Nestled on bookshelves across the country among the latest Harry Potter is a less fantastical but magically entertaining, thoughtful and personal tome by Ko Awatea’s very own Dr David Galler.
Things that Matter: Stories of Life and Death, has just been released, and draws on Dr Galler’s 25 years’ experience as an intensive care specialist.
“Essentially it is a blend of the personal, people and their stories and policy.” Dr Galler says of the book, which he wrote in 2015 for publishers Allen & Unwin while on a year-long secondment to Samoa.
Chapters include the heart, into which the clinical lead for Ko Awatea, weaves the story of his own father’s death from cardiac arrest. In this section, he refers to the organ as reliable, resilient and marvellous, but sometimes dumb!
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Frequently funny and touching, Dr Galler nonetheless does not shy away from making bold statements about current unacceptable levels of health inequity. He discusses the desperate need to address the social determinants of health and pokes fun at well meaning but woefully inadequate population health messages urging people to ‘eat plenty of vegetables and drink alcohol only in moderation’.
The outbreak of Meningococcal disease in the mid 1990s, as he describes in the chapter Hat and hope is not a plan, was directly linked to the removal of the housing benefit in 1991, and served to create overcrowding in already damp, cold homes. While this disease may no longer be an epidemic thanks to a successful vaccination campaign, poverty related illness remains prevalent and wider scale intervention and collaboration is not being embraced in the way it should be.
“The barriers to this kind of transformative thinking and activity are many and significant. Budgets and agendas continue to be jealously protected within government departments, and our world continues to be ruled by the same old thinking that allows the problems we face to persist,” he states in the chapter.
Dr Galler says genuine collaboration between health and the social sector is required if there is to be improvement, and discussing this was a strong motivator for writing the book.
“I wanted to talk about so-called “wicked” problems like obesity and poverty and the enormous burden they are on our nation now and, if unchecked, how they will undermine the future of this country,” he says.
“I wanted to highlight potential solutions to these issues that we have chosen to ignore and how we might break free of the profound indifference we seem to be stuck in. We have a great little nation; we deserve better and could and should do so much better.”
Things that Matter, has been well received and Dr Galler, who has already been interviewed on National Radio, in the Sunday Star Times and the New Zealand Herald says he has been surprised at the interest his book has generated.
“[The interest] reaffirms my belief that we are not telling our stories in the way we ought to be; we are not doing enough to engage the public in issues about their own wellbeing, their potential and the need for them to better shape their own lives and the future of their communities and the nation.”
Things that Matter: Stories of Life and Death is available at booksellers now.