1 September – 28 September 2012

Highlights: 22-28 September 2012

Anne Mills on Voice of America on the fall in funding for maternal and child health: “If that continues into the future, then I certainly think it’s of major concern.  Ultimately that may have an impact in terms of maternal deaths, neo-natal deaths and child deaths.”

Max Perutz Science Writing Award special in the Metro featuring 2012 award winner Andrew Bastawrous for his essay “Studying blindness – There’s an app for that”: “Then it dawned on me… I use my smartphone for everything nowadays… This has led me to develop a set of gadgets and applications making it possible to use a modified smartphone (I call it the “Eye Phone”) to measure someone’s vision, check their refractive error, take photos of the back of the eye for diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, macula degeneration and glaucoma and check for the presence of a cataract.”

Martin Gorsky on BBC Four Timeshift discussing health before the NHS: “Doctors would decide where to practice on the basis of where they thought they could get the best custom. What that meant in effect was that there were some parts of the country where the availability, the access to practitioners and to specialist care was actually much better than in other parts of the country. People have counted there was something like a six-fold variation between towns in Britain.” (At 16m & 19m30s)

Alan Dangour in Scientific American on the health benefits of fish oil supplements: “We have no evidence from populations whose dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids may be low and who may therefore benefit from supplementation.” Also in Nature.

Jo Lines and Jennifer Stevenson in New Scientist explaining the discovery of a new malaria-transmitting mosquito in Kenya: “The more we suppress the mosquitoes we know, the more we reveal the rare ones that were always there in the background.” Also in The Lancet.

Jennifer Stevenson Thought Leader feature in News Medical following discovery of a new mosquito species: “Not only our study, but other studies from East and West Africa, have shown that some malaria-transmitting mosquitoes are displaying outdoor behaviour, i.e. they are resting or they are feeding outdoors. So, if outdoor transmission in shown to be of significance, it may be advisable to use a mix of interventions.” 

Highlights: 15-21 September 2012

Jennifer Stevenson, Chris Drakeley and Jo Lines speak to Reuters about the discovery of a new malaria-transmitting mosquito in Kenya: “The findings are interesting and serve to highlight the fact that in certain ecological scenarios the mosquito will evolve or will have different methods of avoiding control. While we think this is an important discovery, we really don’t know the true impact yet.” Also covered by Independent on Sunday, Reuters AlertNet, BBC World Service Newsday (Chris Drakeley at 45m), BBC World Service Newsday (Jennifer Stevenson at 1h19m), BBC Science in Action, SABC and over 45 other titles worldwide.

James Logan on BBC Breakfast explaining the reported rise in mosquito numbers due to wet weather in the UK.

James Logan on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours discussing the rise in bed bug numbers in the UK: “One of the problems in this country is there is no real scientific survey [to monitor bed bug numbers] but anecdotally I get people ringing me up all the time saying that they think they have bed bugs. We work very closely with pest control companies and they certainly inform us that have more requests for getting rid of bed bugs.”  

Ian Roberts in the New York Times on manga as a medical tool: “Bearing in mind that emergency docs have little time and lots of testosterone,” he said, “I have prepared a manga comic that contains the main research findings but in the context of an exciting emergency department drama (romance is included).” Also featured in Times Higher Education campus round-up.

Ian Roberts News Medical thought leader profile for his work on tranexamic acid and using creative methods to educate health care professionals: “We’ve done all the things that we were expected to do such as publish in medical journals. But what we were determined to do, because the treatment can obviously save lives, is to go a little bit further than that. So we made films, songs, cartoons and little animations. We’ve tried to be more innovative than traditional methods.”

Heidi Larson in the New York Times on how the internet can influence immunisation programmes around the world: “With the Internet, you can have one cranky corner of Kentucky ending up influencing Indonesia.”

Kara Hanson speaks to NPR about the evaluation of the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria program: “It is quite astonishing that we have seen the changes we saw despite the short period.[The Global Fund should] continue to explore ways to improve the program.”

Anne Mills and Justine Hsu in the Guardian on new research showing funding for maternal and child health has stalled: “This is the first time that we have seen a slight decrease, of 0.5%. It is a very slight decrease, but it equates to $32m…this could have devastating effects on the health – and survival – of millions of women and children worldwide.” Also covered by Voice of America.

Peter Piot on BBC Health Check discussing the response to virus outbreaks following recent cases of ebola and hanatvirus: “We’ve become a global village. A new virus that emerges in China or California or Brazil, tomorrow it can be a problem for anywhere in the world because of travel and because of the way viruses transmitted – particularly with a new virus when we don’t have a clue how to diagnose it in the beginning.”

