Friday, December 26, 2008

Fiona Stanley Causes Me to Write Another Very Long Post. What else is new?

Fiona Stanley is not a politician.

I thought for sure she would be. I mean I knew she wasn't when I added her to the list, but then I forgot who she was.

She's an Epidemiologist.

I'm not sure where I heard of her, or why I added her to the list. But I think she might be interesting.

I hope.

She was born on August 1, 1946.

Birthday Website time!

Wow. She's just like Peter Weir--a Leo and an 11 in numerology. I think these people have the potential to be quite wonderful.

Stanley was born in Sydney.

Most kids dream about fighting pirates and becoming rock stars. Little Fiona dreamed of traveling around the world and vaccinating children. I might love this woman. She's definitely unique. And I know we're not supposed to judge people by their looks, but she looks nice. Lord Wiki has a photo of her. She looks really sweet.

Her dad was a medical researcher, so this might have been where she found her inspiration. Because of her dad's career, she was able to meet Jonas Salk. That's the American who came up with the Polio vaccine.

In 1956, the family moved to Western Australia. Stanley would have been ten. Her father worked at the University of Western Australia as the Foundation Chair of Microbiology. For school, Stanley went to St. Hilda's Anglican School for Girls. It's another school that has both a day school and boarding school. It seems like a lot of private schools in Australia provide boarding. I think that's much less common in the United States.

I could be wrong though. Maybe I just happen to be looking at a certain type of school. Maybe successful people were more likely to attend a school that provides boarding. And perhaps there are more boarding/day schools in the United States. I just haven't heard of many.

I do think it's great to have boarding at a school. I think it's a good experience for teenagers to live away from home. I wouldn't want to force it on a teen; but if they wanted it.....I think that's great. I also think it's a good experience for the people at the day school.  If there are boarding students that means they'll meet kids from around the country and world.

Stanley studied medicine at the same school her father worked at. Her first medical job was at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth. Some of her patients were Aboriginal children who were flown in from remote communities. They would help these children and then fly them back into the environments that caused their health problems in the first place. Stanley started traveling to the communities where the Aboriginal children lived. She learned first hand about the connection between living conditions and health problems.

Her experience with the Aboriginal communities pushed Stanley to be interested in public health. She spent six years away from Perth to further her education. In the UK, she studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It seems this is the school to go to if you are into diseases.

When Stanley returned to Perth, she worked on developing a database to study trends in maternal and child health. She does these studies in order to develop preventive strategies. Her focus is on preventing illness rather than curing disease.

Lord Wiki says she explored the connection between folic acid and spina bifada. Does this mean she's the one who's responsible for pregnant woman taking folic acid? If so, that's a really big important thing. At least, I think it would be.

The other childhood problem that Stanley has high interest in is cerebral palsy.

During the Howard Ministry, the ARACY was started--Australian Research Alliance For Children and Youth. Stanley is the chairperson. Oh, this is interesting. She doesn't just work for low-income communities. She's also done studies of high-income families, finding that these children have problems with asthma, obesity, diabetes, child-abuse, binge drinking, drug abuse, and mental health problems.

In 2003, Fiona Stanley was Australian of the Year.

Lord Wiki also says she's married, has two daughters, and had breast cancer.

Now I'm going to move on to other websites.

Stanley is the founding director of The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. This institute does research on prevention of childhood diseases. On their website, they list their main themes. These are:

1. Aboriginal Child Health
2. Asthma, Allergies, and Respiratory Disease
3. Healthy Development
4. Infectious Disease
5. Social and Emotional Well-being
6. The Early Years
7. Understanding Disability

Each theme on the website has links to more information.

Under respiratory disease, they talk about early intervention in Cystic Fibrosis. I guess this would be about treating the problems before they got bad. I used to be very involved with Cystic Fibrosis. I'm not sure if the treatments I saw were more about prevention or slowing down problems that had already started. I think for the most part they were in the latter category. It seems the amount of therapy and medication the child participated in corresponded with how unhealthy they were.

