It’s been a bumper year for media coverage at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. These are the top 10 highlights from 2013.
March: John Snow bicentenary
The School celebrated the bicentenary of the birth of medical detective John Snow – who traced the source of a deadly cholera outbreak in 1850s London to a water pump in Soho – with a series of events and a public exhibition, Cartographies of Life & Death: John Snow & Disease Mapping, which included historical items and newly commissioned artworks. Chris Grundy, Professor Paul Fine and Dr Ros Stanwell-Smith gave interviews about the history of Snow and the School’s current work in epidemiology and mapping. Coverage included large features in the Times and Times Higher Education, interviews on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and Material World, a review in the Lancet, a feature on ABC Radio and the Guardian, articles in Culture 24 and The Journal of Wild Culture, as well as widespread London coverage on ITV London News, Evening Standard, Time Out, Londonist and West End Extra.
Dr James Logan’s study showed for the first time that female mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites are significantly more attracted to human odour than uninfected mosquitoes. Working closely with the BBC in advance of publication of the findings in PLOS ONE led to in-depth coverage on BBC News, and interviews on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC World Service and BBC Mundo. BBC World Health Check hosted their monthly TV show from the School in May, including an extended feature on the research. Associated Press also covered the story in a news video and print feature, which was syndicated around the world and led to another spike in coverage. In total the story led to over 625 pieces of worldwide coverage, including New Scientist, CNN, Washington Post, Time, Scotsman, Huffington Post, Times of India and the Financial Times.
New research led by Professor Bob Carpenter found that the risk of cot death among breastfed babies under 3 months increased with bed sharing, even when the parents did not smoke and the mother had not consumed alcohol or drugs. The publication of the findings in BMJ was covered on the front page of the Telegraph and interviews on BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 4 PM, BBC Radio 5 Live, Sky News, BBC Radio London and ITV News. The story was also covered in over 450 other publications including BBC News online, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Express, BBC Radio 1, Evening Standard, Independent, Metro, and the Daily Star. The media reported that in the light of the research, the government had asked NICE to urgently examine its guidelines on co-sleeping.
June: Violence against women
The School launched a joint report with the World Health Organization and South African Medical Research Council looking at the global prevalence of violence against women, which found that more than a third of women worldwide will experience either intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime. Professor Charlotte Watts, Dr Karen Devries and Dr Heidi Stöckl gave numerous interviews and the story generated over 1,550 pieces of media coverage around the world including Associated Press, Reuters, Huffington Post, BBC News, Guardian, Daily Mail, ABC News, Washington Post, New York Times, Globe and Mail, Le Figaro, Spiegel, Times of India, Xinhua News, The Conversation, Le Vif, Irish Times and Voice of Russia.
July: Heatwave deaths
The Times asked Professor Ben Armstrong to calculate the estimated number of premature deaths that could be attributed to the heatwave taking place in England. Using a model from research published in 2011, it was calculated that 650 premature deaths were attributable to heat in England from 6-14 July 2013. The Times ran the findings as their lead front page story, which generated huge amounts of interest from other media outlets, including Reuters, Daily Mail, Sky News, Independent, BBC News, Mirror, Express, Huffington Post, Times of India, New Tang Dynasty Television, Terra, China Central Television, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, as well as interviews on BBC News Channel, BBC Radio 5 Live, Voice of Russia and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The development of a portable eye examination kit, also known as Peek, that could revolutionise the prevention of blindness in low-income countries was covered exclusively by the BBC. A video package aired on BBC Breakfast, BBC World News TV, BBC News channel and CBBC Newsround, and the team, including Dr Andrew Bastawrous and Dr Matthew Burton, were interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC 5 Live, BBC Swahili TV, BBC Radio London, BBC Wales and numerous other local BBC radio stations. The worldwide BBC coverage generated a huge amount of interest in the project, and led to more than 150 further pieces of coverage including Reuters, Sky News, Voice of America, Canadian Broadcast Company and eNews Channel Africa.
October: Malaria vaccine results
Malaria experts from the School, including Professor Eleanor Riley and Professor Sir Brian Greenwood, commented on the latest findings from the RTS,S phase III clinical trial, which found that the vaccine almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children and reduced by around a quarter the malaria cases in infants after 18 months of follow-up. This led to more than 140 pieces of coverage, including interviews on Sky News BBC World News TV, BBC World Service Newsday and Channel 5 News, and articles from Press Association, Daily Telegraph, Mirror, Metro, Daily Mail, Economist and New Scientist.
October: Medical tourism and the NHS
Research led by the School’s Dr Johanna Hanefeld, published in PLOS ONE, suggested that foreign patients coming to the UK for private medical treatment are a lucrative source of income for the NHS, and that more UK residents currently travel abroad for treatment than international patients travel to the UK for private or NHS treatment. The research turned the recent high-profile debates over health tourism on their head. The Independent led with the story on its front page, and it was also covered by the Guardian and Financial Times, Observer and Independent editorials, ITV’s Daybreak, Huffington Post, City AM, Pulse, and numerous political and medical online new sites.
Results from the largest scientific study of sexual health and lifestyles in Britain, led by the School in partnership with University College London (UCL) and NatCen Social Research, were published in a special Lancet series. Over 15,000 adults aged 16-74 participated in interviews and the findings revealed how sexual attitudes and behaviours have changed over the last 10 years. The study generated over 800 pieces of media coverage and was splashed across the front pages of the Times, Telegraph, Independent, Daily Mail and the i newspaper. Prof Kaye Wellings, Wendy MacDowall and Dr Kirstin Mitchell were interviewed on programmes including BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Woman’s Hour, Sky News, BBC World TV, Channel 5 NewsTalk, BBC Radio London, BBC Radio Sussex, BBC Radio Northampton, Voice of Russia, and commercial radio stations across the UK. Other key coverage included three articles in the Guardian (here, here & here), two articles on BBC News online (here – was most read on BBC website & here) further coverage in the Daily Mail and the Times, Metro, Sun, Express, Mirror, Evening Standard, Huffington Post (here & here), Reuters, Bloomberg, Daily Star, Channel 4 News, Sky News, The Conversation UK, New Scientist and DIVA magazine. There were comment pieces from School researchers in the Guardian, Huffington Post and New Statesman, and Kaye Wellings was profiled in the Lancet. The research also led to numerous comment pieces in the media, with writers discussing the findings and their implications.
January – December: UK Flusurvey
Throughout flu season 2012/13, the ongoing release of findings from UK’s biggest crowd-sourced study of influenza led to more than 300 pieces of coverage, including the Financial Times, Daily Mail, Guardian and Voice of Russia. Dr Alma Adler and Dr Ken Eames’ appearance at Cheltenham Science Festival in June to discuss Flusurvey appeared in the Daily Mail, Independent, Telegraph and numerous other titles. The 2013/14 Flusurvey launch in November coincided with the release of new findings from last year and highlighted the School’s partnership with the British Science Association to run a mass participation project for budding epidemiologists in classrooms across the UK as part of National Science & Engineering Week, March 2014. The launch led to interviews on BBC Breakfast, BBC News online, CBBC Newsround, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio London and several other local BBC radio stations, as well an article in the Daily Mail.