Peter Piot in the Huffington Post on learning from AIDS and responding to non-communicable diseases: “NCDs are a time bomb. If left unaddressed, they will lead to more death, disability and the implosion of already overburdened health systems in developing countries at huge cost to individuals, families, businesses and society. Like AIDS, NCDs are a problem for rich and poor countries alike, but the poor suffer the most.”

Richard Smith in a Science podcast on the economics of preventing non-communicable diseases: “When we’re talking about prevention of non-communicable diseases we’re really talking about changes in how we are going to live – what we’re eating and drinking, what transport we’re taking and leisure time. Those are clearly going to have implications for the economy…but the problem is we don’t really know what industry or country is going to be affected by what sort of policy, and whether that will be positive or negative.”  

Open House preview in the Londonist and Time Out.

Highlights:  8-14 September 2012

Ruth McNerney on BBC Horizon discussing TB and the spread of drug-resistant bacteria: “We’re now seeing the emergence of strains of TB that are resistant to the drugs and that’s becoming quite a serious problem. One of the issues is that we don’t know how much drug resistance there is because it’s actually quite difficult to measure. It could arrive tomorrow on an aeroplane. It could already be here. We don’t know. We need to be completely on our guard.”

Ian Roberts speaks to Science Omega to explain why he launched a comic to raise awareness of new tranexamic acid research published in BMJ: “Traditionally, when we present scientific research, we strip away all of the emotion. Research findings are very effective at identifying the truth, but they don’t make the truth memorable. This is the problem that we are trying to address.” Also covered by Graphic Medicine and over 30 other science and medical news websites.

Guardian Science Weekly podcast with Anna Goodman to discuss the ‘mystery solving’ work of a social epidemiologist, from cycling to evolution: “One of my big interests is the intersection between public health and environmental sustainability – I think they’re both key issues for the 21st century and they have a lot of overlap.”  From 32m 50s.

Vikram Patel in the Deccan Herald discussing a new centre for mental health in India: “Compared to developed nations, the treatment gap in Indian cities is 50 per cent but it goes up to 90 per cent in rural India where abuse of human rights are also very common.”

Neil Pearce in International Innovation discussing the launch of the LSHTM Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases: “Often there is a lot of talk and not much action, particularly when universities are involved! However, what our launch demonstrated is that there is a lot of action happening already; but sometimes the right arm doesn’t know what the left arm is doing. We can help solve this by providing a forum. Moreover, simply by creating the Centre, we’re finding out about lots of issues within global NCD research and policy that we can comment on or contribute to.” Feature on pages 73-75.

Val Curtis on SAfm explaining the importance of hand washing to health: “We found nearly half of all cases of diarrheal infections can be prevented by hand washing with soap and it could also prevent nearly a third of all respiratory infections. It turns out that hand washing is a very powerful weapon in the battle for public health.”

Highlights:  1-7 September 2012

Alan Dangour in the Telegraph commenting on new research on the nutritional benefits of organic food: “Consumers select organic foods for a variety of reasons, however this latest review identifies that at present there are no convincing differences between organic and conventional foods in nutrient content or health-benefits.” Also covered by BBC News, Daily Express and over 70 titles worldwide from Singapore to Switzerland.

James Logan in Metro on the hotter climate causing an increase of West Nile virus in the US: “The disease flares up in the USA every year when mosquito populations increase with warmer weather. This year there appears to be more cases than in recent years but the reason for this is not really known, although it could be associated with weather.”

Alison Grant speaks to BBC News about vitamin D helping the body to fight TB infections: “Drug-resistant TB is an increasing concern world-wide and so new treatments to reduce the length of TB treatment would be very welcome. Vitamin D supplements are often given to patients who are short of vitamin D and these low doses are generally very safe… I think we would need larger studies to be confident that there were no negative effects of this higher dose.”

Ruth McNerney discusses the challenges of detecting and treating tuberculosis in a Chemistry World podcast: “We’ve got two problems. One is a lot of the people we don’t detect – some people don’t realise they’re sick…The other problem is if they’ve got drug-resistant TB, we put them on the drugs and they don’t get better and continue to transmit.” Interview at 7m 38s.
Anne Mills discusses universal health coverage in The Lancet: “There needs to be much greater thought on how WHO can support country efforts…the worst possible outcome is that universal health coverage is yet another slogan that is here today and gone tomorrow”.

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