Find­ing NZ’S health­i­est com­mu­nity

South Waikato News - - Out & About - DR TOM MUL­HOL­LAND

For the past two years I have been trav­el­ling New Zealand in my retro Chevy am­bu­lance, try­ing to help Ki­wis be health­ier and hap­pier.

From Kaitaia to Bluff, Ru­a­to­ria to Grey­mouth and Taranaki I have met a wide range of peo­ple, mea­sured their blood pres­sure, di­a­betes and stress lev­els gained in­sights into what makes them tick and taken the pulse of many communities.

It has been a dif­fer­ent jour­ney from when I have been the lo­cal doc­tor. the am­bu­lance at the top of the cliff, rather than the bot­tom. Heart­land rugby cham­pi­onship game.

De­spite a record los­ing streak even worse than the Auck­land Blues, and hav­ing among the worst health stats in the coun­try, some of the peo­ple on the East Coast are the hap­pi­est I have met.

With a smile as wide as the cape it­self, a firm hand­shake and a cus­tom­ary hongi, I have never been made so wel­come. This is Ngati Porou coun­try, they are proud of it, it is who they are.

The name of the small Stab­i­craft we fol­low to a re­mote beach down a rugged river is em­bla­zoned NO STRESS. Peo­ple wave as they drive, a far cry from the ur­ban traf­fic.

Far from the madding crowd lies D’urville Is­land, an oa­sis at the tip of the Marl­bor­ough sounds. By far the health­i­est com­mu­nity I have found in Aotearoa. With pris­tine bays, reefs and forests that match their pris­tine blood tests and clean liver scans, wild deer on the road and tu­ataras un­der the house, the hos­pi­tal­ity matches Ru­a­to­ria.

Be­ing con­nected is one of the ways to im­prov­ing your well­be­ing, and the iso­la­tion of these communities strength­ens their con­nec­tion.

Gen­er­a­tions have grown old to­gether and raised kids that have no fear of stranger dan­ger. The com­mon theme is that it is what most of New Zealand was like 50 years ago.

I am sure at times not all is well in the ap­par­ent Gar­dens of Eden, but the sense of com­mu­nity is as pal­pa­ble as the pul­satile aor­tas I have felt while do­ing surgery.

Fast food, fast in­ter­net and rush hour traf­fic that does any­thing but rush the blood to your head from a sense of pres­sure.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral well­be­ing is in­ter­est­ing.

I have developed a tool to mea­sure the dif­fer­ence be­tween phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial well­be­ing.

Over 25 years as a doc­tor has taught me that well­be­ing is made of many com­po­nents, so if you can mea­sure it , you can man­age it.

The ma­chines we have mea­sure fat and sugar con­tent in the blood of Westies in Hen­der­son, Coast­ers in Grey­mouth, East Coast­ers in Toko­maru Bay Forests, Is­lan­ders in Marl­bor­ough and tradies in South­land.

What is strik­ing is that fur­ther you are away from fast, fatty food, and fizzy drinks, gen­er­ally the health­ier your blood tests are.

Farm­ers have higher lipid fat lev­els in their blood and lower lev­els of di­a­betes. We are what we eat, and what our genes de­ter­mine. Even ve­g­ans can have high choles­terol due to ge­net­ics.

As the sun rises on Mt Hiku­rangi and the mighty Ngati Porou East Coast still seek their first rugby win, the am­bu­lance rolls out of town, bound for Te Araroa and then Toko­roa, the well­be­ing mis­sion con­tin­ues, tak­ing the pulse of the coun­try.

Dr Tom, a man on a mis­sion.

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