Speier explains appeal of Czech spa town

Liz Tubman

Fri., May 11, Lucinda’s Dining Hall hosted “Lunch at Lawrence,” an event that invited alumni and community members to attend a lunch and lecture given by a Lawrence faculty member.
Lawrence fellow in anthropology Amy Speier gave this month’s lecture. The topic was medical tourism, specifically in the Czech Republic.
An increasing number of people in the U.S. and Europe are being driven to look for medical care and products outside of their home countries because of the increasing cost of healthcare.
Speier presented a specific case study of a West Bohemian spa town in the Czech Republic called Marianske Lazne, where she spent time doing ethnographic fieldwork.
This spa resort town is the second most popular tourist destination in the Czech Republic, after Prague. Marianske Lazne is known as the “pearl of Czech spas,” and is famous for its spa hotels as sources of mineral waters and healing springs.
Guests who come for medical treatment for chronic diseases can have three- to four-week treatments that focus on balneotherapy, which employs traditional Czech techniques and natural resources.
These spa hotels are internationally known for their varieties of mineral water. There are 40 in all and eight varieties are said to have healing properties by the Ministry of Health. The mineral water is just one aspect of the treatment available to guests and patients at the spa.
Other treatments include the use of natural gases to help cleanse the body as well as other typical cosmetic spa treatments for relaxation.
People who come for the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases such as kidney problems or arthritis can have individualized treatment programs that are designed to work together to treat the whole body.
Most guests are Germans who come every year to drink the mineral water with a few British and American guests as well as other Europeans. A majority of these are between the ages of 50-80 with problems associated with aging, Speier explained.
The traditional spa hotels have to increasingly adapt to a new commercial context as they gain popularity in Europe and the U.S. Besides the amenities offered to guests at the hotels themselves, there are concerts, casinos, parks and excursions to outlying towns available for the guests’ entertainment during their stay.
Some of these health spas are also offering cosmetic surgery as another way of catering to the European standard of beauty. Although these establishments are catering largely to European consumers, they are gaining increased popularity with Americans as well.
Perhaps in the future we’ll see a rise in natural healing and a decline in drug dependency throughout the world. The reputation of these traditional techniques are just starting to spread – hopefully the U.S. will see something like these facilities in the future.