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Posts Categorized / Current Affairs

  • Jan 27 / 2016
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Current Affairs, Louis Nerurkar

Science and Semantics: Focus on Immigration

Photo LA(PHOT) Jay Allen ©. Royal Navy Media Archive. Used with permission under Creative Commons license.

By Louis Nerurkar:

In recent months the media has repeatedly discussed the waves of “economic migrants” entering Europe as they attempt to flee from the conflicts that have displaced them. In this context the word economic is often used to imply that the decision to journey to the United Kingdom was taken with the sole purpose of acquiring increased income and exploiting the welfare systems that exist across much of Europe. Continue Reading

  • Nov 25 / 2015
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Current Affairs, David Blane

Time for a sugar tax?

Photo by Thomas Kelley ©. Unsplash. Used with permission.

By David Blane:

League tables are everywhere, and no-one wants to be bottom of the class.  In terms of health indicators, considerable efforts have been made across Scotland in recent years to shrug off the unfortunate title of “sick man of Europe”, but another dubious accolade is up for grabs.  With some of the worst obesity figures among OECD countries – almost two-thirds of adults and a third of children were considered to be overweight in 2013 [1] – Scotland is in danger of topping the chart as the “fat man of Europe”. Continue Reading

  • Nov 11 / 2015
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Current Affairs, Tiago Zortea

Eleanor Rigby, Loneliness, and Suicide

Photo by Joshua Earle ©. Unsplash. Used with permission.

By Tiago Zortea:

“Ah look at all the lonely people!
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?”

The thought provoking, sad, and very reflective Beatles’ song, Eleanor Rigby shocked me when I listened to it for the first time many years ago. For a teenager who was starting to understand how life works and how to navigate relationships, I found the song extremely thought provoking. Who wants to be lonely? Who wishes to have no bonds? Though the music expert Richie Unterberger suggests that Eleanor Rigby focuses on “the neglected concerns and fates of the elderly”, the song tells us about a human experience that can be devastating regardless of age: the constant feeling of being lonely. Continue Reading

  • Sep 10 / 2015
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Current Affairs, Tiago Zortea

Suicide Prevention: From Illness and Risk Factors, to Thoughts and Actions

Photo by Austin Ban ©. Unsplash. Used with permission.

 

By Tiago Zortea

As a PhD student carrying out research in suicidality, I am recurrently asked why people take their own lives. The thing is, there is not an obvious, quick, or complete answer. Suicide is a complex phenomenon, and it involves biological, psychological and social factors that interact with each other, and these interactions vary across cultures, genders, and ages. The main reason why researchers have been working so hard to understand it and to develop effective interventions is the fact that there is no time to lose when the aim is saving lives; equivalently, someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world [1]. Continue Reading

  • May 06 / 2015
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Current Affairs

IHAWKES election special part III: Professor Rory O’Connor

Have the major Scottish political parties prioritised mental health in their manifestos?

Although nearly half of all ill-health among people under 65 years of age is attributable to mental ill-health, it is estimated that only about a quarter of those with mental health problems are in treatment (Centre for Economic Performance, 2012).   In addition, a recent analysis has revealed the historic and chronic under-funding of mental health research in the UK (MQ Research, 2015). Add to this the rising rates of suicide in the UK; there are approximately 6,000 deaths each year, with more than three quarters of all suicide deaths accounted for by men (ONS, 2015). The personal costs of suicide are devastatingly clear but many people do not know that the economic burden of suicide is also vast. Continue Reading

  • May 06 / 2015
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Current Affairs

IHAWKES election special part II: Professor Andy Gumley

£1 doesn’t mean the same thing to all:

One remarkable moment in the electoral campaign was David Cameron’s reassurance to the UK public that the proposed Conservative budget cuts amounted to a £1 reduction for every £100 – something that every family or business could cope with. I guess in a society where the principle of equality is cherished and where policies are geared towards improving equality and minimizing inequality then such reassurances are well grounded.

Equality is related to better physical health, greater feelings of trust and lower levels of violence. Inequality measured by how much richer the top 20 percent than the bottom 20 percent is in each country, is related to increased rates of mental illness (r=0.73) and drug problems (r=0.63). Continue Reading

  • May 06 / 2015
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Current Affairs

IHAWKES election special part I: Professor Kate O’Donnell

Health and wellbeing – for some, but not others:

Watch the news – any news – and you may have noticed that there is an election this week! Key battlegrounds have been the NHS, migration, austerity and welfare. Of course, these all get intertwined. We are told by some parties that migrants are coming to the UK – indeed “flooding” the UK – to reap the benefits of our NHS. This, despite the fact that a report commissioned by the Department of Health found evidence of health tourism at best limited. On the other hand, the NHS depends on migrant workers across all professional groups, and may become increasingly reliant on overseas workers to meet the many pledges of increased staff made by parties of all colours.

