Dr. Dennis Nturibi

Blogging has brought me into direct contact with debate, a necessary enterprise if I am to understand people’s real concerns. I recently had a discussion with a group of people. A young, urban, professional and very intelligent lady helped me understand where many of us find ourselves. Given my background, I had before this found it very difficult to comprehend what even my wife was trying to explain to me about the challenges of being a healthy Kenyan.

This lady had never read my blog, but due to the debate, she got online and rapidly went through both articles. It was quite clear to me she was rather uncomfortable, as she said nothing for quite a while as other debated. Finally, as the debate was wearing down, she stated that she is thoroughly confused (and I suspected a bit disgusted) by all the varying opinions, many of which she rightly stated come from medical people themselves. Whereas some will advise us not to drink alcohol, others put a “healthy” cap on what is ok. Is it brown rice or white? Is it brown bread or white? Is brown bread whole bread or is it colored white bread? Are we to avoid smoking if we want to ensure we don’t end up with cancer? “Then why did my uncle live to the ripe old age of 81 despite smoking all his life?” Are we to have a yearly medical or not, and if we’re not sick, why should we? If we do not, are we likely to be diagnosed with ovarian or other cancer later in life and pass on as a consequence? All these questions she raised in rapid succession, and promptly declared that she will follow her grand-mother’s advice, “be happy, enjoy life, live long!” This was clearly justified given that her grandmother is in great health, and obviously has great genes. It took me a while for the message to sink in, but incidentally I’d heard it before from so many others.

Our societies are in a sad place. We are constantly bombarded by information. How many of you remember a certain TV advert from the 1980s (On Kenyan TV)? It was one of the most mouth-watering moments I have ever seen on screen. It involved “chapatti” and a specific cooking fat that was then universally used to make chapatti. The use of this cooking fat would alert the whole neighborhood as to where this delicacy was being made, mouths would water & stomachs would convulse. The TV advert would rush these memories into conscious thought, even without the smells! In the face of such powerful messaging, is it surprising that we are confused? Is it not amazing that only 20 years later, this product was almost out of production due to its unhealthy nature?

Policy makers have played a leading role in causing this confusion (we medical people are included here). The reasons for this are many and varied, far too complex for this simple discussion. The question I want to raise is what can we do about this? Are we going to burry our heads in the sand “Ostritch” style, while we silently pray that the bullet called chronic disease whizzes past our exposed uppers? When we are carrying out our day jobs, and we come across confusing “facts”, is this what we do? I think not! We square our jaws and get in the mud, plod around until we come up with conclusive, and accurate answers that enable us to achieve our desired results. Why can we do this for our employers, but not for our own health? Without health, can we even work for our employers?

It touches me deeply when I come across a confused soul. Such a person has an open mind, but the heart is weary. We all go through this. I am not looking to change so many out there who are bent on self-destruction; what I hope for is to gently influence those that truly “do not know” into joining me in this journey of discovery. I don’t have the answers, but I am willing to share what I am learning and open it to debate and discussion. Let us work together and learn to be better, if not for our own health, then for that of our children.

Therefore, dear lady, have a look at this: Sugar, The Bitter Truth! This is a great place to start (you will need an hour, and watch it with those that you care about. Don’t let the technical jargon jar you-its only about 15 min). Next time I will talk about this You-Tube video), as well as give a reading suggestion. I hope I have caught your interest.

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