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In pursuit of wellness

Date Released: Sat, 9 April 2011 15:36 +0200

Lillian Cingo, formerly of the Transnet-Phelophepa Health Care Train, has devoted her life to helping marginalised and rural communities in South Africa get the health and wellness care that they so desperately need. Her speech at the Rhodes Graduation ceremony for Pharmacy, Law and Education faculties, at which she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, focused on the issue of Wellness.

As this is a multi-faceted issue, she referred to a number of types of wellness: physical, occupational, intellectual, spiritual and emotional. She then, in her characteristically forthright way, pointed out to the audience what was missing. Two very important aspects of life have no 'wellness' attached to them. Instead they are labelled 'unwellness'. The two are Mental and Psychological health.

For many people, seeking help to ensure their mental or psychological wellness is fraught with difficulty. Not only do doctors either not recognise the true problem, or are in any case not prepared to refer on to another professional, the person concerned may be petrified of being labelled crazy, and being stigmatised within their community. The problem is never confronted, and a state of wellness is therefore not regained or achieved.

When people are not physically well, due to factors such as hunger, disease and lack of shelter, they cannot function optimally. She raises the question of what can be done to bring South Africans to physical wellness and her answers are uncompromising.

“We need trained staff to man the new hospitals and institutions of education both envisaged and present already. We are desperate for new graduates. There should be a serious understanding that psychological, emotional, and occupational unwellness can lead to physical unwellness.”

Addressing the Education graduates, she reminded them that South Africa has, especially in the rural areas, great numbers of illiterate and semi-literate people, including grandparents who are now caring for their grandchildren. Educators are needed desperately. “Continue,” she told them, “to be patient, have empathy and understanding while maintaining your integrity. Remember your students come from different backgrounds - LISTEN, LISTEN and LISTEN, to the verbal and nonverbal.”

Her message to the graduates of the Pharmacy Faculty was a call to action. More information is needed, she told them; share with your clients the causes and effects, ways to prevent and control the spread of disease. Is it feasible, she asked them directly, to get more information about community pharmacy and generate cheaper medicines?

“Although this might affect your financial wellness, it is for the greater good. The best time to do this is now. You are in pursuit of physical wellness for your client/patient and thus your community.”

Newly qualified lawyers were exhorted to constantly examine the systems and the letter of the laws which are being enforced, and Cingo congratulated the judiciary for changes made to the laws regarding dispensing of medication to children. Both in her speech and in an interview Cingo pressed home the following:

“This attainment of physical wellness it seems to me, needs a multidisciplinary group of professionals to sit, discuss and maintain or change policies... (in the interests of) the wellness their deliberations will afford the country, especially the rural communities.”

Cingo emphasised that wellness is an ongoing process, and is something to be strived towards no matter where one is in the strata of need. Those of us blessed with secure homes, plenty of food and a good education can use our gifts to help others along the path.

Cingo concluded her talk by thanking Rhodes University, and in particular the Pharmacy Faculty and Psychology Department for creating the opportunity for their lecturers and students to become involved with the Phelophepa Health Care Train. Their contribution has, she assured them, left a positive and indelible mark in rural and needy communities.

Full speech click here

Citation click here

By Jean McKeowin

Photo: Greaves Photography