Chiang Mai FeMail
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Health, Fitness and Weight Loss

Alcoholism and domestic violence - is community-based “women power” the answer?

Bad hair day?

OPINION

 

Health, Fitness and Weight Loss

Exercises for arthritis, back pain and rheumatism

John Bailey
Regular readers of this column may have noticed a theme other then my usual litany of “stay active”, “all things in moderation”, etc. All the problems I have tried to cover as the result of ageing together with a less than satisfactory Western lifestyle involving excess,( however enjoyable!), and lack of personal care. I’m not being judgemental, just stating the fact that in the majority of cases, we do it to ourselves!
Consequently, our bodies respond by malfunctioning or acquiring illnesses that might have been avoided if our behaviour and lifestyle had been more suitable. Of course, occasionally we may be unlucky enough to become ill or have an accident, but for the most part our modern Western way of life is responsible. An obvious example of this tendency is obesity, with resultant late onset diabetes, on which I wrote last week. Another example is when a previous injury comes back to haunt us in the form of arthritic joints, back pain or rheumatism. This is, of course, localised and not life-threatening, but can be extremely painful and debilitating.
The best protection against this is to condition associated muscles thus giving the affected joint as much support as possible. One’s individual pain threshold and range of movement are the only limiting factors. If you have lived with an arthritis knee or hip for some while, you will, no doubt, know a great deal about your condition and limitations. Within those limits, however, there can exist a great deal of potential for improvement.
First, the “dos” and “don’ts”. Do not indulge in high impact exercises such as running; avoid stairs and other climbing motions where your weight is on the affected parts if possible. Do include stretching exercises, but don’t overstretch. Select good training shoes with shock-absorbing soles. Do have your feet checked for possible arthritic connections. Start aerobic exercises gently - say, 5 minutes at a time - then build to 30 minutes 3 to 5 days per week. Walking, cycling, rowing and swimming are good - but don’t use a stepper, run, or jog.
Strength training should involve all major muscle groups, with extra focus on the affected area. Use free weights, machines, isometric exercises, with only 2-3 repetitions at fist, pain being the limited factor for weight. Increase reps to 10-12, 2-3 days per week. It’s important to stretch once or twice per day; again, pain is the limiting factor. In all exercises, avoid sideways pressure on the affected joints and keep to low repetition, low impact, and low resistance exercises, increasing frequency and time when you feel comfortable enough to do so. Remember the FITT principle?
Two more points - if you are going for a hip replacement or other such operation, invest in strengthening supporting muscles beforehand - the effort used will repay you handsomely, as will maintaining good posture in all daily activities.

 

Alcoholism and domestic violence - is community-based “women power” the answer?

Elena Edwards
We are all aware that alcoholism and alcohol-related violence, often domestic, is a major concern worldwide. Most of us are probably also aware of the means by which the problem is addressed in the West - counselling centres, various 12 step programmes, (some religious, some secular), rehabilitation clinics, psychotherapy, medication, etc. Of course, the problem also exists here in Chiang Mai - but how is it dealt with? A successful social experiment led by a woman and aimed at women victims of drunken violence provides at least one answer.
In a small working-class community located in a Chiang Mai soi, an anti-drinking and anti-domestic violence project was started in 2002 by Mae Pung, a woman who had been exposed to alcohol-related domestic abuse since she was very young, and who had been working to help abuse victims in her small community for some years. Mae Pung’s father was an abusive alcoholic; fuelled by drink, his violent behaviour was directed at his wife and children. “But”, says Mae Pung, “when he was sober he was a fair man and would help my mother”. The usual story, repeated worldwide.
As a child in the soi where her family lived, Mae Pung was aware that almost all the soi’s small shops sold alcohol; the young men in the community followed the older men’s example by drinking heavily. Lifestyle, economic difficulties and social conditions exacerbated the problem and fuelled dependency. If violence occurred, family members were on hand to intervene. The micro-economy of the area was dependent on the sale of alcohol; the result was a dysfunctional community with its women and children bearing the brunt of the consequences.
Still living in the soi as an adult, Mae Pung began combating domestic violence, at first by hiding terrified, beaten women in her home. She consoled and counselled the women, telling them to avoid provoking their men when they were drunk. Other women from the community joined her, and the group began, bravely, to confront the men themselves, yelling at them and occasionally threatening them. “We just helped each other”, Mae Pung says. Soon she was talking to the men, trying everything she could to stop them drinking - some stopped beating their wives as they were afraid that she would put a sign outside their houses identifying them in the public domain as violent abusers. “We were using the men’s pride against them”, she says.
The group approached the small shops to ask them to stop selling alcohol, thus removing the crutch of family involvement in violent behaviour, as, if the men were forced to drink outside their own area, they would have no-one to intervene should they become violent. Some owners of liquor stores were not happy at the suggestion, knowing that they would lose their livelihoods.
As the president of the fully functional December 5 Women’s Development Group, Mae Pung has, over the years, instigated further projects to improve the status of women in the community. A day nursery has been opened, caring for the children of single or working mothers; a credit union has been set up, run by women and offering small loans to its members, now numbering over 1,300, mostly women.
In Western terms, an unconventional approach to a common and devastating problem - in human terms a considerable success, tackling the reasons behind alcohol dependency and the resulting violence in a small, disadvantaged community. The reality is that many such communities exist in the West; there, this issue is rarely confronted on a community basis, as current “wisdom” prefers to isolate alcoholics whilst trying to effect a rarely successful “cure”. Without doubt, alcoholism and its resultant violence is a community issue, as it affects not only families but fragments the community itself. Perhaps the West could learn from Mae Pung’s undoubtedly successful approach.


