Flags and our Community’s Health

 

Flags as symbols used across nations imply “allegiance” to a cause, a country, used to more easily communicate across boundaries seen from afar. A white flag indicates surrender, while we have the sea/ocean ratings using flags and the coveted blue flag as an eco-label to indicate a clean swimmable beach area.

As we are in the age of globalization and people’s struggle (or not) for identity, it seems that flags have positive and negative perceptions.  There is a lot of work put into their design and symbolism. People have both celebrated and lost their lives for the cause their flag’s allegiance represents. Identity is indeed an evolving and necessary part of our personality as well as the people we put our trust in. This includes our family, educators, healthcare providers, politicians. And all these individuals can help our overall community well-being and health literacy. 

This March gave me an opportunity to compare two countries and festivities that involve the showcasing (or choosing not) of the respective country’s flag. Is it relevant to larger community health? Or at least indicative of it? I think so. Let’s start with the two flag images first — one from Dublin, Ireland and the second from a small village in Greece. 

In Dublin we had many festive images and there was a lot of drinking (whiskey and Guinness) for St. Patrick’s day March 17th — see post: Luck o’ the Irish. In Greece a lot of food (supposedly healthier foods like fried cod (called «μπακαλιάρο»)  beets or greens, and the infamous garlic concoction of “skordalia” (σκορδαλιά — see recipe by Alkis!)  and wine or ouzo (similar to zambuco) lots of it…alcohol always in need of temperance.

skordalia

Typical March 25th meal of cod (μπακαλιάρο), beets or greens, and the very garlicky “skordalia”

It seems in Dublin flags were everywhere outside and inside like hotel lobbies in bars/pubs and restaurants, combined with the Shamrock which symbolizes the four life goals — hope, faith, love, luck, but do these also imply health or do we hope to have faith and are lucky in love which hopefully means long term health?!Dublin hotel

In Greece flags as in all countries flow outside public buildings and some homes but it seems in the last years due to crisis and some extremism (e.g. Golden Dawn extreme right group who display both a Nazi-style flag and a Greek flag) people are less inclined to put out flags that once they used to more commonly display. One person specifically commented that he used to have a flag representing his island but due to his neighborhood’s flag being the same one flown by an extremist  group he refused to put it up again in celebrating Independence Day.  Imagine the U.S. or other parts of the world not having their flags flowing in patriotism?

If some people post images or write a post on behalf of their country’s  day of independence there should be no shame or people avoiding putting “likes” for fear of being  perceived as “nationalists”.  This is problematic, as this indeed takes away from the positive side of a person’s identity.

We  have multiple identities and it’s very unfair for people to feel pressured into elements of shame. Worse, the burning of a flag in the name of anarchy (hooded anarchists do not even know why they do it….’government’ is not the same as a country and what they have fought for). This I agree with this Greek author who calls the hooded youth pictured “idiots” in this Greek article.

In countries where people are very proud of displaying their flags such in France for the United States it would seem rather odd if you did not include a flag outside your immediate home or the community for days of independence. Let’s rethink and keep discussing  for the sake of community health shall we?! Be proud, be grateful, respect ✊!

 

Spring pickings

FA6C45A9-89C0-4C00-AC03-56CCE1A3C830I love Spring and visiting the countryside of Greece to partake in nature’s bounty. During peak pollen season I suffer greatly from allergies but I take the chance (and my antihistamines if needed) since the experience is a wonderful way to gather sunlight in the form of Vitamin D, as well as overall healing for the spirit.

As it turns out due to climate changes, the number of sufferers has been increasing according to the World Allergy Association’s WAA 2016 report. AND March 24th is world tuberculosis (TB) awareness day. So many things to be aware and health literate about (see past allergies post)!

Years ago, I read a book about a doctor who has worked with clinics around the world (Peru, Russia, Haiti)  and on his own building hospitals in downtrodden areas of Haiti and increasing awareness around TB. The book by Tracy Kidder published in 2003 was titled “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” This was the real-world story of how one person can make a difference in world health matters…. hail the idealists! However 16 years later TB is back at its peak in many parts of the globe including the Mediterranean due to population flux and lack of taking antibiotics appropriately (too many, wrong doses).

This hits me every time I see grand hotels built in the mountains as it was believed that clean air — more oxygen in essence — would help cure people thus many of these seemingly sanatoriums are considered exotic locations for other purposes (thankfully) today whether it be for skiing, sightseeing or simply taking a break! One of my favorite grand must-see hotels is the Mt. Washington hotel in New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods which dates back to the early 1900s was the place where the formation of the World Bank began after the famous Bretton World Conference to deal with the aftermath of the World War, as well as a later movie with Jack Nicholson called “The Shining”. Note, financial literacy is ONE part of health literacy is an entire new section to ponder for this blog…. stay tuned.

