So, I understand that “drug stores” have a long and varied history here in the US, and that many of our major drug store chains grew out of a more “general merchandise” view of the establishment. Heck, my favorite hangout in Southern California was a drug store soda fountain, the oldest continually operating business in the area. And trust me, nothing on the menu there would ever be confused as “health food”.
All that said, as of late the big drug store chains are trying to position themselves as one-stop health care centers. Rite Aid has, for a long time, had a co-branding arrangement with GNC. Walgreens will not only give me a flu shot, but apparently other vaccines as well. In some markets (where state regulations allow) some chains are experimenting with on-site urgent care.
I could see this as a big step forward, if only for one big problem. “Drug stores” carry so many things that are unhealthy that it is really hard for me to even walk in the place and keep a straight face.
Case study: I walk up to the counter today at a Walgreens, with a filled prescription for diabetes medication, a sugar-free Red Bull, a package of sugar-free diabetic candy, a bottle of water, and some batteries. “Would you like a brownie for $1?”
Wait, what? I actually did a double-take for a minute. Here I am, a borderline morbidly obese man, with an armload of diabetic supplies, and you’re offering me a 400 calorie brownie?
It’s bad enough that they sell tobacco products right there at the counter. Add to that the checkout lane is a veritable cornucopia of unhealthy snack choices: cookies, sugared gum, chocolate bars, and Life Savers. There are a few “healthier” options: Altoids aren’t too bad, and infrequently there’s a Power Bar or something similar.
And I get to thinking. If I wanted a healthy snack here at this drug store, what are my options? And I realize that I don’t recall seeing a piece of fruit in the entire establishment. Now, it could very well be there’s a well-stocked produce department hiding somewhere behind the Pampers on aisle 3 that I missed. However, the fact that in my journey through the entire store I can’t recall ever seeing one product that I would consider ‘health food’ tells me something.
If major drug store chains really want to be “partners in my health”, they need to become that, and not be my 7-11 that sells amphetamine, sulfa drugs, and test strips. Start by dropping all the unhealthy things on your aisle: tobacco products, fortified wines (not here in OR, that would be illegal mind you, but I remember buying Thunderbird at a Rite Aid once in CA just for laughs), and junk food.
Heck, offer me a banana instead of a brownie, or a Tiger’s Milk bar instead of a cookie. It’s a start.