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September 21, 2018

Public health offers great lessons to fight graft

The fighter: Public health professionals can fight corruption
The fighter: Public health professionals can fight corruption

There is an old European folktale about a beautiful young girl who on her way to visit her ailing grandmother, who lives in another village, bumps into a big bad wolf. Being of a trusting nature she reveals to the wolf where she is going.

The wolf, eager for a meal, runs on ahead, has the grandmother as an appetizer then waits for the young girl to arrive.

The girl does not know the grandmother too well and on reaching her grandmother’s house starts talking to the person she supposes is her grandmother.

There is a dialogue where the wolf disguised in the grandmother’s clothes tries to lure the girl up close so that he can eat her too.

One thing that puzzles her is why her grandmother has such strong white teeth? The reply ‘the better to eat you with!” causes her to realise that this cannot be her grandmother but it is too late and she is eaten.

The moral of the story is to be wary of smooth talking people who behind a charming façade are really terrible and evil people.

The word ‘wolf’ describes a number of large carnivorous mammals of the genus Canis, to which domestic dogs also belong. Applied to humans ‘wolf’ describes a cruel yet sly fellow.

Used as a verb there are people who ‘wolf’ down food, that is eat voraciously, their manner suggesting not so much that there are limited quantities of food but more, all this is mine and I do not share kind of attitude.

The big teeth display warns you, that at this point, constitutional issues like equality and equity are not as important as might.

A society learns through education incorporating lessons from situations that other societies have gone through.

Unfortunately for Kenya, the head of the teachers union says teachers are not to blame if students graduating from our school system know very little.

Wolves are found in temperate climates and therefore for Kenya, the idea of a wolf has to be translated to other members of the Canis family perhaps wild dogs, or hyenas, though none quite captures all the characteristics of a wolf.

Perhaps if we did not have handcarts propelled by human energy, we might have been more conversant with the wolf. For many of us the handcart or Mkokoteni is a nuisance, causing traffic to back up as they stubbornly insist, at walking pace, on being recognised as bona fide road users.

In Dakar, Senegal, instead of handcarts, they have horse carts, the same carts that we have, but propelled by one of two horses. They therefore move a little quicker than what we have and can also carry more. Horses are interesting because just like human beings, having teeth they no longer need bothers them.

These pre-molars, called wolf teeth, meaning ‘bad’ teeth, grow mainly in the upper jaw, but are often not opposed in the lower jaw and therefore are useless when it comes to chewing. Worse for the owner of the horse cart, the teeth can interfere with the reins used to control the horse and so are often removed.

Based on the above one can conclude that we live in a society that is organised in such a way that wolves can roam unrecognised and unchallenged. Is there something that can be done? Perhaps a public health approach offers a solution.

Public health advocates for everyone to be healthy. It is not enough for a few to have massively big canine teeth, but for everyone to have good strong teeth.

Having strong teeth starts with having an optimum calcium intake. Out of the many minerals that are essential to our well being, calcium is interesting because it provides the strength needed in all our bones but is also crucial in the functioning of the heart.

So it is both very visible and invisible at the same time. In daily life the main sources of calcium are milk and milk products such as mala, yoghurt and cheese.

Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and sukuma wiki also contain some calcium. For those who have adequate food intake, calcium is not often a problem, however it can be a problem in those who are malnourished, which in our society are the very young.

Once bone formation is complete, if there was a deficiency at the critical period of growth, then the malformation is almost irreversible.

And when you see someone who has malformed bones, if the problem is calcium then likely there are other organs affected too. A public health approach ensures that everyone has access to proper nutrition. The grandmother would not have been ailing in bed.

The story of Little Red Riding Hood is one that cautions people on trusting smooth talking strangers too much. It is also a tale about recognising symptoms and asking the right questions at the right time in order to take appropriate action.

Good nutrition at the right time ensures that people grow up having the capacity to think and act correctly.

The wolf cannot be the one deciding what is best, because the wolf always has an agenda and that smile is a lie.

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