I posted a question about SPRING activities on a social media site,  “Each Spring since living here, I pick chamomile (despite pollen symptoms 😁) to remind myself the importance of nature helping calm the mind as well as our body with necessary healing. What do you do? Do you recognize nature’s bounties or simply pass them by?” Perhaps it goes along with the question about awareness as posed “do you stop to smell the roses?” or other small flowers, I certainly hope so!

Even though one should pick chamomile in late April or even beginning of May, I did so today …and here are some steps for that wonderful tea. Does wonders for one’s skin, stomach, great for anti-cancer and anti-diabetes regimens considered one of nature’s miracle teas (see article) . The word in Greek is χαμομήλι stems from the words “chamo” and “mile” meaning the apple of the earth …hmm sounds similar to “an apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

4 easy steps:

1) ensure the herb is indeed chamomile by smelling it first, and noticing the high hill-like shaped yellow middle (since some  mini daisies look similar!)

2) pick many tips and stems (careful don’t damage any roots to allow for regrowing) as if running a comb through nature’s “hair”. Enjoy each moment using all your senses of sight, smell and touch.

3) take home and allow it to dry for a week and more so it can be stored in glass jars for use any season (for drying use cool dry areas, careful of windy spots and consider a tulle cover).

4) boil yourself a nice cup of chamomile tea and you’ll feel healthy and calm even just recalling that lovely day you picked it!

I close with a quote by past U. S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with an image of my wonderful tea …. all well worth it.

5A77D45B-5068-4576-81B0-CBE928E126C6.jpeg

Luck O’ the ☘️ Irish!

2E8E2A7B-0BE8-4F57-B4E1-6741CA508BE4“Healthy Ireland” …. a great motto that we found got people’s attention printed on a lime green bag, as we walked around Dublin, Ireland this St. Patrick’s weekend. It seems this city fits the health literate cities model in terms of safety particularly since most of us are used to looking to the left side as we cross the street (drivers come from the right here as in the UK) so we need clear street markings and precautions to avoid pedestrian disasters!

Contributing  to the idea of “respecting cities” as locals or visitors, we observed  easily accessible cycling and walking paths, relatively spotless city streets with little to no dirty tagging  or “tag bombing” on city signs and historical buildings, clear signage and very helpful locals!

As with every westernized country that is over consuming sugar, fat, alcohol marketed to us daily,  all contribute to many chronic health issues if unmonitored (cardiovascular disease, obesity, alcoholism, cancer, etc.) it is important for us to keep our consumer populations informed about their health choices and habits. It’s ok to consume that “fat free in the middle” donut (LOL about the pink sign we saw outside a popular donut chain), a perfect Irish whiskey or apple cider once in a while but we also need to exercise a bit, take care around binge drinking (which happens on many college campuses and beyond) and enjoy all …. in moderation!

Thoroughly enjoyed the 4th EU Health Literacy conference in Dublin hearing about some great initiatives and building local and international networks.  We looked for shamrocks and leprechauns — no luck there — but at the end we had some great walks near the woods, ponds and castles (we recommend the half-day tour in Dublin at Malahide Castle).

Éirinn go Brách (Erin go Bragh phrase)! The Guinness was great and we toast to our luck in being there for the St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) festivities  preparations  …. hoping the Luck O’ the Irish rubs off for all of us working together for healthier communities around the globe!

“Hacking” for Health

On Friday February 22nd groups of young people, professionals of all ages and company mentors from pharmaceuticals and insurance companies got together to form teams geared to “hacking” health and building health literacy through an MIT Hacking health literacy event in Athens, Greece. Respecting the privacy of the winners two days later, the emphasis of the monetary awards was on giving hope for progress in addition to mentoring and longer term support for product fruition. Much needed in a country very much in shambles due to the crisis of the past 10 years — check out the Lancet’s “Omens of a Health Tragedy” written in earlier part of the crisis, and the most recent The New York Times opinion article written by Simon Critchley titled “Athens in Pieces: The Stench of the Academy. ”

FFABBAC7-6312-492B-833B-E328B433FAF3

Speaking about health literacy in Greece and discussing the first HLS-EU study several aspects were brought up of individual and social responsibility — see video link.  It seems that this photo I shared says it all when public systems don’t work and thus includes lack of maintenance, no policing, and high risk behaviors. Enough said ….the more you look at it, the more you’d realize there is so much to do !

9A551A0C-FC75-4814-B86F-1521F20E4D96.jpeg

What”s wrong with this picture!?

