Well, it’s been SOME week. This blog post is the second of a new style of ‘Friday Focus’ articles I’m sharing on my blog. If you haven’t read last week’s first, you can find it here, but in short, I decided based on the feedback I had gotten from you guys to change up how I write my weekly informational blog post. Instead of one big topic, I’m sharing a shorter article every Friday, looking at:
- A health topic or issue I’ve been thinking about
- A review of a book or article I’ve read
- A favourite Podcast or two I’ve listened to that week
That’s the loose structure, and we’ll see how it plays out over the summer! As always, I love to hear feedback from you all, so do get in touch via a comment, message or email to let me know what you think.
What’s been going on this week? Well, quite a lot actually. On a personal note, last Sunday I moved to Galway (for those of you outside of Ireland, Galway is a beautiful vibrant city and county in the West of Ireland) for what will likely be TWO years. The reason I moved was to start my new job as a public health specialist registrar, so on the day you’re reading this, I’ll be on Day 5 of my new career path and the end of my first week on it!
I’ll be honest, it’s been a seriously funky week. I only felt human again on Tuesday (second day on the new job) after a whirlwind 48 hours moving all of my things east to west and finding my way to work on day one. But then I ended up travelling back to the capital for Wednesday and Thursday for a public health workshop, and induction training for new registrars – followed by a trip BACK to Galway for work today. And tonight I’m heading BACK to Dublin for the weekend for various reasons – phew! It’s been a week of absolute change, but I’m embracing it all, it’s a really exciting time beginning a whole new chapter. I’ve kept up habits I love as part of my daily routine to keep me grounded – yoga, walks, cooking and Podcasts especially, which have been helpful to give me food for thought for this week’s article!
What I’m Thinking About This Week:
Something I’m asked quite a lot since finishing my Masters in Public Health and Nutrition and sharing my chosen career path has been – ‘Well, if you’re specialising in public health, what sort of doctor ARE you now?’ It’s a fair and valid question, one which largely stems from the lack of visibility the speciality has had in Ireland and elsewhere. In this country, doctors can specialise in public health medicine the same way they would for any other speciality such as general practice, paediatrics, cardiology, gastroenterology, etc. Doctors apply to be accepted for a 4 year training scheme, during which time you’re working and training as a public health specialist registrar (SpR for short) in various public health departments and associated bodies around the country, plus sometimes working abroad too. At the end of those 4 years (with certain exams passed too) you become a specialist in public health medicine (i.e. a consultant for all intents and purposes).
But what IS public health? Here’s my favourite definition:
‘The art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society’ (Acheson, 1998: World Health Organisation).
I’ve written a full article to answer that question previously, which you can read here. But in short, public health medicine is a speciality which takes the wider, ‘bigger picture’ view of health – the health of the population it serves. It looks upstream, at the many factors that influence our health, including individual and lifestyle factors, but also and perhaps more importantly, the environmental, social, political and cultural influences on our health and well-being. There have traditionally been four major domains of public health medicine – health protection, health improvement, health service improvement and health intelligence (I elaborate on these in my previous article). I’m particularly interested in health improvement, which spans health promotion and the idea of prevention being perhaps more important to prioritise over cure (although the concept of prevention is equally applicable to other areas of public health – for example, vaccinations as part of health protection). I think, given the fact that non-communicable chronic diseases (i.e. those you cannot catch from or pass onto others, such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancer and dementia) are the leading cause of mortality in both developed and developing countries, the concept of preventive medicine and healthcare has never been more important. There is SO MUCH MORE I could say to describe the nature of public health medicine to you, but for now, let’s leave it at that, and rest assured I’ll be sharing lots of content on the different aspects of public health to help educate and empower you guys!
The second major thing that happened this week which has occupied my thoughts is that I FINALLY got my Masters dissertation (thesis) fully completed and hard-bound – have a peek at the photo below! My thesis was titled ‘Shift Work Employment, the Workplace Environment, and the Dietary Habits and Physical Activity Levels of Irish Shift Workers.’ I’m really excited to a) finally have it completed and b) be able to share some of the knowledge and content I’ve learnt and discovered through researching and writing it here and on my Instagram.
