Sick brics

Sec_sickbricsEmployers in Russia are not known for compassion – unless they are dealing with drunkenness. A hangover is still seen in many offices and factories as an excuse for skipping work, turning up late or just being grumpy and unproductive. However, as the Kremlin steps up its campaign against alcoholism, experts are counting the economic cost of Russians’ excessive drinking habits. 

Sec_sickbricsMany Russians see Alexey Navalny, a campaigning lawyer, as a champion of hopeless causes. But when the blogger turned his guns on Donskoy Tabak, Russia’s leading tobacco maker, he met widespread support even from hardened smokers. 

Sec_sickbricsAlthough some still remember a Spartan past dominated by drab, under-supplied state-owned stores, Vietnam’s moneyed elite can today buy pretty much anything they want in-country, from a Rolls-Royce to the latest smartphone or designer handbag.

But, if they need a health check-up or a hernia repaired, many wealthy Vietnamese feel compelled to seek treatment overseas because of the dearth of international standard hospitals and clinics. 

Sec_sickbricsYou might think that an army would have an obvious answer to a epidemic of obesity in the ranks – extra circuits and assault courses.

Not the Czech military. Faced with the uncomfortable fact that every second Czech serviceman is overweight,  army chiefs decided to take action. But instead of ordering more exercise, they have stocked up on slimming pills and commanded the cooks to start feeding the troops a low-fat diet. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly in a country where inflation has been firmly entrenched in double digits for the past four years and is expected to top 25 per cent this year, Argentines are increasingly struggling to fund their healthcare. 

Sec_sickbricsThere is something very unusual about the new Medicover hospital in the southern Warsaw suburb of Wilanow – it is clean, quiet and almost empty, while most Polish hospitals are jammed with patients lining up in hallways that have not seen a paintbrush in decades.

That’s because the Medicover facility is private – part of a growing number of private hospitals and clinics springing up in Poland to take care of patients unhappy with the overcrowded and underfunded public sector. 

Sec_sickbricsShaven heads are all the rage in Venezuela at the moment. It is meant as a show of solidarity for Hugo Chávez, who is undergoing his third round of chemotherapy, and has lost all his hair.
But the trend has taken a new turn. After a group of state electricity workers cut off all their hair this week to draw attention to the “terminal cancer” afflicting their company, it may not be long before doctors try a similar stunt. Such is the state of Venezuela’s health sector that even Chávez preferred to jet off to Cuba to get his cancer treated. 

Sec_sickbricsThe human cost of doing business in India has been known to multinational employers for centuries.

Niall Ferguson, the Harvard historian in his book titled “Empire” describes how in the days of the British East India Company fortunes and careers were made in India. 

A dark skin complexion remains one of Indian society’s most visible taboos.

Indians are becoming more western in their consumer habits, buying anything from jeans to mobile phones, but on one point they remain resolutely traditional – the preference for fair over dark skin. 

Nowhere is looking good as important as in Brazil. Whether it be the media images of supermodels like Gisele Bundchen, the sexy clothes and tiny bikinis, or the hot and sultry climate that serves as an open invitation to strip off, the body beautiful (and not so beautiful) is constantly on display.

That’s a powerful incentive to stay in shape and gyms are taking note. Over the last 10 years, bigger and more professional gyms have muscled in on the smaller neighbourhood academias, as they are known here. 

In our latest special series, beyondbrics looks at health. We’ll write about everything from body-beautiful gyms in Brazil to concerns about skin-whiteners in India and the state of hopitals in Vietnam.

To start, we have Patti Waldmeir, the FT’s Shanghai correspondent, on what happened when China’s health inspectors turned their attention to mooncakes, the traditional food of this month’s autumn festival. Her story starts below the break.