Last update: 12-Dec-2013 4:50 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Twelve years after I started writing a column in the Guardian and after seven years of my continuously writing it on Tuesdays, a youngish mother brought her child into my office, one Tuesday morning, for a routine health maintenance examination. The mother was well educated, curious about children’s lives and the impact of early learning and stimulation on her child’s development, full of questions but at the same time practical and down to earth about her child’s possible shortcomings. After we had satisfied ourselves that the child was growing and developing well, she began to hold forth on a favourite subject of hers, the scarcity of information coming from the Trinidadian medical profession.
“Why don’t doctors teach us more about illness and how to keep ourselves healthy? How come doctors don’t write in the newspapers or go on the radio or TV and have more programmes about health?”
All of this was fascinating for me. This was exactly what I thought and the reason why I had been writing all those years. I half expected the conversation to turn to that morning’s column.
“Look, just this morning, I read a wonderful article in the Guardian about child development! Why couldn’t someone like you write that?”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Why don’t you Trini doctors write like that doctor in today’s Guardian?”
“You mamaguying me, no?”
“You sure you not mamaguying me? You serious?”
She nodded. “Why, what’s the matter?”
“Well…I wrote the article.”
“You serious? You wrote that article?”, tone rising incredulously.
“Well, yes. Been writing in the Guardian for 12 years, every week since 1996 and every Tuesday since 2001.”
“You making joke!” And she looked at me as if I was from Mars.
“You mean to say you don’t know that? You’ve been coming to me for over a year and reading those Tuesday articles (and she is nodding her head), signed by me and with my picture—and you never realised it was your paediatrician writing?”
By this time she was having a difficult time meeting my gaze so I made a small joke about vision, shrugged it off and we parted company. Really, you can talk and write about things and people do not necessarily notice who wrote it or read it, or if they read, understand or if they understand, make a change to their behaviour and I am reminded of the quote that human nature is a vast and mysterious forest that no one understands. The news arrived last week that a local NGO, FEEL, has agreed to host this country’s first “milkathon,” to distribute 7,000 cartons of milk to more than 50 children’s homes. In association with Nestle, of course, who are going to “donate” 5,000 units. According to FEEL, the primary objective is to assist in meeting the nutritional needs of these children by supplying them with their “daily requirements of milk.” Well, who can argue with that? We collecting milk to feed the poor children in “homes.” Their “daily milk!” It sounds so wonderfully compassionate. Everyone claps!
But look at it a bit more closely. What is this about “daily requirements of milk”? Who told FEEL that children have a “daily requirement of milk”? The only people who believe that are companies that sell milk. Children over the age of one do not have daily requirements of milk. Children have daily requirements of food. Rice and peas and callaloo. Pelau. Egg, fish and plantain. Dasheen, eddoes and pumpkin. Watermelon, fig and oranges. Children need food from the pot.I have repeatedly written in this newspaper that milk is not without its dangers. It is a highly processed item, quite changed from the stuff that comes out of a milk cow. In the process, the protein has been altered and most of the vitamins and minerals displaced and then replaced with artificial ingredients. In addition, about nine out of every ten children who drink milk will not be able to digest it because they lack the intestinal enzyme, lactase, to break down the milk sugar, lactose. This is the cause of the flatulence, abdominal distention and abdominal colic associated with drinking milk. Seven to ten per cent of children will have an allergic reaction to the protein in milk and develop dry, itchy skin and rash, persistent runny, snorty noses and wheeze.
Those are the immediate reactions. In the long term, milk-drinking is associated with obesity, anaemia, poor school outcome, diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, colitis, etc etc.
Milk companies are in the business of selling milk. They love to associate themselves with NGOs. It’s good for their image and for their pocket. NGOs have to be very careful about whom they associate themselves with. Collecting milk in a carton, especially when most of it is immediately “donated,” so the success of your campaign is guaranteed, is the easy way out of your duty. But when it can affect the health of my patients, it becomes my duty and right to ask you to read my articles and then do some research of your own. You might be surprised at what you will find about milk and milk companies and children. Google “The Baby Killer” and make up your own mind.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.