7 Native American Inventions That Revolutionized Medicine And Public Health

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, a time of recognition for the substantial contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. But, the month and remembrance, like many Native influences, still frequently go unrecognized in our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s the invention of vital infrastructure such as cable suspension bridges or sport for fun like lacrosse, so much of what exists in modern culture today is a direct result of what was created before newcomers occupied these lands.

And the world’s health ecosystem, ranging from preventative measures to administration of medicine is no different, owing much of its practices and innovations to those ancestral peoples and healers.

Here are seven inventions used every day in medicine and public health that we owe to Native Americans. And in most cases, couldn’t live without today:

1. Syringes

In 1853 a Scottish doctor named Alexander Wood was credited for the creation of the first hypodermic syringe, but a much earlier tool existed. Before colonization, Indigenous peoples had created a method using a sharpened hollowed-out bird bone connected to an animal bladder that could hold and inject fluids into the body. These earliest syringes were used to do everything from inject medicine to irrigate wounds. There are also cases in which these tools were even used to clean ears and serve as enemas.     

2. Pain Relievers

Native American healers led the way in pain relief. For example, willow bark (the bark of a tree) is widely known to have been ingested as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. In fact, it contains a chemical called salicin, which is a confirmed anti-inflammatory that when consumed generates salicylic acid – the active ingredient in modern-day aspirin tablets. In addition to many ingestible pain relievers, topical ointments were also frequently used for wounds, cuts and bruises. Two well-documented pain relievers include capsaicin (a chemical still referenced today that is derived from peppers) and jimson weed as a topical analgesic.

3. Oral Birth Control

Oral birth control was introduced to the United States in the 1960’s as a means of preventing pregnancy. But something with a similar purpose existed in indigenous cultures long before. Plant-based practices such as ingesting herbs dogbane and stoneseed were used for at least two centuries earlier than western pharmaceuticals to prevent unwanted pregnancy. And while they are not as effective as current oral contraception, there are studies suggesting stoneseed in particular has contraceptive properties.

4. Sun Screen

North American Indians have medicinal purposes for more than 2,500 plant species – and that is just what’s currently known between existing practices. But, for hundreds of years many Native cultures had a common skin application that involved mixing ground plants with water to create products that protected skin from the sun. Sunflower oil, wallflower and sap from

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BRTA: No fitness certificate for public transport without no smoking sign

File photo of Bus drivers often have to work exceptionally long hours, resulting in greater chances of accidents as they tire Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Survey found over 91% of bus drivers and helpers smoke on the bus

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) have instructed all their circle offices to check that there are “no smoking” signs on public transports when examining fitness certificates.

Strict action will be taken if “no smoking” signs are not found on transports, according to a press release.

On September 7 this year, the BRTA organized a meeting with the assistance of Health Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at the conference room of the BRTA headquarters. The meeting was organized to disseminate baseline survey findings on compliance with Tobacco Control Law on public transports in Dhaka city. 

BRTA Chairman and Additional Secretary Noor Mohammad Mazumdar was the chief guest at the meeting.

The cross-sectional survey was carried out in October 2019 on 22 routes in Dhaka. A total 417 non-air-conditioned public buses were observed.

The survey found 91.3% of bus drivers and helpers smoked on the bus, even though the Tobacco Control Law explicitly states that public transports should be kept smoke free. As a result, a major recommendation of the survey was to not provide fitness certificate for public transports that did not have no smoking signs.

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Wear masks, Michigan Medicine leaders tell public as hospitalizations surge

ANN ARBOR, MI — Michigan Medicine leaders are calling on the public to not let its guard down as hospitals across the state experience rapid surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

It’s imperative Michigan caregivers stay healthy so they can take care of an expected surge in cases this winter, Marschall Runge, Michigan Medicine CEO and dean of the University of Michigan’s medical school, said in a Thursday, Nov. 18 news conference that also announced a joint nationwide campaign to encourage mask wearing.

Michigan Medicine has joined around 100 of the nation’s top health care systems in the #MaskUp campaign, which urges all Americans to mask up, in an effort to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Runge said.

A large surge in cases requiring hospitalizations for COVID-19 due to the lack of adherence to mitigation strategies has the potential to overwhelm health systems, said Laraine Washer, Michigan Medicine’s medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology.

“I’m very glad that we at Michigan Medicine are joining with healthcare systems nationwide to encourage the simple behaviors that are proven to work: Mask up, socially distance, wash your hands,” Washer said.

