WTF Fun Fact 12682 – France’s Water Cures

Want a prescription to spend 3 weeks at a spa as part of your free healthcare? Become a French citizen! (Ok, that’s no easy task for most of us.)

The New Yorker just published an article that made us long for a doctor’s visit that ended in a “spa cure.” They say:

Let’s say that you suffer from arthritis, arthritis, bronchitis, bursitis, colitis, diverticulitis, endometriosis, laryngitis, osteoporosis, rhinitis, sinusitis, tendonitis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Raynaud’s disease, multiple sclerosis, angina, asthma, sciatica, kidney stones, sore throat, dizziness, spasms, migraines, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, back pain, earaches, vaginal dryness, menstrual cramps, itching, bloating, swelling, constipation, gout, obesity, gum disease, dry mouth, psoriasis, acne, eczema, frostbite, hives, rosacea, scarring, stretch marks, or varicose veins, or that you are depressed, trying to quit smoking, or simply dealing with a lot of stress. You also, crucially, live in France. You go see the doctor. She writes you a prescription for a thermal cure, indicating to which of the country’s hundred and thirteen accredited thermal spas you will be sent. Then you fill out a simple form and submit it, along with the prescription, to the national healthcare service. Your application is approved—it almost always is—and you’re off to take the waters.

Ok, first of all, we have a hard enough time getting our medical care approved by our insurance company, we’d love to see their response to a thermal spa receipt for a sore throat. (Seriously, we mean that – we want it on camera.)

Yes, yes, the tax money. Of course. This is not an economic fun fact, because none of that discussion is fun. This is about notions of health and well-being – and you can call them kooky or brilliant, but it’s hard to deny that it’s also fascinating that these treatments – which date all the way back to the ancient world – are still practiced (and paid for) as part of mainstream(ish) medicine. Frankly, it dovetails nicely with much of what we know about the effects of stress and poor mental health on our physical health.

And wait, there’s more:

“The French government introduced “social thermalism” for the masses in 1947, proclaiming that “every man, whatever his social condition, has a right to a thermal cure if the state of his health demands it.” The full cure, consisting of treatments that use mineral water, mud, and steam from naturally occurring hot springs, lasts twenty-one days—six days of treatments with Sundays off, over three consecutive weeks. In 2019, around six hundred thousand French people undertook cures, targeting specific pathologies and subsidized by the state at sixty-five percent. Around three million more visited thermal spas as paying customers.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Seeking a Cure in France’s Waters” — The New Yorker