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Showing posts from July, 2018

Doctors say Brexit bad for the NHS

With the persistent underfunding of the National Health Service,  crippling 'efficiency savings' and increased pressure on doctors, nurses and other health care workers, it is little surprise that the doctors in the UK have shifted in the political spectrum.  A new study finds that a once generally 'Conservative' profession has now become more leftwing.

The survey published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health finds that British doctors are now mostly left-leaning and liberal minded...except for surgeons and high earners.

UK doctors think Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), dubbed Brexit, will be very bad for the NHS.



As a group, they are predominantly left-wing and liberal-minded. But high earners tend to lean more to the right of the political spectrum, while surgeons are twice as likely as other specialties to express right-wing views.

When respondents rated their political beliefs on a scale of 0 (extremely left wing) to 10 (extreme…

Time to ban organophosphate pesticides?

How would you react if your neighbour told you he was going to spray his garden with a neurotoxin used in WW2? "Oh don't worry!" he assures you, "it's only a low dose!"
"A neurotoxin?" you ask incredulously "Are you crazy?"
"It's very effective!" he asserts.
"How does it work?" you ask.
"It stops the pests' brains working" he asserts with a smile.  "Everyone uses it."
"But..."

Campaigners in the USA hope that with Scott Pruitt’s resignation, and with a new administrator Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this presents another chance to apply pressure and achieve a national ban in the United States on the organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos once and for all.



Organophosphate insecticides, such as diazinon, chlorpyrifos, disulfoton, azinphos-methyl, and fonofos, have been used widely in agriculture and in household applications as pesticides si…

Are late-night meals affecting our health?

Is your late night meal delivering cancer on a plate? Are late night meals affecting your health?  A new study suggests timing of late night meals is linked to cancer risk.
Modern lifestyles have profoundly changed our eating habits. Our food consumption is now often out of step with our circadian rhythms.

We eat to fit into our busy lifestyles, rather than adjusting our lives to our eating needs.  How many of us have late night meals and go to bed soon after eating? 
A body of evidence now suggests that this mismatch,  or 'mistiming',  can  profoundly affect our health.
Lifestyles driving eating habits.  Experimental and epidemiological evidence shows that long term disruption of endogenous circadian rhythms, in particular due to exposure to light at night, may be associated with a wide range of common diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Now this new study provides some evidence to show that this extends to our night-time eating…

Exporting carbon emissions

The UK, we are told, leads the world in tackling climate change. Since 1990 the UK has  cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two-thirds. Unfortunately, this hides a bleaker reality.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May boasts that the UK has "the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation."  She may be right, but... Yes, there is a 'but', and it is a very a big 'but'.  The UK hits its targets by exporting its pollution.
Exporting environmental pollution The UK reliance on imports is simply exporting our environmental pollution. Our cheap food comes at a great environmental cost.   Our consumption goes on killing the planet.


In a globalised world, the demand for food is increasingly met by resources outside a given country’s own territory.  Currently, almost a quarter of all food produced for human consumption is traded internationally.  This is good news for the global food market and the big con…

Harnessing artificial intelligence for the health of all

Imagine! Imagine if the greatest medical knowledge and expertise could be harnessed for the wellbeing of all, regardless of their location.  Imagine if we could harness expertise in cancer diagnosis and treatments, even in remote rural areas of Africa.  Imagine the possibilities.

One of the greatest barriers to health care is access to expert diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, but what if AI could be used to breakdown this barrier?  Even in the remotest areas there is often access to mobile phone technology.  Could this be harnessed to for the benefit of those who live in these areas.  Could AI be harnessed to ease the ever increasing demands on stretched human medical resources? 
Two United Nations specialist agencies are joining forces to expand the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the health sector to a global scale, and to 'leverage the power' of AI to advance health for all worldwide.
Creating a standards framework The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) an…

The unmet 'financial toxicity' of cancer

In addition to facing new concerns about their health, individuals who are diagnosed with cancer often worry about the financial burdens of treatment. A new study in the USA indicates that many patients feel that such ‘financial toxicity’ is not adequately addressed by their doctors and other clinicians. The findings are published online in  CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
Growing awareness of financial difficulties There is growing awareness that cancer diagnosis and treatment can create financial difficulties even for patients with health insurance, but it is unclear whether patients today are being helped by their doctors or staff with these challenges. To investigate, Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her colleagues surveyed patients with early-stage breast cancer and their physicians: 2502 patients, 370 surgeons, 306 medical oncologists, and 169 radiation oncologists.

