14 – 20 March 2019

Julian Eaton speaks to The Economist (£/register) about what disasters can reveal about mental health care. Julian said: “We used to assume that people need professional counselling but it turned out this was not so. Most people got better with simple, appropriate help that anyone could provide. Known as ‘psychological first aid’ it is something that can be taught in a matter of hours.”

The article also talks about Dixon Chibanda’s Friendship Bench.

Heidi Larson is featured in The Guardian, for an article exploring how the anti-vaccine movement is increasingly targeting cities, therefore creating disease ‘hotspots’. Heidi said: “Cities often have more transient populations – with people coming and going and sometimes bringing infectious diseases with them, which can spread among unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated travellers can also contract infectious diseases from local populations and carry them to other places.”

Heidi also speaks to the BMJ about overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

Peter Piot delivered a lecture at the University of Hyderabad (India) on ‘100 years after the Spanish Flu: Are we ready for the next epidemic? During the lecture, Peter spoke about the need to develop robust public health systems with efficient diagnostic capabilities, for better control of epidemics. Peter also said that early detection of epidemics will be possible with better surveillance and use of artificial intelligence. The lecture was reported in The New Indian Express and The Hindu Business Line.

Sian Clarke is interviewed by BBC World Service History Hour (9m 40s in), talking about China’s ground-breaking work tackling malaria. Sian said:Artemisinin really was a world-changing discovery. At the time of the discovery we were seeing a doubling in deaths and in some cases an elevenfold increase in malaria deaths in West Africa.”

Chris Drakeley provides expert comment on a new study, which finds that mass administration of an anti-worm drug can lead to a reduction in cases of malaria, particularly in children. Chris said: “This research demonstrates a novel methodology for the control and elimination of malaria by giving drugs to humans to target feeding mosquitoes. Practically there would be a number of logistical hurdles to investigate before this approach could be implemented.”

The expert comment was covered by The Telegraph, The Independent and Thomson Reuters Foundation.

John Kelly speaks to The Telegraph about Chagas disease, after new research found that patients could be cured with a two-week course of drugs instead of the current 60-day regimen. John said: “One of the biggest drawbacks of the current treatment regime is the toxicity associated with benznidazole. It is a long treatment period and it has been a real downer getting patients to comply. This new research shows that it should be feasible to reduce the treatment.”

Beate Kampmann’s recent research mapping the developmental pathway of a newborn’s life is covered by The Guardian. Beate said: “The first few days of life is a time of rapid biological change, as babies adapt to living outside their mother’s womb, in a world exposed to bacteria and viruses. Yet surprisingly little is known about these changes at a molecular level.”

Val Curtis is quoted in National Geographic about how humans are programmed to avoid things that can cause illness, as they explore how rats are now an inescapable part of city living. Val said: “Rats are considered disgusting in nearly every human culture—and it’s probably not just the tail. We are preprogrammed to learn to avoid things that make us sick in the same way we are programmed to find saber-tooth tigers scary.”

Martin McKee speaks to The Sun for a piece about the increasing use of e-cigarettes. Martin said: “While the number of adolescents currently using e-cigarettes is still considerably lower in the UK than in the USA, it must surely be concerning that the rates are increasing so rapidly.”

Rachel Lowe and Hannah Kuper are quoted in a Lancet feature (registration needed) that explores living with the consequences of Zika. Rachel said: “It’s a huge pressure on the individual, when it’s really a public problem  of improving infrastructure, especially in low-income neighbourhoods that lack services.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight is from the LSHTM twitter account, which posted a tweet on 15 March to celebrate John Snow’s birthday.