Like many other hospitals across the state, Michigan Medicine is facing short staffing, Runge said, adding the healthcare system is developing a plan to make sure it can provide necessary care.

“Given the widespread community transmission, hospitals are also managing staffing limitations due to employee illness, absences and responsibilities for childcare,” Washer said.

During the past three weeks, Michigan Medicine has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients, Runge said. This week alone, Michigan Medicine had as many as 75 COVID-19 positive patients at one time, with up to 20 of them being critically ill and requiring ICU care, officials said.

“Following the spring and early summer COVID surge — the first wave, so to speak — we resumed care of many non-COVID patients that need hospitalization, and our hospitals are about 90% full as a result,” Runge said. “With that high occupancy, which we did manage pre-COVID, that puts additional strain on our response to the pandemic.”

The health system’s testing capacity is approximately 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, while its laboratories continue to develop new strategies to implement different types of COVID tests, officials said.

Michigan Medicine’s testing results recently showed about 14% of those tested are testing positive for COVID, well above the 5% mark reported for most of the summer months, Runge said.

“At Michigan Medicine, and all of Michigan’s healthcare providers, we need your help,” Runge said. “To combat a pandemic we need supplies, we need space and most importantly staff.”

The increased hospital capacity is putting a burden on the number of beds, as well as staff and healthcare providers, Runge said. A large surge of cases also carries a risk of challenging the amount of personal protective equipment required to keep healthcare workers safe, health officials said.

The number of confirmed cases in Michigan reached more than 277,800 this week, including 8,190 deaths.

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Connecticut Department of Public Health receives five-year, $3.5M grant from CDC to fund suicide prevention efforts

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enhance statewide suicide prevention efforts, Gov. Ned Lamont announced at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford Thursday morning.

The grant, which runs through Aug. 31, 2025, will be a joint effort between DPH, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and UConn Health. The prevention efforts will concentrate on populations that are disproportionately impacted by suicide or attempted suicide, including middle-aged adults, particularly men with mental illness or substance use disorder, and adolescents and young adults (ages 10-24).

State officials at the news conference spoke about the intense mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on Connecticut residents.

With COVID-19 cases increasing and the winter approaching, “I can feel the stress building again,” Lamont said. He described a “witches’ brew” of health concerns, economic distress and social isolation.

“I hear a lot of, ‘I thought we had a light at the end of the COVID tunnel and it looks like it’s receding,’ ” Lamont said. “I hear the economic anxiety every day.”

Dr. Steven Wolf, chairman of emergency medicine at St. Francis, said that social isolation has exacerbated local residents’ experiences of mental illness and substance use disorder.

Seven people under the age of 18 have died by suicide in Connecticut this year, including four since October, according to Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Connecticut averages about eight suicides of children under the age of 18 annually, Vannessa Dorantes, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Children and Families, said. She emphasized that the state must “work together to get that number to zero.”

On average, 403 Connecticut residents died annually of suicide between 2015 and 2019, a 14% increase from the annual average of 351 residents between 2010 and 2014, according to state officials.

“Though Connecticut has one of the lowest suicide rates in the United States, we know even one death is too much,” Delphin-Rittmon said.

Karen Jarmoc, president & CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that calls to CTSafeConnect, the organization’s domestic violence hotline, rose by 30% due to the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic violence advocacy groups across the state faced increased demand for their services.

“When the pandemic hit in March in our state, understandably there were shut-in orders to keep people safe from a public health standpoint,” Jarmoc said. “From our perspective, it created a precarious situation where victims of domestic violence were shut in with their abusive partner.”

Early in the pandemic, 18 sites across the state that house victims of domestic violence had to send some people to hotels in order to reduce capacity and the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak, she said. That resulted in more than $390,000 in unexpected fees to house about 200 adults and 200 children in hotels, from March through

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Wearable fitness devices can improve public health efforts to control COVID-19

Examining data from the first six weeks of their landmark DETECT study, a team of scientists from the Scripps Research Translational Institute sees encouraging signs that wearable fitness devices can improve public health efforts to control COVID-19.

The DETECT study, launched on March 25, uses a mobile app to collect smartwatch and activity tracker data from consenting participants, and also gathers their self-reported symptoms and diagnostic test results. Any adult living in the United States is eligible to participate in the study by downloading the research app, MyDataHelps.