They have interesting stuff about allergies. The incidence of people with allergies have doubled in the last few decades. I think we've all noticed this. I've talked about it with various people. We never had peanut-free schools when I was a child. Now there's allergic children everywhere. What's the deal with that?

The viruses that cause ear infections in children are seen more in Aboriginal children than non-Aboriginal children. The Institute has found that an infant hearing test can help determine which children are more likely to have ear infections as they reach toddler age. Interesting!

Here's a study, I'd love to read. The Raine Study. In this study, they looked at close to 3,000 pregnant women. The scientists looked at the pregnancies, the births, and then looked at the children at various ages. Those kids are now between sixteen and eighteen. I wonder what kind of conclusions the study has come up with. Here's the actual website of the study. It doesn't seem like they have any results yet. But I'll look. It reminds me of that British documentary--the one where they looked at the same children every seven years. America started one, but I don't think they ever got beyond the first episode.

 Oh never mind. Lord Wiki says they continued it. What do I know?

Okay. Here's two findings from The Raine Study: Eating a variety of food at breakfast seems to improve mental health in teenagers. They suggest adding a banana to your cereal. And babies who breastfeed longer than six months seem to be in better mental health during childhood. Better mental health. Yeah. But very weird. At least Jack is very weird. He breastfed much longer than six months and he's a very strange child. That's probably not related to breastfeeding though. That's probably due to the fact that his mother is extremely weird.

Oh. This is going to be a LONG post. And most of everyone is probably going to be busy playing with Christmas presents. If you're actually reading this, I'm impressed and grateful. I also feel a bit apologetic. Please don't be too mad at me.

The Telethon Institute talks about Specific Language Impairment. In this disorder, the child starts talking late, but doesn't have any developmental, hearing, or mental impairments. Jack had this. He didn't babble. At the age of two, he could say probably say less than five words. He started talking around age three. The website says it runs in family. Jack's cousin talked late. Two of his second cousins did as well--although those two second cousins are not related to each other.

The study found that the education, income, and parenting style of the mother does not cause the problem. I wish more people understood this! I think most people were respectful of our situation, but I remember a few comments and pieces of advice that inferred that I was the cause of Jack's late speech. One of the classics was a certain person, in my family, disapproved of our use of sign language with Jack. We did this because we had read that it HELPED children with speech delays. But this family member seemed to have made the assumption that it CAUSED Jack's speech delay.

The institute is working on Meningitis stuff. I had a Meningitis scare with Jack last week. He was sick with a fever and mentioned his neck hurt. It's a long story and I won't go into it, but I completely freaked out. It's one of those stories where once you know everything is fine, it's kind of funny.

A recent study, the institute did, says that stress in pregnancy seems to increase the chances of behavioral and emotional problems in children. Perhaps they should highly publicize this study. Don't push the information at pregnant mothers. Knowing that their stress will cause problems in their children will just make them feel more guilty and stressed. Instead, push this information at the fathers and other people who have relationships with the pregnant mom. Maybe if they understand that stress can cause problems, they'll do more to alleviate the stress. Maybe women will get more back massages, days off, and cuddles. Really though. How do you prevent stress? Some women already have children they have to take care of. Some women are forced to work at difficult jobs through out their pregnancy.

All right. I'm going to move on......

There's a hospital being built that's named after Fiona Stanley. It's in Western Australia and should be completed around 2013. It seems the hospital's main concentration will be burns and transplants (heart and lung). I think what they mean is that if you need this kind of service in Perth, this will be the hospital to go to.

Fiona Stanley has some strong opinions. And she is not afraid of speaking her mind. Well, maybe she is afraid. But she does it anyway. In this article, she says 20% of parents are unfit to have children. She blames lack of life skills and excessive work commitments. She says the government needs to play a part in all of this.  There there needs to be a better parental leave policy.

One great quote from her is We need an Al Gore for child development. Amen to that!

When I saw the title of the article, I thought Stanley was being a bit harsh towards parents. But after reading the article, I feel she's not really coming down on parents.  She's not saying  You're too dumb to have kids. You're too selfish to breed. I think the criticism is more aimed at society and government. We (America, Australia, and some other countries) value a high paycheck more than we value taking care of children. It's sad.

