Pharmac has recognised the need for special measures to help Maori take their medicine

A spoonful of sugar helps.

A spoonful of sugar helps.

Alf did not appreciate – until today – how blessed he is to be able to take his medicine.

He does not refer on this occasion to a daily shot or three of scotch, which he takes for strictly medicinal purposes.

Nope. He refers to the medicine his mum made him take when he was a kid.

Instead of scotch, he recalls, when he was a bit chesty he was dosed with Lane’s Emulsion, a product fed to generations of New Zealand children.

Originally claiming to be “a reliable remedy for pulmonary ailments”, the product was still in production until the early 1980s. Oamaru company Crombie and Price, which bought Lane’s Medicine in 1971, still holds the rights and recipe to the product.

Then there was something called Buckley’s Canadiol Mixture, described as an alcohol-free and sugar-free expectorant for the non-drowsy relief of bronchitis, chesty coughs, colds, croup, laryngitis, and whooping cough.

Whatever the medicine, Alf’s mum would confidently dish it up to the Grumble kids, never for a moment doubting what she was doing or wondering how medicines should be administered. Reading the instructions on the bottle was a big help, of course.

And long before Julie Andrews warbled the advice, Alf’s mum knew that a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down.

But it seems our indigenous persons have great difficulty handling medicine.

They are talking about white man’s medicine, presumably, because Alf is very aware of Rongoa, which is the Māori term for medicines that are produced from native plants.

Use of these medicines prevented many sicknesses, and provided remedies for the sick.

In traditional Māori healing, diagnosis involved a holistic approach that included mind, body and spirit – mauri (spark or life force), wairua (spirit), and tapu (natural law). Whakapapa or genealogy was also considered.

Tohunga, the medical practitioners of the Māori world, passed their knowledge down through the generations, and modern Māori healers still use many of the concepts and practices.

It seems some of our indigenous persons have a hankering for modern medicines – if it’s not racist or otherwise non-PC to use that term to describe the non-traditional stuff.

Accordingly, we learn from Radio NZ, Pharmac is set to train pharmacists in two Bay of Plenty rohe to communicate more effectively when providing Maori with medicine.

Nga Matapuna Oranga Whanau Ora Collective, based in Tauranga, and Te Ao Marama Whanau Ora Collective Trust in Opotiki will sign agreements with Pharmac next week with one of its main aims being to provide education for Maori on how to take medicines.

The Government agency’s kaiwhakahaere, Maori Responsiveness, said its Te Whaioranga strategy is not just about educating Maori, but pharmacists as well.

Atene Andrews said Pharmac has to admit a lot of pharmacists are not Maori.

Dunno if Pharmac has been accused of not knowing this.

Surely not.

But if they are about to admit a lot of pharmacists are not Maori, maybe they also might admit a lot of pharmacists are not Chinese, or Indian, or Hottentot.

But Chinese, and Indians, and Hottentots – and we pakeha too – are not entitled to (dare we mention it publicly?) special treatment.

And so…

Mr Andrews said Pharmac programmes such as He Rongoa Pai are designed to deliver better information about Maori to the pharmaceutical profession.

He said examples include how to receive Maori or understand their body language.

Alf had never thought body language changes, depending on ethnicity. So there we have it – he is learning something new every day.

The country’s pharmacists will now know how inadequate they have been in dealing with their special customers.

The chairperson of Te Ao Marama Whanau Ora Collective Trust said the two pharmacists in Opotiki are very good, but in general there can be a limited understanding of Maori needs.

Fair to say, this isn’t the only country facing medicinal challenges.

Alf makes this observation on the strength of a report that says –

Medical ethicists are reviewing an experimental Ebola virus treatment because it raises questions about whether untested medicine should be used on people according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In a statement the organisation said: “The gold standard for assessing new medicine involves a series of trials in humans, starting small to make sure the medicine is safe to use. Then, the studies are expanded to more people to see how effective it is, and how best to use it.”

They added that the, “experimental medicine has raised questions about whether medicine that has never been tested and shown to be safe in people should be used in the outbreak and, given the extremely limited amount of medicine available, if it is used, who should receive it.”

Alf imagines he would have no problem taking this experimental medicine, if he thought it would keep him alive.

He is saddened by the thought that our indigenous persons – given the same option of taking a spoonful or whatever of this stuff – would be seriously disadvantaged because their body language has been misread.

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3 Responses to Pharmac has recognised the need for special measures to help Maori take their medicine

  1. Lane’s Emulsion! You have re-opened forgotten childhood traumas!

  2. J Bloggs says:

    Sorry, Alf, I can’t speak for Ekatahuna north (that’s your job, of course) but in Auckland it’s becoming difficult to find a pharmacist who ISN’T Chinese, or Indian (although I agree that Hottentot pharmacists are in short supply)

    • Alf Grumble says:

      Thanks for putting Alf straight. He is unfamiliar with the skills of Indian pharmacists but he is aware that their Chinese counterparts have a reputation for dispensing products containing powdered rhino horn. Mrs Grumble reckons Alf should be taking some of this stuff to spice up his action in bed. But this website tells us that (according to traditional Chinese texts) rhino horn has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years and is used to treat fever, rheumatism, gout, and other disorders. The horn could also cure snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and “devil possession.” But it is not, as commonly believed, prescribed as an aphrodisiac.

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