CULTURE, SLOW FOOD AND YOUR TREASURED HEALTH

Credit: Lenny Photo Tafau, Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta (VKS)

While there is so much happening around us at the moment – both the good, the bad and those that threaten our communal and individual security, comfort, and those that leave us in fear, something else marches

silently but surely on its course into the future.

It’s the killer called the ‘unhealthy lifestyle’. It affects all of us, not occasionally as the bad social incidents we’ve been following in the media this week, but daily.

Yet no soldier in blue or green uniform patrols armed with weapons to ensure it is kept at bay, let alone combat it. In fact no external security can

enforce anything against the self-destructive killer, except you – the sole decision-maker, the consumer.

So many times we blame the cause on others. We resort to all sorts of scapegoats, the most popular one being black magic, or what is popularly

known in Vanuatu as ‘nakaimas’. While sometimes this might be true, most times we dig our own graves with our teeth, and we blame others over our misfortunes and we jump down the pit we ourselves have dug over many

years of very irresponsible lifestyles. So many of us have never learnt, and yet nobody takes notice of it or makes it a big deal. No army patrols, no security checks, no curfews. Why? Because the killer is totally secured

inside each and everyone of us as individuals and guarded by a soldier called ‘choice’.

Thus, the power of choice. Nobody else is responsible. I am responsible myself. Either I am the solution, or I am the culprit. It’s all about

us and our choices. No army, soldier, government, custom chief, or anybody can protest against you because you are the boss. We need to take a long hard look in the mirror of reality and ask ourselves some honest questions about how each of us lives within the context of health.

When VKS’ Land Desk Coordinator Mr Aminion David spoke so passionately

and powerfully with so much authority at the 4th National Arts Festival two weeks ago on the subject of “SLOW FOOD”, it reconfirmed the fact that we

still have a very big problem of health to deal with. Vanuatu was twice declared ‘Happiest Place on the Planet’ a few years back. We (especially

our tourism people) went around the world preaching that honoured status. Sadly, we have since lost that status.

Though our tourism industry people still try to promote Vanuatu that way, we have to stop living in the past and face the music of reality and not pretend we are still the world’s No.1 on the ‘Happy Planet Index’.

In his speech Mr David revealed the fact that about 5 legs are amputated everyday at the Vila Central Hospital.

If that is true, on average, this amounts to 25 legs per week, 100 per month, and 1,200 annually. Where is this country heading? No angry mobs congregate to fight others over it, again no military personnel or police

patrols have any power over it, and yet NCD is a sure killer. The devil has so blinded us to our own selfdestructive lifestyles, deludes

us into blaming others except ourselves, and so many of us seem totally oblivious to and more so, incapable and helpless over it.

A very important messag  that the 4th NAF brought out during the weeklong program was the sheer importance of health, just in case some might be questioning why I ended up coordinating that event to begin with. That’s why.

That’s why I applied for and became DG of Health when I returned from graduate school in mid-2012, at least to try and influence some policy thinking among health workers and practitioners of the importance of this subject, not just as a profession but more so as a way of life. As a favourite writer once said, ‘health is a treasure. Of all temporal possessions it is the most precious. Wealth, learning, and honor are dearly

purchased at the loss of the vigor of health’. That is very true, and in a way ‘This is who we are’, as Dan McGarry fittingly described in a very interesting article on Monday this week.

Health issues have to be tackled from all angles of life – the Government, the church, as well as through our culture and the ways our old folks lived health, though the big majority of them have never been to school like thousands of us today. Yet it is us – the socalled ‘educated’ ones – who

seem to be sicker than our older folks. Even those among us who have been privileged to study medicine are sick from lifestyle diseases. How

absurd can this be?

Aminion David in his speech referred to ‘Slow Food’ as a new word for a lot of us. I think he was being diplomatic there. Frankly speaking, slow food is a source of discomfort to many because it upholds values and principles that are totally opposed to the very poor health habits practiced by the vast majority of us. We must commend the work of officials such as Aminion and his Land Desk team for their solid stand on the very subject of ‘slow food’ which the VKS, the Ministries of Agriculture and Health and some of our churches must continue to preach across the country more and more in future.

Vanuatu must rise up to a level of Health Consciousness it has never before enjoyed. Then and only then we can truly be the happiest place on

the face of the planet. And we must do so not for the sake of the tourism dollar, but because it is the right thing to do, for the sake of our children and for ourselves.

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