In a study that appears today in Nature Medicine, the Scripps Research team reports that wearable devices like Fitbit are capable of identifying cases of COVID-19 by evaluating changes in heart rate, sleep and activity levels, along with self-reported symptom data–and can identify cases with greater success than looking at symptoms alone.

What’s exciting here is that we now have a validated digital signal for COVID-19. The next step is to use this to prevent emerging outbreaks from spreading. Roughly 100 million Americans already have a wearable tracker or smartwatch and can help us; all we need is a tiny fraction of them–just 1 percent or 2 percent–to use the app.”


Eric Topol, MD, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and executive vice president of Scripps Research

With data from the app, researchers can see when participants fall out of their normal range for sleep, activity level or resting heart rate; deviations from individual norms are a sign of viral illness or infection.

But how do they know if the illness causing those changes is COVID-19? To answer that question, the team reviewed data from those who reported developing symptoms and were tested for the novel coronavirus. Knowing the test results enabled them to pinpoint specific changes indicative of COVID-19 versus other illnesses.

“One of the greatest challenges in stopping COVID-19 from spreading is the ability to quickly identify, trace and isolate infected individuals,” says Giorgio Quer, PhD, director of artificial intelligence at Scripps Research Translational Institute and first author of the study. “Early identification of those who are pre-symptomatic or even asymptomatic would be especially valuable, as people may potentially be even more infectious during this period. That’s the ultimate goal.”

For the study, the team used health data from fitness wearables and other devices to identify–with roughly 80% prediction accuracy–whether a person who reported symptoms was likely to have COVID-19. This is a significant improvement from other models that only evaluated self-reported symptoms.

As of June 7, 30,529 individuals had enrolled in the study, with representation from every U.S. state. Of these, 3,811 reported symptoms, 54 tested positive for the coronavirus and 279 tested negative. More sleep and less activity than an individual’s normal levels were significant factors in predicting coronavirus infection.

The predictive model under development in DETECT might someday help public health officials spot coronavirus hotspots early. It also may encourage people

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Hours after Lightfoot announces new COVID-19 restrictions, Birx warns during Chicago visit that closing public spaces won’t be enough

CHICAGO — Just hours after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new restrictions on businesses in response to rising COVID-19 cases, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx cautioned that closing public spaces won’t be enough to stop the illness’s spread.



a person wearing a suit and tie: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.


© Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Birx said it’s possible some of the recent spread is happening in people’s homes, during family gatherings, as the weather gets colder. She spoke at a news conference following a private meeting with leaders from Rush University System for Health, Northwestern Medicine and the Illinois and Chicago departments of public health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Thursday.

“It won’t be as simple as closing public spaces because public spaces … were very safe over the summer and probably remain safe,” Birx said. “This is really something that has happened in the last three to four weeks. What has happened in the last three to four weeks is that people have moved their social gatherings indoors.”

On Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a curfew for nonessential businesses and no more indoor service at bars that don’t serve food. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also announced tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings in suburban counties with high COVID-19 positivity rates.

On Thursday the state announced 4,942 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the statewide rolling positivity rate stood at 5.7%, up from 3.7% two weeks earlier. In Illinois, 2,463 patients were in the hospital with COVID-19, according to Thursday figures, up from 1,812 two weeks earlier.

Birx also said Thursday that she advocated for weekly testing while meeting privately with hospital and public health leaders.

She said, at the news conference, that finding the “silent cases” and asymptomatic cases is “critical in preventing community spread.”

She recommended asking certain community members — such as community college students, teachers or hospital workers — if they would be willing to be tested weekly. She said universities that have tested students weekly have had more success limiting infections than those that only tested students who had been directly exposed to COVID-19 or had symptoms.

Birx said testing, along with mask-wearing and social distancing, are key to getting the spread of COVID-19 under control.

When asked what she’s doing to get President Donald Trump to understand the importance of social distancing and mask-wearing, she said: “My public health guidance is consistent no matter who I’m speaking to. I think you can see there’s a diversity of how people relate to that message.”

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©2020 Chicago Tribune

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Perils and Opportunities of a Public Option

By Lanhee J. Chen and Daniel L. HeilOct. 19, 2020 6:59 pm ETJoe Biden campaigns in Pembroke Pines, Fla., Oct. 13.



Photo:

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Regarding Lanhee J. Chen and Daniel L. Heil’s “Biden’s Public Option Would Mean Massive Tax Hikes,” op-ed, Oct. 20): Any vast expansion of government health insurance for “all” is at a minimum evidence that ObamaCare has failed to deliver as advertised. Massive expansion of spending would disable health care and government generally. The obvious fact that ObamaCare hasn’t delivered hardly provides evidence that much more government will rescue the system. It is past time to try much less government, more freedom and many more choices for the large number of us not liberated by ObamaCare. If it has done the job, what is the debate about?