Half of responding medical oncologists repo…

Whose the daddy Gorilla?

With television shows  emotionally uniting children with their long-lost 'real fathers', paternity clearly matters to us humans. Many species show discrimination in rearing their own offspring.  But, it appears not to matter so much to mountain gorillas.


Gorilla Fathers from Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund on Vimeo.

Recent research published in the journal Animal Behaviour shows that being the biological daddy isn’t so important for male gorillas when it comes to their relationships with the youngsters in the group. What matters is their rank.

Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) live in groups in the forests of central Africa.  They are unusual among primates because one group, or troop, of gorillas can have more than one male, as well as several females.  So, do the males behave differently to the youngsters in the group? Or do they treat them all the same?  Is there any sign they are distinguishing their 'own' young?


Rank more important than genetic parentage The…

Palm Oil production killing the planet

Bad trade and bad products are killing our planet. We have said this before on The Thin End. There is no better example than that of palm oil. It is used ubiquitously in so many products, and its production is a major factor destroying rainforests and threatening precious species.

Demand for palm oil is 'skyrocketing worldwide'. It is used in packaging and in so much of our snack foods, cookies, crackers, chocolate products, instant noodles, cereals, and doughnuts, and the list goes on.
Bad for the planet So, why is this so bad for the planet?

The oil is extracted from the fruit of the oil palms native to Africa. It is now grown primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia, but is also expanding across Central and West Africa and Latin America.

Palm oil production is now one of the world's leading causes of rainforest destruction, and this is impacting adversely some of the world's most culturally and biologically diverse ecosystems. Irreplaceable wildlife species like t…

Taxing the carbon footprint of world trade

With nations entering a new period of protectionist tariffs,  it is time to rethink the regulation of global trade.   Global trade is the driver of climate pollution and climate change.
Call for Carbon Charging: In an article in Nature this month, three leading environmental experts have called for carbon charges rather than trade tariffs.

With President Trump imposing heavy tariffs on goods from China and the EU, and those countries following with retaliatory barriers, they fail to address the real problem of global trade.  That countries are simply exporting pollution and emissions through imports.

The authors point out that with all good intention of the Paris Climate Accord, it is unlikely that the target will be met of keeping warming below the critical 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.  This would be so even if all countries were to meet their targets set out in their individual action plans.


Tackling carbon-intensive global trade Only by tackling the drivers of …

Weekly Magazine Episode 1

Latest Podcast. A weekly round up of news and views on topical issues. This week: Invasive Rabbits and Hares, pesticides and hummingbirds, Invasive mosquitos, abortion law reform in the UK, and controversl new blood pressure guidelines.



Rabbits and hares a conservation nightmare?

Throughout history, humans have deliberately translocated rabbits and hares (leporids) around the world, so they now occupy every continent, with the exception of Antarctica.

But our bunnies are not always lovable, at least not from a conservationist viewpoint.  They can be a pest, creating economic and ecological mayhem.

A new Mammal Review article examines studies on the twelve leporid species that have been introduced by humans to areas beyond their native ranges, highlighting the effects on the ecosystem at different levels.
Rabbits and Hares breed fast One thing is certain about rabbits. Rabbits breed like rabbits, and that means fast!

Most leporids have multiple litters per year with litter sizes varying from 1 to 11 individuals, and each female produces between 10 and 45 young per year.  This makes them resilient to predation, and enables them to adapt rapidly to environmental change.  They can also rapidly colonise a range of environments.

Thus, measures to eradicate invasive …

Controversial new blood pressure guidelines

When should 'high' blood pressure be regarded as 'hypertension'? When should we be looking at some kind of medication?

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) think the current thresholds are too high, and they released new guideline recommendations for hypertension with lower blood pressure values defining elevated blood pressure, and lower treatment thresholds, than those recommended in current guidelines.

So, how many people would this affect, and at what cost?
Millions would be affectedA new study published by the BMJ today shows that adopting the new guidelines would dramatically increase the number of people labeled as having the condition and being recommended for drug treatment.  Millions more would be classified as having hypertension.

The findings show that, if the guidelines were introduced in the US and China, more than half of those aged 45-75 years in both countries would be considered hypertensive.