Be the change…the message of love and unity

The “morning after” Valentine’s Day I came across short video cartoon part of a series meant to help people understand about relationships a series by Fabiosa Better World. This featured a woman who felt disgruntled in her 10 year marriage, and no longer smiled at her husband, didn’t make his favorite food, was basically indifferent  and thus he was ready to divorce or I’m sure look elsewhere. He called his elder father who basically gave him basic advice — have you kept your end of the “bargain” have you kept your promises? He thought about it. He changed his behavior. This included having a “date night”, buying her a gift, helping with the house chores. Surprisingly to him, everything he used to have came back and his marriage made it successfully…simple things make the difference, BE the change in love  (by the way the 8-10 year mark is important because you either “make” it or “break” it as a couple, according to statistics).

I also participated in a training by organization Fractality on “appreciative inquiry”, who had invited an elder wise guest speaker a “yogi” in my mind, to work with mindfulness in our group on finding the goodness and inner peace in very difficult situations whether they be individuals or communities. We randomly got cards and my two are featured here reminds me of the important health literacy work in our community. BE the change in your community. Use your networks, get training to build skills, work with goodness and peace of mind.

777ABAAF-32E1-4875-ADF0-6241298FB940

Birds of a feather, Flu season and personal responsibility

Everyone loves flamingos right? Birds migrate to warmer climates throughout the year despite global warming and colder climates with snow in unlikely places (last post). We all should know that birds are one of the major ways disease is transmitted across continents and via mosquitoes to animals and humans! .

Have you ever stopped to think how your own actions could prevent further spread of what are known as “communicable diseases” such as flu? This season is prime for H1N1 (known as swine flu) or others like bird flu, and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization constantly share updates on disease spread and prevention.

Good friend Jenny, did her part too! She’s not only talented as a Dramaturg and Stage Director, she recently proved to be very health literate too! Being health literate is having the ability to act appropriately medically (getting tested, vaccinated, taking appropriate meds once sick, resting and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration), and taking personal responsibility to prevent disease spread.

Her Facebook post (permission to share with you) says it all. It was the first time we had “virtual drinks” and it was a great time despite illness!  Thanks Jenny for doing your part! Maybe it’s true that birds of a feather truly hang together…

7c9846f0-2335-4fb9-b2ee-7337356e4bee

We need some ‘snow literacy’

Perhaps it is due to ‘chance’ or is it related to climate changes, but many parts of the world are having some unusual weather.  Take snow in greater Athens.  Unexpected yet so perfect ‘powder snow’ as the image below from Kifissia (Northern suburb of Athens).  In most places it was about 1 foot of snow (0.30 cm.) but in other places over 4 feet (1.22 meters). From the perspective of our individual and community knowledge and what I’ve been seeing in the local news here in Greece, our ‘snow literacy’ is lacking. Then again, some other crazy stories from snow-familiar places like New England (U.S.) who put out calls for snow emergencies are similar — this includes the guy who went jogging during a snow emergency and was accidentally plowed over because the snow plower worker did not see him (understandable due to low light or snow flurries)… or people driving fast in dangerous snow conditions.

There are many types of snow that one can find from places like the ‘National Snow and Ice Data Center’ (Types of Snow, NSIDC). We all can remember at least once making those wonderful snow angels so why ruin that pleasantry with a tragedy film of small-town America which received low reviews this past decade (Snow Angels from the New York Times Review).

snowy kifissia

Snow melts, hence ice, hence slippage and likely injury.  You need to sweep and shovel the snow, throw sand or salt on it as it melts, and at night when it is colder tread carefully (including appropriate shoes, and car tires) or not at all.  Avoid slipping, sliding, to prevent injury. Of course on the other hand, some physical therapists, orthopedics and sports doctors will have some extra work!

Question #1 — why go running in your school courtyard if your principal told you not to go out?  This happened to a school today in Northern Greece and the young man (anonymous) at about age 15 (the highest age of ‘sensation-seeking behaviors’ as described by developmentalists) fell and broke his leg.  His parents are now going to sue.

Question #2 — can parents afford to not go to work because their kids’ schools are declared closed?  This is because the municipality does not have appropriate snow plowing machines, no basic shoveling done, and worse no salt to throw on the ice.

Question #3 — unrealistic expectations from some people expecting the government to actually plow their front door or worse, beating up the slow plower person because they did ‘not do a good job’ with the street? This is another unrealistic expectation.

Question #4 — why can’t people be responsible to take care of ploughing their front sidewalk as they do in other parts of the world, else be fined?  This could include cleaning up waste or unwanted tagging graffiti (some of it is done because the thieves want to ‘mark’ their target territory). Since we also want to respect cities I must emphasize the recent ‘fines’ placed on a 15-year-old Greek girl who thought it would be ‘cute’ to write her name and ‘was here’ on a historical bridge in Florence, Italy. She got caught, fined, and could have faced imprisonment.  My final question — why are we not following suit in common sense policies and procedures?

Yes indeed, snow literacy should be one of the fundamentals of survival and overall health literacy.