Richard E. Ralston

Executive Director, Americans for Free Choice in Medicine

Newport Beach, Calif.

Employer-paid health insurance finances a health-insurance industry which adds little or no net value to the economy. Way too high a proportion of health-care costs goes to administration. Let the dead 1940s idea of employer-paid health insurance gracefully pass away with the single-payer public option.

Steven Williams

Pittsburgh

It’s ironic politicians define a public option to health care as one determined and rationed by the government. A true “public” option would allow individuals to decide what is best for them and where to spend their health-care dollars. All that would require is a transparent price and a system more aligned with patient needs.

Paula Muto, M.D., FACS

Andover, Mass.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the October 26, 2020, print edition.

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FDA opens private Covid vaccine meetings to the public in bid to gain trust as Trump pressures for fast approval

The FDA took the unusual step Thursday in opening to the public a routine meeting with an advisory group that’s weighing in on approving the coronavirus vaccine as the agency battles public concerns about its safety as well as political pressure from President Donald Trump to approve it before the Nov. 3 election.



a person in a blue shirt: A health worker injects a person during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida.


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A health worker injects a person during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, an outside group of researchers and physicians who are advising the Food and Drug Administration on whether to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, debated the standards needed to ensure a Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective in a meeting broadcast on YouTube and C-SPAN. Those are key questions among medical experts who worry the U.S. will approve a vaccine before it has been adequately tested.

Officials at the meeting Thursday said the public forum was “critical” to build public trust and confidence in the development of potential vaccines, which are being developed in record time. FDA officials promised that any vaccine would undergo rigorous testing before being distributed to the public.

“Vaccine development can be expedited. However, I want to stress that it cannot, and must not, be rushed,” said Dr. Marion Gruber, director of FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, adding the agency would not lower its standards.

Trump has pushed the FDA to approve a drug in time to distribute by the Nov. 3 election — a daunting task even his closest advisors have said is near impossible.

“I think we should have it before the election, but frankly the politics gets involved and that’s okay. They want to play their games, it’s going to be right after the election,” Trump said in a video he posted on Twitter on Oct. 7. “The FDA has acted as quickly as they’ve ever acted in history. There’s never been a time, and no president’s ever pushed them like I’ve pushed them either, to be honest.”

The agency is approving drugs “in a matter of weeks” that used to take years, he added.

Video: Dr. Patel on how the White House should be dealing with the virus outbreak: ‘This should go well beyond what’s standard’ (MSNBC)

Dr. Patel on how the White House should be dealing with the virus outbreak: ‘This should go well beyond what’s standard’

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Four drugmakers backed by the U.S. are still conducting their late-stage trials, and medical experts don’t expect to see trial data needed for FDA authorization until later this month at the earliest.

Because of the pandemic, U.S. health officials and researchers have been accelerating the development of vaccine candidates by investing in multiple stages of research even though doing so could be for naught if the vaccine ends up not being effective or safe.

The FDA, under pressure from the White House, has faced skepticism from medical experts that the vaccine approval

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OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma may settle legal claims with a new ‘public trust’ that would still be dedicated to profit

<span class="caption">Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen announced a settlement between the Justice Department and opioid maker Purdue on Oct. 21.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://newsroom.ap.org/detail/USOpioidCrisisPurduePharma/d69562dc33ef441d83f32833f91c4d57/photo?boardId=37be9465fcce45d283d5431cccb20a6a&st=boards&mediaType=audio,photo,video,graphic&sortBy=&dateRange=Anytime&totalCount=36&currentItemNo=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Yuri Gripas/Pool via AP">Yuri Gripas/Pool via AP</a></span>
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen announced a settlement between the Justice Department and opioid maker Purdue on Oct. 21. Yuri Gripas/Pool via AP

Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin and other potentially addictive prescription opioids, has agreed to plead guilty to three felony counts and reached a settlement potentially worth at least US$8.3 billion with the Justice Department.

The deal could clear the way for Purdue to transform from a profit-seeking privately held company into a public trust that serves the public good, as the company has proposed.

