From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.
How far would you go for a perfect body?
Many people these days are going as far as SouthAfrica to get their version of perfection. People fromacross Africa and the world come for so-called“surgery safaris.” There are no animals to see onthese safaris. The visitors instead look for smallerstomachs, firmer bottoms or perhaps new eye, noseor chin shapes.
Businesses that provide medical safaris say theyhave seen a large increase in African customers. VOA’s Gillian Parker spoke with several cosmeticsurgeons in Johannesburg for her report.
South Africa is becoming the leading country in Africa for people seekingcosmetic surgery.
For years, South Africa has appealed to medical tourists from Europe and the United States. But local cosmetic surgeons say now more clients fromAfrica’s growing economies are interested in such operations.
Lorraine Melvill is a doctor with Surgeon and Safari. She has beenperforming cosmetic surgeries for nearly 16 years in Johannesburg. Shesays that more than 80 percent of her clients now come from sub-SaharanAfrica. She says this is because Africa did not experience the economicproblems that hit other parts of the world.
“When the West started having its economic downturn, it was almost asymbiotic change and the scales just tilted. And we know Africa wasn't asaffected by the economic downturn. There is also a huge emerging Africanmiddle class that has come to the fore. But for us, the growing market is thesub-Saharan African market. Africa is where we are looking to the future.”
Her clients are treated like movie stars. Assistants take them from theairport to a luxurious guesthouse. They explain in detail the medicaloperation to be done. Doctors operate the next day. And then clients have aweek or two to enjoy a shopping safari for new clothes and handbags whiletheir bodies heal.
Clients can spend anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 on a cosmetictreatment. They might spend an additional $2,000 on the cost of the hotelwhile they heal.
For many African women, less is more. Ms. Melvill says the most popularforms of cosmetic surgeries for African women are breast reductions andliposuction. Liposuction removes fat from the body. So-called tummy tucksare also common. This treatment removes fat from a person’s middle.
“A lot of Africans have a huge need for breast reduction. And also in termsof the African market, I would certainly say breast reductions, liposuctionsand tummy tucks would be their main.”
South Korea is also a popular spot for cosmetic surgery. But the leadingtreatments there are operations to create larger eyes, thinner noses andpointy chins.
A 2009 report from the research company Trend Monitor said one in fiveSouth Korean women has had plastic surgery.
But South Africa is catching up.
“We are seeing a massive influx of patients from sub-Saharan Africa.”
Dr. Chris Snijman is the national secretary for the Association of Plastic andReconstructive Surgeons of South Africa (APRSSA). He says that there areseveral reasons for the increase in cosmetic treatments in South Africa.These include a favorable exchange rate and better and safer surgicalmethods.
Mr. Snijman says there is also less of a stigma attached to plastic surgeryin South Africa.
“Obviously they are becoming more socially aware, the social boundariesand stigma attached to cosmetic surgery are now far less than they werebefore.”
And, he says a growing number of people in sub-Saharan Africa have moredisposable income than in the past.
"... not to mention our own emerging upper middle class group of patients in this country… and in addition, they now have a disposable income.”
Dr. Julie Sinclair performs many non-surgical treatments every week. Shesays most of her customers are women. But she says this is slowlychanging.
“Over the last few years a lot more male patients are coming. So in terms ofgender, that has changed quite a lot. In terms of race perhaps, a lot ofAsian, Indian, Thai, Chinese as well as black patients are realizing that theycan do something about something that is bothering them. And, I suppose, to some extent, they are more able to do it as the economical climatechanges as well.”
A lack of rules on the cosmetic surgery industry has led to a growingnumber of rogue surgeons. South Africa’s medical professionals say as theindustry continues to grow there must be stronger laws to govern it.
I’m Anna Matteo.
VOA correspondent Gillian Parker reported this story from Johannesburg.Anna Matteo wrote it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
cosmetic surgery (also “plastic surgery”) – n. surgery that improves orrepairs the form or appearance of body parts
safari - n. a journey to see or hunt animals especially in Africa
luxurious – adj. very comfortable and expensive; richly appealing
client – n. a person who pays a professional person or organization forservices
stigma - n. a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or groupof people have about something
disposable income - n. the personal income that is left after the deductionof personal taxes and that is available for consumption and savings
rogue - adj. used to describe something or someone that is different fromothers in usually a dangerous or harmful way