Just back from three weeks Down Under, where I was invited to address the Rural Health West Annual Conference in Perth. The theme this year was “Children of All Ages: Health Across the Continuum in Rural Communities.” It was a wonderful experience, and I’m grateful to Belinda Bailey and the organizing committee for their warmth and hospitality.
I gave the keynote address (“Unintended consequences: How mode of delivery impacts long-term child health”) on the mounting evidence that cesarean birth increases the risk of a number of chronic illnesses later in childhood. (For previous posts on the subject, see here and here.) Lots of discussion followed–the cesarean saga in Australia has paralleled that in the U.S., and in sparsely populated Western Australia, where hours-long air transport to a tertiary care hospital is common, decisions about when to intervene in a woman’s labor are particularly challenging. As here in the U.S., a popular movement is pushing back at unnecessary cesareans, or “caesars” as they’re known in Australia.
Later that day I spoke on the history of neonatal resuscitation, a talk loaded with odd historical tidbits, as is my habit… (Did you know that newborn babies in ancient Greece were salted and coated in honey (scroll link to page 82) to protect them from infection? Or that midwives were performing
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on sick newborns as early as 3,000 years ago? Or that in Germany, the accepted means of reviving a sick newborn until well into the 20th century was to simply swing them up and down?) That talk always gives an audience an appreciation for modern resuscitation equipment.
Perth is a beautiful city, more or less the San Diego of Australia. The weather was gorgeous, and my wife Elisabeth and I did quite a bit of touring around. Became fairly familiar with a number of marsupials, including a few we’d never even heard of. (Numbats, anyone? Quokkas?) We spent a week in and around Sydney, too (over on the east coast, for those of you not up-to-date on your geography)–another fascinating city. We finished up with four days in a cottage in a national park, which is where my kangaroos-in-the-field photo at the top was taken.
Oh, and I actually drove over 400 miles on the “wrong” side of the road without so much as a scratch on our rental car, let alone the fiery chain-reaction pile-up (my fault, of course) that I’d been expecting…