Our Strength Lies in Our Humanity

Doctors as border police: what happened to ‘first, do no harm’?

Doctors as border police: what happened to ‘first, do no harm’? Not a doctor's domain. EQRoy/Shutterstock Building trust and acting in the patient’s best interests are guiding principles of medical practice. This is especially true when caring for vulnerable and marginalised people, such as undocumented migrants. They often delay going to the doctor and find it hard to discuss their problems, personal history and social situation. But some countries, including…

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ADHD: how race for the Moon revealed America’s first hyperactive children

ADHD: how race for the Moon revealed America’s first hyperactive children America's space race with Russia revealed an education system that was not up to the task, with many children diagnosed with ADHD. Shutterstock As the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, we can appreciate the numerous technological advances that have emerged through space exploration, ranging from artificial limbs and water purification systems, to satellite TV…

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Helping smokers quit: financial incentives work

Helping smokers quit: financial incentives work Bokeh Blur Background/Shutterstock Smoking kills one in two regular smokers, but quitting at any point in life leads to big improvements in health, increased life expectancy and savings in healthcare costs. That’s why we need a range of ways to help people quit – and new evidence shows that paying people to quit is one way to boost quit rates. Our recently updated Cochrane…

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Breastfeeding support cuts are leaving unpaid volunteers to fill the role of public health

Breastfeeding support cuts are leaving unpaid volunteers to fill the role of public health Anton Korobkov/Shutterstock Support plays a vital role in enabling women to breastfeed for longer. It helps solve many different challenges, stops physical and emotional pain, and helps women feel accepted as part of a community. Yet across the UK, many breastfeeding support services have been cut. Austerity is usually cited, with policymakers failing to see that…

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Record drug deaths in Scotland – a national scandal

Record drug deaths in Scotland – a national scandal Christopher Elwell/Shutterstock Every early death, like that of Karen McDade who died in Dundee aged 43, is a tragedy for that person and their family. Sadly, an increasing number of families in Scotland are affected by these tragedies. In 2018, 1,187 people died as a result of drugs. This is a record, up 27% compared with 2018, and in just a decade up 107% from 2008. Scotland’s drug death rate is now nearly three times that of the UK as a whole. Scottish ministers admit that it’s a public health emergency, but far too little is being done to save these lives. The loss of life, particularly among those aged between 35 and 55, is such that drug-related deaths are affecting…

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Salt: China’s deadly food habit

Salt: China’s deadly food habit HandmadePictures/Shutterstock People in China have used salt to prepare and preserve food for thousands of years. But consuming lots of salt raises blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack and stroke, now accounts for 40% of deaths in China. It is well known that salt consumption in China is high, but accurate assessments are scarce. Public health experts need robust estimates of salt intake to help them develop strategies to reduce this intake. An example of a promising strategy is replacing regular salt with potassium salt, which contains less sodium (which raises blood pressure) and more potassium (which lowers blood pressure). The most accurate way to measure salt intake is to measure the sodium excreted in urine over…

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Food system needs a revolution, not tinkering around edges by the ultra-processed producers

Food system needs a revolution, not tinkering around edges by the ultra-processed producers Altagracia Art/Shutterstock.com Eating ultra-processed food is definitely bad for you, a recent study has confirmed. In the experiment, people were fed either ultra-processed or unprocessed food, with meals matched precisely for calories, salt, sugar, fat and fibre. Those on ultra-processed food ate more and gained more weight within two weeks. This finding puts two torpedoes in the notion that “all calories are the same”. Recent studies have linked ultra-processed foods to obesity, cancer, heart disease and early death. Most foods need some level of processing, such as freezing or pasteurisation in order to prolong shelf life, food safety and commercial viability, but “ultra-processed” products have little or no intact “food” remaining. Rather, they are made principally from…

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Belly fat: gut bacteria checks could lead to personalised diets

Belly fat: gut bacteria checks could lead to personalised diets In the future, dietary advice will take our gut microbiome into account. SosnaRadosna/Shutterstock Rates of obesity are rising across the globe; a third of the world’s population is now overweight and nearly a fifth is obese. Public health policy has mainly focused on diet to reverse these rising rates, but the impact of these policies has been limited. The latest science suggests why this strategy is failing: one diet does not fit all. Dietary advice needs to be personalised. The reason one diet does not suit all may be found in our guts. Our previous research showed that microbes in the digestive track, known as the gut microbiota, are linked to the accumulation of belly fat. Our gut microbiota is…

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How the brain prepares for movement and actions

How the brain prepares for movement and actions To perform a sequence of actions, our brains need to prepare and queue them in the correct order. AYAakovlev/Shutterstock Our behaviour is largely tied to how well we control, organise and carry out movements in the correct order. Take writing, for example. If we didn’t make one stroke after another on a page, we would not be able to write a word. However, motor skills (single or sequences of actions which through practice become effortless) can become very difficult to learn and retrieve when neurological conditions disrupt the planning and control of sequential movements. When a person has a disorder – such as dyspraxia or stuttering – certain skills cannot be performed in a smooth and coordinated way. Traditionally scientists have believed…

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Asbestos in schools: what you need to know

Asbestos in schools: what you need to know shutterstock AndrewHeffernan/Shutterstock The Department for Education referred nearly 700 schools in England to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as they did not provide evidence that they were managing asbestos in line with regulatory requirements. Of the 29,000 schools in Britain, more than 75% contain asbestos. Asbestos, the so-called magic mineral, was introduced into building materials over 100 years ago because of its insulation and fire-retardant properties. Its use in buildings peaked in 1975. It was used to lag pipes and boilers, and it was used in walls and ceilings. But the mineral turned out to be a killer. Blue and brown asbestos were banned in the UK in 1984, and white asbestos was banned in 1999. When asbestos is damaged or…

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