Medic sees need for nutrition advice in Pacific

derek allenA VOLUNTEER doctor working in Vanuatu says there’s a big need for education about a good diet to combat diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Derek Allen has spent the past 30 years working in remote parts of the world where professional health care is lacking.

He is working for two months in Lamap on the Vanuatu island of Malekula providing medical care alongside nurses at the small local hospital.

Dr Allen, who is from New Zealand, said he was seeing a variety of problems and increasingly those caused by diets too rich in carbohydrates from root crops and white rice and lacking in protein and vegetables.

“Meat’s a luxury for birthing days and funerals.

“I always try, with every patient I see, to give them some public health tidbits on how they can minimise their disease, the impact on them, how they can prevent it in their children and prevent it in their community.”

Dr Allen said being overweight was a common problem in Lamap, leading to other health issues.

“Stress – their blood pressure’s too high – many people have diabetes because of being overweight.

“Some people have problems here because of an increasing amount of marijuana around at the moment that causes health issues.

“There’s lots of domestic violence here as well. I’ve probably seen in the last two or three weeks four cases of domestic violence – women getting beaten by their husbands.”

Dr Allen said the province had been seeking four doctors for the past six years but had been unable to fill the positions as health professionals preferred to work in the major centres of Port Vila and on Santo.