Following up on the Nordocs unConference, where local medicos presented on things they are passionate about, the following is an introduction to the Handbook of Non-Drug InterventionsI have been part of the editorial/ writing group for HANDI since 2013 and have learned much from it.

Why a handbook of non-drug interventions?

It is estimated that half of the myriad  clinical trials conducted each year globally are for non-drug treatments. However, effective non-drug interventions are less well known, less well promoted and less well used than their pharmaceutical counterparts.

The pale, thin, anaemic, vegetarian schoolgirl who gets constipated on iron tablets would benefit from an iron infusion. The tired 40 year old woman with low iron stores will feel a whole lot better with some iron tablets (or a B12 injection). The plethoric smoking, drinking, overweight 50 year old male with a high ferritin should pop down to the Red Cross for some regular blood donations. 

These and other myths are debunked in Dr Louise Imlay-Gillespie's talk on modern iron management at the inaugural Nordocs Unconference held on 30 June 2018 at UCRH, Lismore.

Prior to the widespread development and use of antibiotics, some bacterial infections, such as bacterial endocarditis and meningitis, were almost uniformly fatal. The leading causes of death in 1900 were infections: pneumonia, TB and diarrhoea/enteritis. While sulphur antibiotics were developed first, the discovery of penicillin in 1928 lead to its widespread use by the 1940’s, resulting in a significant change in epidemiology of disease throughout the 20th century with a sharp drop in infant and child mortality and a near 30 year increase in life expectancy by the late 1990’s.

Resistance to antibiotics has occurred for every antibiotic agent that has ever been used. Antibiotic resistance is not a man-made phenomenon but rather a reflection of natural selection and evolution; widespread antibiotic use, however has led to the rapid emergence of resistance bacteria.

As a lay attendee (one of only two) at the NoRDocs Unconference I am in no position to comment on the clinical veracity of the presentations delivered in the packed six hours that it ran.

As the presenters were acknowledged experts in their diverse fields, I can only assume that they spoke with authority and made significant contributions to the knowledge base of the audience, including us two ‘NCAs’ who, perhaps surprisingly, found most of the sessions understandable.

Certainly, the reception that all speakers received was extremely positive.

The frustration, of course, was how to resolve the dilemma facing all ‘festival’ goers - would one prefer ‘Tom Keneally in conversation’ or ‘Gareth Evans with Kerry O’Brien’? (examples from this year’s Byron Writer’s festival) . Or in the Unconference, GP Dr Zewlan Moor from Byron Bibliotherapy on the healing power of reading, or neurologist Dr Bob Lodge on the timely topic of cannabis in medicine, and how Australia has been slow to address the relevant issues?

Wine is made to be drunk with food, its taste and structure perfectly complementing and enhancing the eating experience  and ingestion, as well as the process of digestion.

The pairing also dictates a measure of moderation, as the drinking stops (or should) when the last bite is taken. A marriage made in heaven, and something you can optimise at home, matching the type of food to the age and variety of wine (particularly if you have invested in a cellar).

Other alcoholic drinks don’t come close, as the flavour profiles of beer and cider are much more limited, and fortified wines and spirits are overpowering in their pace of inebriation, which to me takes away from, rather than adds to, the experience of sharing a meal.