Media doc says no to political career

Well-known media doctor Ciara Kelly says she has been asked to stand for election for one of the major political parties but turned down the political overtures.

Dr Kelly, who is a GP in Greystones. Co Wicklow, appears regularly in the media on Newstalk Radio, RTE's Doctors on Call health show and Operation Transformation.

In an interview with Forum, the journal of the Irish College of General Practitioners, Dr Kelly said: "I have been asked by one political party, one of the bigger ones (I won't say which one), and have said no."

She said she would not be interested in going into politics.

"You need commentators outside the political sphere of influence because if you go into politics, the reality is there is a series of compromises that need to be made, and I think sometimes when that happens you lose sight of the bigger picture."

Dr Kelly spoke about the devastating effect the recession has had on people's health and on GP practices.

"I've had a couple of patients admitted to hospital with suicidality after losing everything. This type of thing has been repeated in practices across the country. These are straitened times, and they don't just affect doctors, they affect society in general, they affect our patients a huge amount."

Dr Kelly said her practice income had halved in recent years. "As to whether there are signs in the practice of the economy recovering, I think the overall economy may recover before general practice will. There are no other staff who work within the health sector who have had anything like the income cuts GPs have had."

She said Operation Transformation, on which she is the medical expert, is "the single biggest game-changer in terms of improving physical activity and diet that we have seen in recent times."

"The HSE or Government could not have afforded to buy the type of coverage the programme achieves in terms of highlighting and promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle."

"In terms of public service broadcasting, I think it's the biggest movement in health promotion that exists in this country at the moment."

Dr Kelly said the programme mobilises communities to adopt healthier lifestyles, and until she became involved in it she hadn't realised what an impact Operation Transformation was having.

As regards combating obesity in general, she believes there is an education deficit on the part of quite a large section of society.

"I think we have in some socio-economic groups two to three generations of people who have poor understanding about nutrition, who have little or no cooking skills, who have a lifestyle where the idea of healthy eating or physical activity as an alien concept."

"I think we need to get in there and we need to do it through education from children up, because realistically, we have probably lost a certain generation already. We need to be targeting kids about healthy eating policies in schools, we need to build this from children upwards."


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