Tuberculosis: Health Policy and Systems Research

By Mishal Khan (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)

This is the first World Tuberculosis (TB) Day since high-level UN General Assembly meeting on TB in September 2018. Strong commitments were made by political leaders and hopes are high. Enthusiasm for a revolutionary shift in tackling infectious diseases often results in a focus on breakthroughs in basic science, and experts have emphasised that applied health policy and systems research is also urgently needed to define affordable and effective intervention strategies and to provide a strong evidence-base to guide investments that maximise health gains with rational use of funds. Indeed, health policy and systems research on TB is lacking – Health Policy and Planning receives relative few submissions on TB, even though this is the leading cause of death from any infectious disease – and we therefore seek to make existing research in our journal easily and freely available. Platforms such as the LSHTM TB Centre seek to catalyse more collaborative research and exchange of knowledge between TB researchers representing diverse disciplinary perspectives. The joint LSHTM-UCL annual World TB Day event, which also links in USCF, is an important opportunity for exchange of ideas across disciplines and institutions. It is envisaged that such efforts which facilitate much needed future research that situates strategies to tackle TB within health systems strengthening and engages with the complex risk factors for TB, including poverty, migration, food insecurity, and conflict.

Tuberculosis: Health Policy and Systems Research

Tuberculosis is now the leading cause of death from an infectious disease. In support of World TB Day, this collection of articles from Health Policy and Planning specially curated by Section Editor Dr Mishal Khan, give a comprehensive view of the wider debate on TB control.

The role of the Technical Review Panel of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: an analysis of grant recommendations
Guido Schmidt-Traub

Treatment of tuberculosis in complex emergencies in developing countries: a scoping review
Geraldine Munn-Mace, Divya Parmar 

Costing essential services package provided by a non-governmental organization network in Bangladesh
Wu Zeng, Yara A Halasa, Marion Cros, et al.

Migrant tuberculosis patient needs and health system response along the Thailand–Myanmar border
Naomi Tschirhart, Francois Nosten, Angel M Foster

Reducing stock-outs of essential tuberculosis medicines: a system dynamics modelling approach to supply chain management
L Bam, ZM McLaren, E Coetzee, KH von Leipzig

Evidence to inform resource allocation for tuberculosis control in Myanmar: a systematic review based on the SYSRA framework
Mishal S Khan, Sara U Schwanke Khilji, Saw Saw, et al.

Does treatment collection and observation each day keep the patient away? An analysis of the determinants of adherence among patients with Tuberculosis in South Africa
Stephen Birch, Veloshnee Govender, Jana Fried, et al.

The challenge of sustaining effectiveness over time: the case of the global network to stop tuberculosis
Kathryn Quissell, Gill Walt

Additional Resources

Water for all – World Water Day 2019

World Water Day, 22nd March, focuses on the billions of people living without safe water and asks why marginalised groups are overlooked when water is essential for everyone.

The theme for this year’s UN campaign is “Leaving no one behind“.

Books about water in LSHTM Library are shelved around classification SEZY and can be found on the east wall of the main Reading Room.

Equality in Water and Sanitation ServicesEquality in water and sanitation services” edited by Oliver Cumming and Tom Slaymaker. (Abingdon : Earthscan /Routledge, 2018)

Classmark: SEZY 2018

For policy-makers and practitioners interested in reducing inequalities in access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Examines the background to the human right to water and development goals; dimensions of inequality; case studies in delivering water and sanitation equitably; and monitoring progress in reducing inequality.

Routledge Handbook of Water and HealthRoutledge handbook of water and health” edited by Jamie Bartram. (London : Earthscan /Routledge, 2015)

Classmark: SEZY 2015

Current information on global water and health from a team of expert authors from around the world. Covers water-related hazards; sources of contamination; interventions to reduce exposure; influences such as climate change/ poverty/ disasters/ conflict; policies and their implementation; and historic cases.

Environmental Health Engineering in the TropicsEnvironmental health engineering in the tropics : water, sanitation and disease control” by Sandy Cairncross and Sir Richard Feachem. (Abingdon : Routledge, 2019)

Classmark: SJ 2019

Describes environmental interventions involving domestic water supplies and improved waste disposal taken against infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, gut worms, schistosomiasis, malaria, filariasis and other mosquito-borne infections.

Sandy Cairncross is Professor of Environmental Health at LSHTM.

Resisting Reform - Water Profits and Democracy“Resisting reform? Water profits and democracy” by Kshithij Urs and Richard Whittell.  (New Delhi : Sage, 2009)

Classmark: SEZY 2009

Looks at the treatment of water as a commodity to be bought and sold in the context of Bangalore, where attempts to reform the control of water involved letting private companies run the supply for profit. Instead of ensuring more equitable access to water services, many found their access became much worse resulting in widespread opposition to the reforms.

