Mick Adams - Radio interview script

Interviewer: I'm here with Dr Mick Adams, public health expert and chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

He's here today to talk to us about how the lifestyle choices we make can affect our health.

Dr Adams, welcome.

Mick Adams: Thank you, Nancy.

Interviewer: Now, you've been working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health for over a decade.

How much of an impact are poor lifestyle choices making when it comes to the big health problems currently facing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community?

Mick Adams: I think a lot of the issues around our style is a lot of the risk factors such as alcohol, heavy smoking and a poor choice of foods.

A lot of our people have suffered from diabetes, being overweight and obese and - which causes other chronic diseases like kidney diseases.

And we don't get enough exercise to contribute to overcoming some of these health issues.

Interviewer: And all of those lifestyle choices, they're actually controllable, aren't they?

Mick Adams: Very much so. We need to look at what we eat, cut out fatty foods, less sugar in our teas and coffees, and cut down on smoking and doing a bit of - a little bit of exercise.

Interviewer: If you make a little change, how much of a difference does it make to your lifestyle if you, say, if you do cut down on smoking, if you do cut out your sugars and even do a little bit of exercise? Does it make a big difference?

Mick Adams: I thi...yes, it does. It makes a hell of a difference. You feel a lot better. You prolong your life and I think it puts you in a better position to cope with some of the health sickness that we've got, but we also can prevent a lot of the chronic diseases and that.

Interviewer: So why do you think - if a little does a big difference, why do you think so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still make the lifestyle choices that are detrimental?

Mick Adams: I think we got to look at growing up, and I always look at the factor of - I look at mirrored behaviour.

We've got to have a look at early settlement, where we got - our people got tea, sugar, flour for their work. And I think we mirrored that. But also TV ads invite us to look at the food.

But in saying that, being in a poverty-stricken population, I think it's easier to go and get fast food rather than getting a whole lot of vegetables and meat and that.

Interviewer: And does the isolation and educational opportunities, do they impact on those lifestyle choices as well? Like if you're in a remote area, how difficult is it to get fresh food?

Mick Adams: Yes, it does impact on our lifestyle.

Being in remote areas, we've got to look at the choices that we get, plus the expenditure that we need for the food, because it's very, very expensive out in those communities.

But in saying that, at least people out in the remote areas can have easy access to traditional foods.

Interviewer: That's true. And they're fresh, aren't they?

Mick Adams: Very, very much so.

Interviewer: So what else can our listeners do to make the right lifestyle choices in their daily lives?

Mick Adams: I think in regards to making the right choices, cutting down on fatty foods, cutting down on sugar foods, eating - trying to eat more traditional foods. But if they're eating traditional foods, make sure the fat content is limited. Try and stay away from the fast food outlet.

But exercise - I mean, you don't have to run a mile, you could just walk around a block or walk from home to the shop if it's not too far away.

You don't have to go to the gym every day. You could do exercise just like even cleaning the house, or sweeping the floor or just walking around the community.

Being healthy, you don't have to go on a strict diet. You just got to watch the intake of food that you eat.

You could eat five to six meals a day, long as they're small, long as they're nutritious and not over amount of fat and sugar in it.

Interviewer: If you're in a remote area and you cannot get a hold of fresh fruits and vegetables easily, are tinned or frozen foods okay?

Mick Adams: Very much so. There's - also available is preserved fruits in sealed containers and then we could eat it.

I mean, the other thing is that even with tinned food, we need to stay away from the bully beef and herrings in tomato sauce. We need to do that.

We need to be mindful of how much we eat, because if we eat a lot and we don't do the exercise, then we don't burn all that fat off. And that [sic] what causes a lot of our problems.

Interviewer: Could we just have the bully beef say, once a month?

Mick Adams: Yeah, I think we should - we can have the bully beef once a month, but we need to look at how we cook it. Not overly cooked in fat because it contains a lot of fat.

Interviewer: And there's often a lot of confusion surrounding this. Is there such a thing as good fats?

Mick Adams: Yeah, there are good fats like fish, avocado, nuts, fresh fish that we get if we're living on coastal communities.

Now, there are good foods with fats.

Interviewer: Nuts, avocados, fish, tuna and salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids and high-density lipoproteins, they're called, but - great.

So what other lifestyle changes can our listeners make?

Mick Adams: I think the most important one is if we do smoke, we need to cut that down. And if we can, cut it right out.

Alcohol, we need to look at the intake of that and where possible, try and cut that out.

But I think the main thing is eating well and doing exercises.

Interviewer: Now, you're the chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Mick Adams: Yep.

Interviewer: Can we get help from our Aboriginal Medical Services around the country if they want to take on new lifestyle changes as well?

Mick Adams: Very much so. A lot of our community controlled health services have health promotion officers.

We also have nutritionists, we also have experts that could give you a good diet but - we have doctors that could talk to you about smoking and drinking.

Interviewer: And give help with that.

What about if you just want to embark on an exercise program, you've been sedentary all your life, should we go and see our local AMS services doctors?

Mick Adams: Don't know - I think we - probably if we want to go to the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, we need to look at talking to health workers, talking to health promotion officers.

But there's also - if we have a look online, there are other programs that we could do.

Interviewer: And what about things like regular cholesterol and blood sugar level tests?

Mick Adams: Very much so, I think we should have that every time we go and see our doctors.

But also, one of the problems with us, we wait till we're really sick. You don't have to be sick to go and see a doctor, or a health worker. Healthy checks are good and we should do that.

Interviewer: Great. And how can they find out more?

Mick Adams: We could do a lot by looking at our website, which is www.naccho.org.au. And we've got linkages to all our health services.