Brain too full to post!

Trying to finish this Masters degree means I have to work hard on restricted topics for long periods of time. So why can’t I write a bit about one of those? Well- I feel guilty devoting any words to anything other than an essay or dissertation! My other blog has also died, even though I could write exactly the same thing in that blog as an essay (http://healthforhumans.blogspot.com).

My dissertation could have been finished by the end of first semester if I had been able to get ethical clearance and worked on the data then, but life ain’t like that in the Land of Research! I had written the background to the project, a “skeleton” article to pop the results into when I got them, plus an ethics committee submission for the university in the first 4 weeks of Semester 1. Now it is nearly Week 9 of Semester 2, with that plus weeks 10, 11 and 12 before uni breaks up for Christmas/summer! I still haven’t been granted access to the de-identified/anonymised data from the state health department- it takes forever until each little level of bureaucracy is satisfied I don’t want to publish the names of the patients and hospitals who have problems on Facebork or whatever! My supervisor and Head of Department have signed so many pieces of paper, they are getting RSI. And I have a wonderful task for them on Tuesday (Monday is a public holiday here)- ANOTHER bit of tree to sign! Must be patient…

I even had a little lecture on how to address an envelope suitably for the health department when I ended up trying to deliver a report to the exec officer for the ethics committee- the security guy said I should put my stuff in their internal mail to make sure it got to the top of her desk when she returned. So I got a security pass from him and toddled up to the first floor. There, an autistic person objected to the name I had put on the front of the reports with “To: X on 10th Floor” or whatever. I had to listen while she told me that my boss at the university should find out how the health department likes addresses to be formal, formatted in a certain way and on a WHITE label, ON an opaque envelope. I had a set of reports in a transparent plastic folder so they didn’t get separated! I could have clobbered her, but figured she really was autistic and had to go through her spiel no matter what anyone said. So I stood and took it.

Now I’m fiddling with the data I managed to get for free and without password from the Australian Medicare database containing info about how many prescriptions are dispensed for every medication in the system, in which state and whether paid for by Medicare itself (Public), Privately or by the Veteran’s Affairs Dept. I was able to download all my necessary numbers from here in January- now I have an extra 6 month’s worth to play with, thanks to everyone stringing me out!

I was so distracted when I was writing my first essay this semester for my last course-work subject, that I almost wrote a whole dissertation on it! The topic was in Indigenous Health (mainly pertaining to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) and we had to choose a disease or illness that was a public health problem in this group. I chose Trachoma (an infectious eye disease, familiar in poor, developing countries like the Sudan and Afghanistan). There was masses of material to digest, especially from the World Health Organisation and UN. In addition, Australia has had decades of government policies about providing various health services which would have fixed the problem in no time flat, but they never implement them fully… You might have heard of a bloke named Fred Hollows- he set up a Foundation to care for vision problems, firstly in Australia and then internationally. His wife Gaby now administers the Fred Hollows Foundation and they mainly work in war-ravaged nations such as Democratic Republic (sic) of Congo, East Timor and Uzbekistan etc. Anyway, fred’s team charged out into the bush and fixed trachoma and other eye problems using surgery and antibiotics in the mid to late 1970s, ie. last century. However, the pussyfooting governments since haven’t followed up and the trachoma and blindness is coming back. Hopefully a new campaign, organised by a doctor who was just a young whippersnapper on Fred’s first expedition, Hugh Taylor, will get in there and hopefully eliminate the disgusting scourge over the next year or two.

The head lecturer even lent me a beautiful book by Hugh Taylor (and signed!) to help with the essay, but I’m afraid I just got even deeper into the subject and ended up having to cut what I’d written by two thirds at the last minute!! Oh dear- what a hash. Hopefully I’ll at least score a pass!

Anyway, I’ve learnt my lesson and I’m not consulting nearly as many references for the second (and last ever) essay which I have chosen to write on “Indigenous Mental Health, ‘Country’, and Land Rights”. It sounds like social studies rather than public health, eh?! ABC TV has some programs which help explain indigenous peoples’ attachment to ‘country’– which I certainly needed explaining to me 2 months ago, but now have a good understanding for a white person.

Now I guess I have made a bit of a post, so I can stop. I might be able to write something about analysing my data on possible connections between several drugs and adverse events in South Australia, once I get the de-identified information from the health department. It’s pretty weird stuff, but I think I could explain the essence of it simply!

SO, there you are- pretty boring, huh!

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