Monday 23 April 2018

'I said to myself I will never complain again - I had tears in my eyes' - Dr Eva Orsmond shocked by child poverty filming RTE doc

Dr Eva Orsmond. Picture: Douglas O'Connor
Dr Eva Orsmond. Picture: Douglas O'Connor
Dr Eva Orsmond
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Doctor Eva Orsmond has revealed she was moved to tears after witnessing deprivation and poverty in Ireland while filming a new RTE documentary.

In Ireland’s Health Divide, which will be broadcast as part of RTE's new autumn schedule she examines how where you are born and raised impacts your life expectancy.

In the course of filming the documentary she met mothers who were struggling to not only to feed their children healthily, but to feed them at all.

"I haven’t seen Ireland's deprivation and poverty," she tells  "I have only seen this part, the south side of Dublin, the more affluent and middle class side.

Dr Eva Orsmonde was the OT doctor until 2013. Photo: RTE
Dr Eva Orsmonde was the OT doctor until 2013. Photo: RTE

"I'm coming from Finland and it's not that everyone in Finland is rich but we don't have poverty as such because we have a very good social security and a very good education [system].

"Education is really the base of everything we do in life because we can draw energy from that."

Dr Eva, who as a former Operation Transformation expert was known for her no-nonsense attitude to healthy eating, met women in Limerick who were really struggling.

"Here I was seeing areas where mothers were buying bad quality food because that was all they felt they could afford," she reveals.

"You can say healthy eating is not that expensive, but if you have a lot going on in your life and every day life is challenged with your housing maybe being a little bit substandard or you might experience domestic violence or a chronic illness, really it's very difficult to draw the energy to prioritise healthy eating and healthy living.

"You are literally just trying to keep that child alive, or yourself alive."

She is shocked by the statistics around life expectancy for children from different areas.

"The gap between areas is quite horrendous," she explains.  "A child born in an affluent area will live six years longer than a child born in a deprived area.  Six years is a lot.  A child born in a deprived area is twice as likely to be obese and three times more likely to get cancer.  Only one per cent will go to third level education.

"How are we going to change this vicious circle if we're not getting these children in further education and getting role models in those areas which are deprived?"

Dr Eva found the experience emotionally affecting.

"I have to say I was driving home from Limerick and I'd say to myself, 'I will never complain again'," she reveals.

"I was really moved and really having tears in my eyes about the whole situation.  As you know I am known to be quite quick to judge and expect people to be strong and cop on.  And there is so much work to be done which I didn't even realise existed.  We need to think about walking in their shoes."

Recent reports suggesting Dr Eva is moving to Portugal are inaccurate, she says, as she is opening a clinic in Portugal and possibly doing some television work, but she is not completely abandoning Ireland.

"How could I leave this wonderful craic and my clinics?" she laughs.  "I'm starting a clinic and it's very exciting but I'm not leaving Ireland altogether.  I'm basically in the process of selling my house and getting a smaller base that is easier to manage."

She says she is hoping to spend two thirds of her time in Portugal, where her mother is based, and one third in Ireland.

"I'm not going so don't start the celebrations just yet!" she laughs.

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