Richard | Auckland CBD

On Monday I had a meeting with a group that does a lot of work around child poverty and health, so made some connections there, and have reached out to them, to continue working with them in the future.

Also on the street the other day I had quite a long chat with a Hare Krishna about his beliefs, and we talked for about two hours, so yeah.

I’m working at the university, and I’m doing research on childhood obesity, and of course, hardship and deprivation are big drivers of that, and so we were meeting with a group that works in South Auckland. They have been working to improve the health of South Aucklanders, and particularly around children was our focus. So, we were presenting some of our research to them, and asking them what sort of research would they need us to do, to help them in their legislative fights as well.

I think it’s (media) possibly one of the issues nowadays with social media and everything. People are in a way more connected than they ever were, but less connected if that makes sense. There’s so much connection that’s going through media, but there’s not as much of that personal connection when you’re really face to face with someone. You can see their expression. You can feel like you can’t have as much empathy through a digital connection like that. So yeah, I think it’s incredibly important for humans. I mean, we’re social animals, so connections are very important.

I can’t speak very well on it, and I haven’t researched it a lot or anything, but I do think that would be important and there is a lot of new research looking into the harms that things like Facebook and Instagram are having – not as much Twitter, but Facebook and Instagram are having on especially young people’s mental health. So yeah, I do think that’s something we need to be addressing.

I mean my family is very giving and very caring about others. They always wanted me to be a doctor or something, so I guess that sort of instilled that sort of thinking. A lot of it, I was always interested in research around treating diseases, and then when I was doing my masters and I got to work with a man called Sir Michael Marmot, who wrote a whole, sort of developed the whole idea of social determinants of health, that’s where I really started to understand how much it’s not people’s personal decisions that are influencing their health. There’s a whole societal influence, and yeah, I guess that’s where part of the drive came from.

Religion’s been a bit of a big part, a semi-big part, I’m not religious myself, but my family is mostly religious, and so it’s always been of interest to me of why people have religious beliefs, what drives that. So I’ve been listening to a lot of people like Matt Dillahunty and Anthony Magnabosco, and there’s this idea of street epistemology, which is we ask people that have religious beliefs, especially strong ones like Hare Krishna or Jehovah’s Witness, how did they come to those beliefs, and did they come to it with a reasonable way, and could someone come to a different belief using the same method. And, I don’t know, it just really interests me in how people come to those beliefs, and again, I guess it comes to the helping thing, because this maybe sounds bad, but Hare Krishna is very strict. There’s a lot of things around what you can eat, what you can think. There’s a bit of thought-control. It comes under a cult under the BITE model, and so I feel like if you can get people to maybe think about how they’ve come to those beliefs, maybe it’ll help them to leave those sorts of groups, yeah.

I grew up in Palmerston North, mostly on a farm, moved to Wellington when I was 12, and then I studied at university there. I did bio-medical science, and then I met my wife who is French, lived in France for a few years, lived in Trinidad in the Caribbean for six months, because I was working with the WHO there, and been back here for about two years.

What’s important to me? I mean, I love doing work obviously that is trying to further people’s health, especially around social determinants of health and how we can address those, and music. Music is probably my biggest passion.”

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