Poverty and Opinions

I’ve been interested in health and wellness for as long as I can remember. My kids weren’t allowed lollies, I made them homemade fruit and nut thingies, my husband wasn’t allowed the skin on his chicken, those were that days of low fat and preferably the Pritikin diet. I studied both popular and natural health books and recipes long before the days of internet and so had a vast paper collection of many opinions, hints and guidelines. And, mostly, for the past 30-40 years I and my kids, and now my grand-kids have been fit and well. But, in the last year my body has taken it’s vengeance on all these ideas and gone off on it’s own path. I’ve been diagnosed with pericarditis, MS and melanoma all in a year. Now, with the aid of Google and books I’ve studied even harder and I’ve found that more ideas and opinions abound than I ever imagined! I am also a Chronic Disease nurse so it behoves me to know a thing or two.

I’ve learnt that the idea doing the current rounds (and it does have it’s basis in history as well) is the benefits of a low (very low) carbohydrate diet with healthy fats (the subject of what constitutes a healthy fat is a whole other sub-strata of opinions). The theory goes like this, carbohydrates, especially simple carbs, are broken down into sugars by the digestive system, insulin is released and turns a lot of that sugar into fat which is stored in the body’s fat cells. That’s the simple version, there are many books on the subject which give careful explanations of the process. What I’ve read so far, plus a phone consult (I’m still living and working in a remote part of Australia) with a dietitian in Tasmania and a naturopath in Queensland, makes sense to me and I’ve been eating like this for a month and have lost 5cms off my waist! Wonderful and I hope it continues.

But I also want to mention something in the book I’ve just finished reading (pictured), it explains the same theory of carbs=sugar=insulin=fat, but makes the observations that poor people the world over, according to his research, eat high carbohydrate diets because they’re cheap, easy and readily available. Foods made with white flour such as breads, pancakes, damper, scones, pasta etc. He then gives examples from American Indian tribes since the early 1900’s of overweight mothers and undernourished babies and children and bases the cause on high carb diets they’ve eaten since colonisation. I’ve seen this phenomena in many of Australia’s Indigenous, and people, in other low socio-economic situations,and  have wondered at the reasons for it.

He writes, “The coexistence of thin, stunted children, exhibiting the typical signs of chronic under-nutrition, with mothers who are themselves overweight…poses a challenge to our beliefs-our paradigm.If we believe that these mothers were overweight because they ate too much, and we know the children are thin and stunted because they’re not getting enough food, then we’re assuming that the mothers were consuming superfluous  calories that they could have given to their children to allow them to thrive. In other words, the mothers are willing to starve their children so they themselves can overeat. This goes against everything we know about maternal behaviour”.

Interesting theory and if it’s true, which it well might be, even though it turns accepted food theories, triangles and advice on their heads. Health professionals and most of us are going to have to think long and hard about our opinions and prejudices and the enormous inequities in our societies, not to mention whats best for our own, and our families health.

One last thing this writer incidentally mentions about the Sioux, one of the tribes studied, in South Dakota, is as follows…’These Sioux lived in shacks “unfit for occupancy, often 4-8 family members per room…15 families, with 32 children among them, lived chiefly on bread and coffee’. This was poverty almost beyond our imagination today.” The writer might be shocked to know that many of Australia’s Indigenous people still live in similar overcrowded accommodation and lived mainly on tea and damper.

An excellent resource is the film “That Sugar Film” and it’s accompanying book “That Sugar Book” by Australian actor, Damon Gameau, who gives carefully and humorously explained, health advice and an interesting story about his own 60 day experiment with “healthy” foods. And, who also continues to do positive work in Indigenous Australia.

 

 

Security

090Before I flew into Aurukun the Director of Nursing at the Health Clinic told me she employed two Tongan security guards to keep the nurses safe in the clinic on after hours emergency call outs.

When I arrived in 2008 I was taught how to lock the ambulance securely in a shipping container. Prior to that idea ambulances had been stolen and wrecked by local youths hungry for adventure.

I soon became accustomed to carrying several keys for various secured doors and the padlocks of closed heavy metal gates.

The word security means the state of being free from danger or threat, it comes from an old Latin word, securitas, which means “free from care”.

Aurukun over the past 20-30 years has had a history of violence, riots in the streets and fighting between families and clans. The reasons are too many and complicated for this post. But it’s resulted in the need for high security measures for all who work there.

It’s an odd thought that to be safe and free from care actually requires a large amount of resources, planning and attention. It’s just another paradox I’ve encountered as a remote area nurse.

Learning

There are many ways to learn, many paths to education. I completed my nursing training at Maryborough Base Hospital in 1991. It gave me a Certificate in Nursing. I now have that certificate plus over 25 years of nursing experiencing. I never had the time or money to upgrade my certificate to a degree as I was responsible for bringing up my four children. Now I plan to begin a creative writing degree next year, but I’ve been writing one way or another for over 50 years!

There is endless discussion on whether hospital or university education produces better nurses. Valid arguments come from both sides. Each needs to qualify what they mean by better, but it’s difficult not to be in agreement with both sides. And what about the many writers over the years who have never been to university and yet have produced much loved and treasured stories? The ideas and thoughts around learning and education are endless.

When I began remote area nursing, I had my certificate in nursing, 15 years of paediatric experience and two years in a small private hospital. I wasn’t an emergency trained nurse. The DON (Director of Nursing) in Aurukun told me, when also telling me what skills were needed for remote work which I didn’t have, ” They’re just skills to be learnt, but we need someone of your experience and temperament.”

I was taught to suture, cannulate, plaster, take blood and evacuate patients by ambulance by my colleagues. I was doing the work for six months before I was offered a four day course in remote nursing skills. By then I considered myself capable. I read recently of a post graduate course in remote nursing. My five years of experience has turned me into a competent practitioner.

What am I getting at in todays post? Just a reminder that learning and education comes in different guises and to be open to accepting what’s offered to you, don’t discount learning experiences that come less formally, Life’s a great teacher. I have probably learnt the most during my nursing years from people considered the least important, patients and their families, enrolled nurses and health workers and agency nurses like myself.

The photo is me sitting with visiting desert women to Aurukun in October 2008 learning to weave baskets, they spoke no English.

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