Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Suzan Damas
Guest Bio: Suzan Damas is a native of Tanzania and has traveled extensively in Africa. Suzan talks about the region, culture, lifestyle, and food in this culturally rich area of the world. She is the author of “Green Banana Cookbook” which is strongly influenced by cuisines from there. The area receives a constant stream of travelers/tourists in addition to health care providers and missionaries.
Suzan Damas discusses healthcare and how it effects immigration. Also touched on are immunization policies and access to low income care.
Health Professional Radio
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. Thank you for listening. I’m your host Neal Howard. It’s our pleasure to have in studio today Ms. Suzan Damas. She’s the author of the Green Banana Cookbook. It’s a cookbook which is strongly influenced by the cuisine from her native land. She’s from Marango Village in Tanzania just below the great Mount Kilimanjaro and she’s been here with us before and she’s offered us some more of her time to talk about her views on healthcare as it was when she was coming up and as it is now. How are you doing today Suzan?
Suzan Damas: I’m good. How are you Neal?
N: I’m doing good. Before when we were talking we talk about some of the illnesses that you were aware of growing up as a child and some of those illnesses that you really don’t see any more as an adult. And we also talked about some of the remedies that your people use as in opposition to some of these diseases that were pretty common there. As far as healthcare in your opinion, what do you see of healthcare today?
S: Well the health care here is nice, it’s good. But is it accessible? that is debatable. And unfortunately for immigrants like myself many of them don’t take advantage of their healthcare … for different reasons. Some people it’s this sense of temporariness, thinking “Oh I’m just here for 2 months, 2 years and I’m gonna go.” So they end up not taking advantage of that, some people have difficulty, maybe it’s the language barrier or whatever their reason is, they have difficulty in navigating the healthcare system. And for others it’s just flat out socio-economic status, they come and if they don’t get educated or they don’t move upwards like they expected but mostly for us immigrants the reason why they don’t take so much advantage of the healthcare system is because it’s simply caution on citizenship.
S: So is they view you as a burden because you are on say Medicaid or cheap and such programs if they view you as a burden that’s gonna have some implications when you apply for citizenship or residency and things like that. So these are the things that are in the system that kind of make it hard for people to take advantage of healthcare system.
N: So if I’m understanding you correctly coming from another country to the United States or the UK or Canada or even Australia, some of the reasons that people just don’t take advantage of the advancements in healthcare in the country that they find themselves in is fear.
N: Okay, so it’s fear. Now we’ve been talking a lot in the media in well all around the world about immigration laws, immigration policy and healthcare. With the new Affordable Health Care Act in the United States, you were saying that health care here is good but you were talking about problems with its accessibility. With your knowledge of the new health care laws where do you see health care going as far as immigrants are concerned?
S: Well I would like to believe it’s taking a good direction, however it still may come down to the wording, maybe hard for them. But you know it might be a too early to say but I would like to think it’s going to a good direction although there are still some obstacles like the one I just say it’s not clear. If they give you an insurance plan based on your income, it’s not clear how that’s gonna translate to your legal status. It’s still not clear.
N: In the United States and other Western countries there are many, many what we term as free clinics or low income clinics that have nothing to do with Medicare, Medicaid. If you’re in that type of economic situation, you can just walk in and they will treat you for many of the common minor illnesses that are seen in those countries. Now when you were coming up in Marango Village or Tanzania, did you see any clinics per say I know there we’re a lot missionary that travels there and healthcare professionals offering their services. Is that where you got free or low income medications and treatments as opposed in Western countries where there are free clinics set up where anybody can walk in?
S: Yeah, generally the government institutions, government clinics, government hospital and research hospitals they have lower, lower maybe consultation fee and things like that. And then when you go to private ones then it’s a different story. But yes, there were times especially those that are hosted by churches, religious institutions like churches – those would typically either be free or will have very, very low fees.
N: Now what about immunizations? We were talking before about some of the illnesses that affect children namely malaria, cholera, different types of fevers. In western countries there are immunizations that a matter of fact there are immunization laws where you’re supposed to have your children immunize before they ever go to school for things like measles and whooping cough things of that nature. Are those services or opportunities available in some of the other countries where you’ve traveled?
S: Yes. Specifically my country, immunizations are a must. The only difference is that a young child, an infant is not so busy getting so many vaccines at an early age. For example right after having a baby, in a month, you she got something you know 2 months later she got something else. So you find that they’re so busy with these 6 months they get so, so many shots in a very short period of time. So we usually around 4 months or 5 months I usually take my baby home with me. And when I get over there I try to get caught up with the immunizations here, that way she can be on time and that I would go over there to the clinic and be like “Okay here’s a list of the ones I need to be caught up.” And they’d be like “No, we don’t give those until the 9 months.” And I’m thinking “Oh my goodness, over there we give them when they’re 6 months or so.” And no doctor would give me immunization to a child that young, they’re gonna abide to their policies so many times I find myself having to come back here and get my child caught up cause over there they don’t give them, so many shots so early.
N: Uh huh. Now when it comes to some of the symptoms related to allergies, when we were taking in the previous segment about maybe the cause or culprit being the air-conditioning situation in many places in the United States. I remember being in Honolulu were there was no air-condition or heat in the buildings that I was in. Of course there are buildings that have air-conditioning but many of the neighborhoods they didn’t have air-conditioning, you would simply open a window or close a window and everything was okay. Now as far as allergies symptoms, do you notice that the symptoms for allergy are treated differently here as opposed some of the other places that you’ve been or did they just let them run their course or are there other methods for treating some of the symptoms that maybe you are suffering, that you are suffered from?
S: I think they treat them with maybe it could be maybe salt water, things like that not so much pills. I don’t recall ever having seen allergy specific pills back home and I just came there from last year in April. And I don’t remember seeing allergies specific for eyes or for nasal congestion. No, so we would typically maybe put some Vicks in hot water and you cover yourself under a piece of sheet or a bed sheet things like that. But not so much pills or the patches, I now seen people wear a patches to control their allergies. Yeah but in Kansas like asthma if you are asthmatic then there’s no debate – they’ll give inhalers and stuff like that. There’s no question.
N: Now a recently study suggest that the eating of a fatty foods, high in saturated fats, and the lack of good healthy vegetables contributes to the problems associated with asthma by inflaming the airways. Talking about inhalers, where do you see the effects of diet in your native country affecting asthma as opposed to the effects in the United States?
S: Oh that research study is dead on. And that is part of the reason why I take my kids immediately four-five months after their bone so they can be exposed to the food and the vegetables over there because they have even skin asthma you know eczema type thing and when get over there it clears out. We eat a vegetables that are in season, in your backyard type things fresh and things like that. And it’s a lot and vegetables are part of the meal so you have the little starch, the little protein, and vegetables. So in every single day, there will be a vegetable on the table, every single day. So yes, I think the study is dead on.
N: Now as we wrap up this segment, I’d like to ask you as the author of the “Green Banana Cookbook” it’s strongly influenced by the cuisine from your native land. And I mean many of the recipes that I’ve seen in the book they sound delicious but what about recipes that are specifically included for well healthcare for health remedies? What about recipes that are specifically for keeping healthy as opposed to, well, eating good food?
S: Oh that my book actually says what papa say’s, you know you’re eating good food while keeping healthy. When you get a chance you’ll see every single recipe has three full colors you know you know they say eat a rainbow. So I incorporated all that and you will make a regular, you will make energetic so it does a little bit of both.
N: It’s been great having you here with us today Suzan.
S: Sure Neal. Thanks a lot for having me. Thank you.
N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts of this program are available at hpr.fm.