Continue Reading

  • Nov 05 / 2014
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Current Affairs, Uduak Ntuk

Ebola is a global affair

By Uduak Ntuk:

The 2014 Ebola epidemic has compelled the world to see the fragility of the overall global health system. It is the worst Ebola epidemic to date with nearly 5,000 deaths reported in west Africa’s Liberia Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the death toll keeps rising1,2. Sporadic cases in Mali and the USA have also been recorded. The recent case fatalities in the United States and Spain sadly bring home the truth that viruses do not respect national territories and that ‘when danger lurks somewhere then there is danger everywhere’. It is thus imperative that in dealing with issues like this, prompt proactive global measures are taken.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is characterised by a constellation of signs and symptoms beginning with fever and progressing to diarrhea, vomiting and in a subgroup of patients, hemorrhage3. Human transmission of Ebola is through direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people and with surfaces and materials such as beddings, clothing contaminated with these fluids2.  In addition to its health impact on society, it has an overwhelming impact on the economies of the affected countries4.

Several research studies are underway to understand the clinical illness and epidemiological impact of Ebola. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)5 showed that in addition to clinical characteristics and demographic factors, age is an important determinant of disease mortality. Patients under 21 years have a lower case fatality rate than those over the age of 45 years. According to the WHO, trials of Ebola vaccines are to start in December this year following discussions at a high-level meeting on accelerating testing and production, with plans to dispense vaccines in 20156. This decision comes amid a growing realisation that vaccines could play an important part in halting the current epidemic in West Africa.

There is hope that the fight against Ebola can be won. First Senegal and then Nigeria have been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation1. As a Nigerian I feel proud to hear such compliments. Apart from the global respect Nigeria has won for herself in fighting Ebola, it also shows the brave leadership, commitment to ingenuity, courage and sacrifice in the line of duty of the Nigerian people. Such success helps to overcome criticisms of corruption and incompetence that West African governments are often labelled with. But the fight against Ebola in Nigeria wasn’t won with conferences or public relations talks; it took massive efforts to quarantine those infected, and monitor all of their contacts, until the spread of the virus was contained. What then are the other West African countries not doing right to combat Ebola? Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have very weak health systems, lacking human and infrastructural resources and call for support has been given high priority.

The bulk of the human and financial resources being deployed across the epicentre of this outbreak come from Western nations and very few resources have been deployed from sister African countries, which is very disheartening.

The recent issue of whether to quarantine health care workers, returning to their home countries has also been a topic of huge debate. From a public health perspective, the idea of placing primary contacts under relaxed medical surveillance that depends on self-reporting and individual cooperation may comply with respect for individual rights but it appears to be difficult to manage. Perhaps it may be necessary to still adhere strictly to full quarantine even in instances where the primary contacts of index cases are minimal and manageable, and Individuals may be encouraged with different forms of incentives and remuneration for them for the period of their confinement. This may turn out to be be far cheaper and easier than frantically searching for contacts, such as passengers on flights, when a primary contact breaks self surveillance.

How do you think we can handle quarantine in a different way?  Do you think treatment given to health care workers with primary contact with cases is an infringement of their human rights?  I would love to hear your opinion!

References:

  1. World Health Organisation. Ebola response roadmap situation report. Available from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/137424/1/roadmapsitrep_31Oct2014_eng.pdf?ua=1 .Accessed 4 November 2014
  2. Breman JG, Johnson KM. Ebola Then and Now. N Engl J Med 2014; 371:1663-1666.DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1410540
  3. World Health Organisation. Ebola virus disearse. Available from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/. Accessed 29 October, 2014
  4. BBC . Ebola crisis: The economic impact. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28865434. Accessed 27 October, 2014
  5. Schieffelin JS, Jeffery GS, Goba A, Gbakie M, Gire SK, Colubri A , et al . Clinical illness and outcome in patients with Ebola in Sierra Leone. N Engl J Med; October 29, 2014. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1411680
  6. World Health Organisation. WHO convenes industry leaders and key partners to discuss trials and production of Ebola vaccine. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/ebola-vaccines-production/en/. Accessed 29 October, 2014.
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