This Week I’m Reading:
My current book is 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. I haven’t gotten to sit down to read it much this week with moving into my new apartment and starting the new job, but so far, it’s been eye-opening – book review to follow when I finish it!
I did however find myself reading up on statistics for physical activity in Ireland for a work-related workshop I attended on Wednesday. Did you know:
- Just 32% of Irish adults are sufficiently active according to national guidelines
- Just 19% of primary school children are sufficiently active every day
- This figure drops to a tiny 12% for post-primary school children!
- The decline in physical activity in children and teenagers with age is especially marked for girls compared to their male counterparts, and this is also true in adulthood, with adults males being more active than females. For example, at age 15, in Ireland a quarter of boys are active enough compared to just 9% of girls, while for adults, 24% of women are active enough compared to 40% of men.
I had read these stats before (referenced from Ireland’s Healthy Eating, Active Living programme and Royal College of Physicians Ireland Policy Group on Physical Activity 2016 publication – have a read here) but a re-read at work this week inspired me to share them with you, and to use the opportunity to remind you guys of our national physical activity guidelines (referenced from Ireland’s National Physical Activity Plan):
- For adults – 150 minutes per week (minimum) of moderate intensity physical activity (e.g. a brisk walk), or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week (e.g. jogging, hard cycling)
- PLUS – At least 2 bouts of resistance training which helps improve muscle strength and balance (e.g. lifting weights, bodyweight exercises, and activities like yoga for balance)
- For children – ALL should be active for at least an hour of moderate-vigorous activity per day
And lastly, here’s some of the incredible benefits regular physical activity brings us, physically and mentally – if we could wrap these up into a pill we’d all gladly take it! These statistics are from the Royal College of Physicians Ireland Policy Group on Physical Activity 2016 publication (link to that here, it’s an excellent read), which I was looking up in work this week:
- 30% risk reduction in all causes of mortality (for the most active groups compared to the least)
- Reduced risks of developing heart disease and stroke
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Reduced risks of developing breast and colorectal cancer (and in this case, the more you do, the lower the risk!)
- A 20-30% lower risk of depression
- A 20-30% lower risk of dementia and a 30% lower risk of falls (these are especially important in the context of our ageing population
Remember, always focus on doing the movement and exercise you ENJOY, that you can do consistently and in a sustainable manner as part of a healthy lifestyle. I’ve written a broader article on this topic previously – check it out here.
This Week I’m Listening To:
Quite a few Podcasts! But two I want to mention are:
- Cut Through Nutrition – There are now 4 episodes of this excellent no-nonsense Podcast by trainee surgeon Dr. Joshua Wolrich (@drjoshuawolrich) and nutritionist (and lawyer) Alan Flanagan (@thenutritional_advocate). I would 100% recommend making it a weekly listen – the dive deep into an evidence-based, real-world perspective on nutritional science, moving through myths and miscommunications on various nutritional topics which have proved pervasive on social and mass media over the last few years especially. I’m learning a lot from it and really enjoy the public health perspective the boys take too – next week’s episode is looking at social, economic and environmental determinants of health and I’m already looking forward to tuning in.
- The Food Medic Season 3 – Hazel Wallace (aka @thefoodmedic) has brought her podcast back for a third season this week, and I’m so delighted to see it. I share many similar interests with Hazel as a fellow medic, and really enjoy following her content, especially the Educational Hub articles on her website, and recipes too! The first guest on Season 3 is the founder of the Calm app, Michael Acton Smith, and it’s a really lovely listen which looks into how Calm started and why, how it has evolved and how to bring mindfulness and guided meditation into our daily lives through its use. I’ve been using Calm to do 10 minutes of guided meditation a day since the start of 2018, and it is hands down one of my top 3 apps I use.
And that’s a wrap gang! I hope you enjoyed this week’s Friday Focus. As I said, please do send me any thoughts, comments or other feedback you have, and of course if you have any Galway recommendations for me (food, coffee, activities, gyms, yoga, pilates, etc!) let me know! Have an awesome weekend and I look forward to sharing next week’s thoughts, reads and Podcasts with you. Keep an eye out for an ongoing weekly recipe from me too!
Ciara 😊 x