reading “newswire” stories, which in the Internet age includes information that arrives via e-mail and social media. And wow, am I tired of mainstream news stories and press releases that begin, “Fed up with the exorbitant prices of wheelchairs, these inventors set out to build something better.” The story then triumphantly explains that the materials to build this new wheelchair cost only a few hundred dollars, largely because they tend to include lawn chair-style seats, a skateboard and some zip ties.

I’m not talking about wheelchairs designed specifically for developing nations, or about the cool early-intervention powered ride-ons that Dr. Cole Galloway and colleagues build for infants and toddlers. Those systems are designed with purpose by people familiar with seating, mobility and the challenging environments in which they must function.

No, I’m frustrated by amateurs who seemingly glance at complex rehab technology and decide — based on price tags alone — that they can make something better. “Granny loves her new wheelchair that we built in our garage,” they say. “And we just used our kid’s old scooter and some leftovers from the tool shed.”

These stories are picked up by unwitting media and feed the under-educated belief that any complex rehab technology costing more than a few hundred bucks is unreasonably priced. That includes chairs custom made to accommodate an asymmetrical or fixed posture. Or a seating system handbuilt for a user with half a pelvis and precious little body surface left to bear weight. Or the head array to enable a client with a high cervical injury to independently weight shift every hour to avoid pressure injuries.

Knowledgeable innovation is great. But claiming that untested, DIY wheelchairs are effective isn’t just annoying. It’s dangerous because all the wrong people are eager to believe it. Yeah, we’ll take the word of the guy rolling down the hill in his lawn chair with no brakes!

Hot chicken soup really can help a stuffy nose. But it doesn’t lower blood pressure, clear up psoriasis or treat depression. Do people cook a pot of chicken soup, feed it to Granny, then proclaim it a cheaper and better cure for her osteoporosis?

Then where is the respect for complex rehab technology?

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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