The ABC has an interesting interview with Stanley. She talks about how Western society has seen great advances, but the changes in our cultures have brought things that can cause problems as well: more working mothers, more stress in the workplace, less support from extended family, and television/Internet.

She talks about how marketing/advertising is giving parents the message that their children need to grow up sooner than they should. The examples she gives are bras marketed to eight-year-olds. Yikes.

Oh! Fiona Stanley has her own blog! It's part of WAtoday.

I totally love what she says here in an entry about what the average person can do to help Aboriginal communities. She says a bit step is educating yourself about their history. She suggests watching The First Australians. She says, The more that Aboriginal people feel valued and respected then the more they will be able to participate in Australian society in positive ways.

I strongly agree with this. It's hard to move forward when your self-esteem is so low. It's hard to have healthy self-esteem when your past is denied, undervalued, and ignored. It's also hard to fit into a society where you don't feel welcomed. Stanley says there needs to be more connections between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people.

In this entry, she talks about the animosity between midwives and obstetricians. They fight, and it's the mothers who get left out in the cold. Stanley wrote about the subject after her first grandchild was born. Her daughter had a midwife assisted birth without medical interventions. I hope we come to a time when midwives, mothers, and doctors work together....where mothers aren't forced to choose between a super crunchy granola home birth or lying on their back with an IV and a catheter stuck in them.

This post is way too long.

But one more thing.

She was interviewed by Andrew Denton. I must read this.

The quote that's most interesting to me is when she says: Lots of people's easy to feel guilty. I had maternal guilt for most of my working life because I felt I should have been at home. So many things - it's easy to make people feel bad about themselves. What we want to do is say to parents, "We know you're the most important people in Australian society. You need help to be the people who are creating a future for Australia that's positive and wonderful. But you need advice. You need help, you need support for that.

I think the advice part has gone way too far. We have so many parenting books and magazines...television programs telling us how we can be better. I think this causes guilt and confusion, especially because the information is so conflicting. Don't put your child in a crib. It's cruel. Don't let your baby sleep with you. You'll suffocate her. Breastfeed them. Don't breastfeed them too long. Don't wean them too early. Don't ever spank them! Spare the rod. Spoil the Child. It's CRAZY.

I think we need more support. Paid parental leave is a good place to start. There are other things that could be done-; maybe more work-at-home programs for single mothers. Community centers for parents to meet each other and feel less isolated would be nice. I like restaurants that provide play areas for children.

At The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, they had a children's area. Kidspace. It had cute stuff. We had fun. The one thing bad about it was the area wasn't enclosed. It was very easy for children to escape. I heard a rumor that the reason they did this was so parents would work harder to watch their own children. It was somewhat challenging for me, but not too bad because I had only one child to watch. My friend had two. It was VERY challenging for her. And some kids are very FAST. Mothers often feel very isolated. We go out not just to get our children socialized and exposed to germs, but because WE need some socialization as well. Sometimes we're desperate for it.

Would it have hurt the museum to create an environment where a mother could chat with her friend for three minutes, knowing her child wasn't going to escape out the door, up the stairs, and onto a busy street? Instead of advising people on how to be better parents. I think we should give them the support that helps them become better parents. And sometimes that support is giving them a break. It doesn't have to be about babysitting the child for two weeks so the parents can run off to Europe. It can be as simple as holding a baby for ten minutes so a mom can finish her dinner in peace.

Wow. Now this post is even longer. I'll definitely shut up now.


  1. She would be Dame Fiona if we still had imperial honors. I like that idea.

  2. Fiona Stanley came to most Australian's attention for her work with burn patients who were victims of the 2002 Bali bombings. She is an amazing woman, as your post demonstrates.



  3. Michael: You could imagine that she's a Dame Fiona ; )

    Misrule: Thank you! I didn't even read about that in my research. I hate when I miss important stuff. But I'm glad you pointed it out!!