But the settlement is subject to the approval of the federal judge overseeing Purdue’s bankruptcy case. And it may not resolve the thousands of lawsuits Purdue faces for its role in creating the opioid crisis. Notably, the attorneys general from 25 states called on the government a week before the Justice Department announced the deal to simply force the sale of the drugmaker to a new owner instead.

I study the history of prescription drugs (and I have served as a paid consultant and expert witness in opioid litigation). Although there are some recent efforts to establish nonprofit drugmakers to help make certain pharmaceuticals more readily available, I know of no historical precedent for a big drugmaker like Purdue becoming a nonprofit public health provider.

But two similarly ambitious efforts to build alternatives to the profit-driven pharmaceutical model during and immediately after World War II suggest the potential limits of how well this arrangement might work.

Antibiotics

Penicillin was discovered in 1928 but did not come into use until World War II. It was the first antibiotic: a genuinely revolutionary class of drugs that vanquished previously incurable infectious illnesses.

Because of penicillin’s importance for the war effort, the federal government played an active role in its development. Federal scientists developed ways to mass-produce it, federal agencies persuaded reluctant pharmaceutical companies to manufacture it and the government’s “penicillin czar” decided which patients would receive the precious drug.

Despite the high stakes and the faith in centralized planning, no one at that time appears to have even considered the possibility of noncommercial or nonprofit development of antibiotics.

As was the case with wartime goods such as rubber and tanks, private companies with federal contracts made penicillin. As was also the case with other wartime goods, the arrangement was an unqualified success. It dramatically increased production, and allocated the antibiotic so as to best serve the war effort.

For penicillin, as with other goods, federal economic controls quickly faded after the war. As the medical historian Scott Podolsky has observed, drugmakers, freed from government restraints, unleashed an avalanche of brand-name antibiotics whose high-powered marketing campaigns encouraged the overuse and misuse of the new medicines.

Interestingly, the Sackler brothers got their start by selling antibiotics. The Sacklers, future owners of Purdue Pharma, were pioneers of medical advertising who abandoned earlier restraints and advised their sales representatives to see physicians as “prey.”

The Veterans Administration and the Public Health Service sought to keep

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Fitness classes for homeless people opens to public after charity founder bounces back from covid-19

Street Fit Scotland founder Michelle Reilly putting classes through their paces at the Meadows
Street Fit Scotland founder Michelle Reilly putting classes through their paces at the Meadows

Michelle Reilly, who set up Street Fit Scotland while working in a hostel in 2014, was floored by covid-19 then pleurisy for a month just after lockdown in March. The 37-year-old feared her health and fitness programme would go to the wall.But instead the charity, which runs free outdoor boot camps for rough sleepers and those living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, is ramping up its programme and launching a new running group – open to anyone in the Capital.Ms Reilly, who shared the stage with Dame Kelly Homes MBE at a wellbeing festival this year as the athlete talked about her battles with depression, has now been awarded £40,000 by NHS and ECC for two years.Over forty people are put through their paces every week at outdoor boot camps and online sessions led by Michelle and a range of coaches. The cash will mean SFS can support more people, including those recovering from addictions.Ms Reilly, who experienced homelessness as a teenager, was terrified when she struggled to get out of bed after getting the virus and a severe chest infection. But when she found out that two people in her group had attempted suicide during lockdown, she pushed herself to get back on her feet.She said: “I was so scared about what could happen to everyone if I wasn’t there. Lockdown was hard for the group. I had my phone on 24/7 on high suicide alert. If you’re stuck in a B&B it’s not always a positive place, we help get them out. We can’t just leave people to rot. Some people in hostels or temp accommodation are terrified, it can be chaotic.””People in the group have problems but Street Fit gives them access to something fun that they can do at their own pace and they don’t feel judged. They can come in feeling rubbish and leave buzzing,”The 37-year-old lost her younger brother and cousin to suicide and addiction. She said it hit her after lockdown that physical activity and the peer-led, group support was going to be even more vital in covid-19 times, especially for those already struggling with their mental health.”Two of the group tried to take their life during lockdown. It’s heart-breaking. My cousin was always in crisis and never had consistent support. That was one of the catalysts for me, to recognise there is not enough support for mental health.””Some of the group really struggled and some still are. They will feel like that again. I think we are going to see a big wave of mental health problems. What we are doing with outdoor boot camps, the online sessions and the new walking groups gives them a coping strategy. I can see it helping to build their resilience. Behaviour does change over time, given a chance. They are helping each other through hard times.”Members now get access to phone counselling and the charity has delivered tablets for everyone to make sure

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