New medical ideas explored

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Faculty of Medicine students with Robert Oliver and Assoc. Professor Dr Konrad Richter in centre.

Faculty of Medicine students with Robert Oliver and Assoc. Professor Dr Konrad Richter in centre.

The Faculty of Medicine has joined forces with internationally renowned chef, and award winning author of cookbooks Me’a kai and Mea’ai Samoa, Robert Oliver.

Through the partnership, they are looking to develop a project around health promotion and health literacy in nutrition within their undergraduate Primary Health Care course for clinical students. 

As part of this attachment, students are rostered on a “social responsibility” project, going out into the rural communities with the Women in Business organization to see first hand issues which impact on our peoples health within the community and which affect access to health services. 

This gives students an opportunity to reflect on such issues and develop ideas around how they as future doctors should help address these identified issues within the context of primary health care.

Within this program, Mr. Oliver has joined the F.O.M, giving talks when on island, around healthy eating and living, and eating traditional foods. 

Mr. Oliver is an ambassador for the Well Foundation in New Zealand, which is focused on boosting the health and wellbeing in New Zealand. However, he is more ambitious than that and wants to drive the health and wellbeing message through out the Pacific and is engaging in innovative ideas to do this. 

With the F.O.M he hopes to help educate the future leaders in health about the importance of our traditional foods and good foods and hopefully inspire them to engage with their communities in educating about healthy eating and shifting away from eating processed and unhealthy foods. 

He has been quoted as saying “If the saying you are what you eat is true, then Samoans are in big trouble” and the F.O.M agrees, now looking at innovative ways to help the future doctors of Samoa understand about the nutritious value of our local traditional foods and how to communicate this message to our people within the communities and help them understand the harmful effects of processed foods, high in fat, sugar and salt and how this type of eating is killing our nation.

Mr. Oliver spent a couple hours with the students on Tuesday and plans to meet with them again when in Samoa. 

He is also in discussion with clinical lecturer, Dr. Malama Tafuna’I on how to help integrate the message of the goodness of our local foods in a way that our people can be excited about and want to turn away from processed foods and move back to the foods of their forefathers. 

To do that, the students too, must have a sound understanding of this.

Dr. Tafuna’i, shared how health literacy is a concern with our people and also with our health care workers and engaging them from quite early in their medical education to help them understand this and in particular around nutrition and healthy eating.

The F.O.M is actively engaging students to think about food in an exciting new way and in particular our own traditional foods and their health benefits. Learning how to incorporate healthy eating within their own lives and then looking at how to communicate these concepts back to our people within their communities.

Health promotion and education is something a doctor does in every consultation with their patients and thus every consultation with an individual patient is an opportunity for a medical student and for a doctor to talk about the biggest contributor to our health, and that being our diet.

 The majority of the precursors causing the medical concerns facing our people today are out of doctors hands and lie in the hands of those that control importation and production of unhealthy foods and drinks and harmful substances like cigarettes.

This is then compounded by marketing where our people see posters and Television adds of happy, thin people eating and drinking processed, harmful foods and drink, and then think that this is good for them. Its an upward battle for doctors, but certainly one we can fight. We just have to be innovative, motivated and determined to get results.”

The Faculty of Medicine continues to have ongoing outside support for its curriculum from the University of Otago and various  visiting specialists who are keen to spend time teaching when on island and last week were fortunate to have two renal nephrologists Professor Walker from the University of Otago and Dr. David Voss give a serious of teaching sessions while on island. Associate Professor in Surgery, Dr. Konrad Richter of the University of Otago is also on island attending the P.I.S.A conference and took time out of his busy schedule to teach the F.O.M students.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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