Bad hair day?

Elena Edwards
When we think of scientists - what springs to mind? Highly talented professionals with a string of letters after their names that require oversized business cards - all working to rid the planet and its inhabitants of whatever threats plague it and them. Probably - but perhaps not…
A report from the American Chemical Society’s annual thrash in Philadelphia, trumpeted as one of the world’s biggest gathering of scientists, might make us think again! German scientists, the report declares, may have found the final answer to -wait for it - the BAD HAIR DAY!
Women of the world, rejoice! No more panic about split ends - no more crying into the pillow when your mirror yells “ugh, bed hair”. As a result of this ground-breaking and highly expensive research, we will all be able to look like an advert for Clairol 24/7! What more could we possibly need?
The report contains such delights as ‘For the first time, we present an experimental setup that allows measuring the subtle forces, both physical and chemical, that arise when single hairs slide past each other or are pressed against each other. The findings will help provide clearer strategies for optimizing hair care products.’, and “Apart from the deep psychological effects for the unfortunate wearer, there is a 30 billion industry out there desperate to prove it can prevent such disaster” Right.
Perhaps that 30 billion pound industry really does believe that us “unfortunate wearers” need urgent counselling should our current hairstyle look less than perfect. Or that the vast majority of us would consider this a “disaster”. Or perhaps we are being manipulated into believing that we should all strive to be California girls whilst holding down a job, a house, 2.4 children, the family dog and a husband who last looked at our hair the day we got married! Answers on a postcard, please.


OPINION

Reaffirming Human Rights For All

Elena Edwards
“In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
The above quote heralds the opening of the UNESCO 61st annual NGO/DPD conference, due to be held from 2-5 September in Paris. The title of the conference is “Reaffirming Human Rights for All - The Universal Declaration”. Its aim is to discuss ways and means to contribute to enhanced awareness of the meaning of human rights today as set forth in the Universal Declaration 60 years ago in Paris, the city where it was signed. The conference’s press release asks attendees to “Help to raise awareness of your work on this issue. Contact your local, daily or weekly newspapers, call-in radio or TV shows and your NGO publications to make them aware of your involvement in the 61st Conference. You have a powerful voice: let it be heard. Be an activist. Please share your involvement with us, so that we may share it with the United Nations.” It goes on to ask, “What are Human Rights”, and explains as follows:
“Basic equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled, such as the right to life, liberty, and security, equal protection of law, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and the rights to work, to education, and to be able to participate in the cultural life of the community. Human rights are important so that each of us can live a life of dignity and self-respect. Bringing the knowledge of human rights to your community is the first step toward peaceful co-existence and the reconciliation of past grievances.”
The conference’s website urges all workers in the field to be familiar with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to be vigilant in their communities and to educate those communities, especially the young people.
China, Tibet, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Burma - the full list is much longer and may well include certain communities here in Thailand. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed 60 - yes, 60 years ago. Here, in the Chiang Mai expat community, there may seem to be little we can do about this issue, particularly as governments pay lip-service to the declaration’s absolute requirements and ignore the abuses taking place on their own doorsteps. However, there are many organisations in our city who are working tirelessly, often with inadequate funds, to address the issue in many different but equally important ways. They need our support, again in different but equally important ways. We, a minority group ourselves, should not stand by and do nothing.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: www.unhchr.ch/udhr/