Water Supply and Sanitation Services for the Rural PoorWater Supply and Sanitation Services for the Rural Poor: The Gram Vikas Experience” by Pamela Keirns (Rugby : Practical Action Publishing, 2008)

Classmark: SEZY.03 2008

Gram Vikas, a non-government organization working in one of the poorest states of India, engaged with villages providing water and sanitation for every house in return for labour and a percentage of the costs, resulting in improved health, education and livelihoods.

Water and Health in an Overcrowded WorldWater and health in an overcrowded world” edited by Tim Halliday and Basiro Davey (Oxford : OUP, 2007)

Classmark: SEZY.03 2007

Raises questions about the ways in which an increasing competition for water for irrigation, drinking and industry affects living environments and thus human health, disease and disability.

Top image from UN World Water Day 2019

Book cover images from Amazon.co.uk.

JIAS – Call for Papers on Data-driven HIV prevention

Data-driven HIV prevention: the HIV prevention cascade and beyond

Deadline: 15 July 2019

This is a call for papers for a special issue of the Journal of the International AIDS Society (JIAS) on Data-driven HIV prevention: the HIV prevention cascade and beyond to be published in conjunction with AIDS 2020.

For more details, see https://www.iasociety.org/Web/WebContent/File/JIAS_HIVPreventionCascade_CallforPapers.pdf 

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07 – 13 March 2019

Dan Bausch is quoted in The New York Times for an article about why responding to the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also involves tackling distrust, fear and alienated communities. Dan said: “The epidemic continues to smolder, and could still flare more dangerously – I don’t think we should be complacent. I don’t want to be alarmist, either, but one unlucky event can change everything.”

David Heymann contributes to a Nature article about how increasing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is hampering efforts to stamp out the virus. David said: “Leaders of armed groups in the region might use an emergency declaration as leverage to negotiate for territory, resources or power, in exchange for allowing Ebola responders to do their jobs. Infectious agents can be held hostage.”

Liam Smeeth provides expert comment to The Telegraph about prescribing medication for high blood pressure, after new draft guidance from NICE recommended that one million adults with stage one symptoms should be offered medication. Liam said: “The thresholds to decide who should get the drugs are somewhat arbitrary. It would be more rational to base decisions entirely on overall risk of heart disease.”

Heidi Larson talks to Devex about vaccination programmes, for a piece asking what is next in the fight against Lassa fever? Heidi said: “When you launch a vaccination campaign, communities already have their own approach to health care and we need to understand this because, in a sense, we are trying to displace it.”

Anthony Scott speaks to SciDevNet about the huge impact of the PCV vaccine on cases of pneumonia in Kenya. Anthony said: “The study shows that there is considerable improvement in child health associated with the implementation of a PCV10 programme, providing important evidence for policymakers in Africa as they confront the challenge of sustaining immunisation programmes independently.”

Rebecca French speaks to The Guardian about why the oral contraceptive pill remains the most popular choice of contraception in England. Rebecca said: “You have GPs that may not be incentivised to provide a full range of contraceptives and you are getting pressures on sexual health services. Therefore, women may not be getting the long acting reversible contraceptives that route particularly if there are waiting times.”

New LSHTM-led research features in Medical Xpress. The research maps for the first time, the developmental pathway of a newborn’s life. Beate Kampmann said: “Knowledge about key developmental processes during our earliest days remains sparse, but this study plugs some of those crucial gaps. This work is particularly important for vaccine research.”

Martin McKee and Lucinda Haim write an opinion piece for the BMJ about the deepening health crisis in the UK, calling for society-wide political intervention to help tackle it. They write “Urgent action is needed to halt the growing number of deaths in the UK. Without an urgent and deliberate change of course, statistics will likely to continue to worsen. And these statistics represent human lives.”

Adam Kucharski co-authors a blog for BioMed Central about how real-time modelling and forecasting helped to inform the response to a diphtheria outbreak at the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh.

On social media

This week’s social media highlight is a World Book Day tweet from the LSHTM Twitter account. The first textbook on epidemiology was published in 1935 by Major Greenwood who joined the school as our first Professor of Epidemiology & Vital Statistics in 1927.