So, let's p…

Humans help Invasive tiger mosquitos

Since 2012 Mallorca Island, off the coast of Spain,  has experienced rapid colonisation by the Asian tiger mosquito.  This was not anticipated because the natural climatic conditions on the island were not considered optimal for the species.  So what has been encouraging their colonisation of the Island?  The answer it seems is humans. 
The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is a highly invasive species and a vector of multiple pathogens including various viruses, such as chikungunya, dengue, and Zika. A new Medical and Veterinary Entomology study that evaluated the relationship between the mosquito’s presence and habitat variables at a small scale provides important information for planning effective prevention and control campaigns.

Swimming pools Mallorca is a highly populated island of the Balearic archpelago and a major tourist destination, and more than 6% of the island’s surface had been urbanised by 2006.


When investigators examined mosquito populations on Mallorca Island…

Call to decriminalise abortion in UK

In an editorial in The BMJ, published today, editor in chief of BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, on behalf of her editorial board colleagues, calls on British premier, Theresa May, to decriminalise abortion in the UK.   This follows the recent decisions to liberalise abortion laws in the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Abortion law in UK The UK 1967 Abortion Act was introduced to provide a legal defence against the criminal law passed in 1861,  but the Offences Against the Person Act remains on the statute book.

The women of Northern Ireland are the most vulnerable to this 150 years old, anachronistic piece of Victorian criminal law,  because under the law in the Province allows for no defence,  even in cases of rape or fatal fetal abnormalities. As a result, women who have an abortion in Northern Ireland still  face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The UK government has argued that this is a matter for the devolved Northern Ireland Assem…

Call to allow women in England to take abortion pills at home

Women in England should be allowed to take both the pills required for an early medical abortion at home, just like their peers in Scotland and now Wales, argue healthcare leaders, in an editorial published online in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

Currently in England, women who have an early medical abortion take one drug, mifepristone, in the clinic then need to return to take a second drug, misoprostol, 36-48 hours later.


In Scotland, and soon in Wales, misoprostol can be taken by the woman at home, but in England it must be administered within a licensed hospital or clinic.


Developed in 1973,  misoprostal is commonly used in labour induction and is regarded by the WHO as safe and effective.
Leading clinicians call for change in regulations The heads of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers now call on health and social care secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to follow …

Hummingbird exposure to pesticides

Many have responded to the campaigns to stop the use of pesticides killing bees.  Bees are not the only animals affected.

Hummingbirds are noted as a species of conservation concern by Partners in Flight, and their populations are estimated to have declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014.



New research reveals that hummingbirds and bumble bees are being exposed to neonicotinoid and other pesticides through routes that are widespread and complex. The findings are published in Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry.

To measure exposure to pesticides in these avian pollinators, investigators made novel use of cloacal fluid and fecal pellets from hummingbirds living near blueberry fields in British Columbia. They also collected bumble bees native to Canada, and their pollen, and blueberry leaves and flowers from within conventionally sprayed and organic blueberry farms.

The researchers detected pesticides and related compounds in cloacal fluid and fecal pellets of hummingbirds revealing…

Trump rolling back environmental protection

Why is the Paris climate accord significant, and does it matter that President Trump is intent on pulling the US out of the agreement?

At the Paris climate conference  in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.  For that reason alone it is a significant step - the world was doing what it should, coming together to tackle man-made climate change.  It was a beacon of hope.



Now, the rest of the world looks on in dismay as Trump sets his own course based on the assumption that climate change is a 'hoax' cooked up by America's rivals.  Whilst other countries remain determined to follow through on the agreement,  does it really have legs without the USA?
A global action plan The accord is significant, but only as a start. It sets clear targets. The agreement sets out the first 'global action plan' to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.  With the a…

Parental lifestyle major cause of obesity

A new study says that children are less likely to be obese if mothers stick to a healthy lifestyle, but is it right to target mothers alone? The study says little to nothing about the role of fathers.

The findings do highlight potential benefits of parent based strategies to curb childhood obesity.

Healthy maternal lifestyle lowers risk Children of mothers who follow a healthy lifestyle have a substantially lower risk of developing obesity than children of mothers who don’t make healthy lifestyle choices, finds a study published in The BMJ.

Is this yet another statement of the blindingly obvious, or does it give insight into obesity prevention?

The findings show that risk was lowest among children whose mothers maintained a healthy weight, exercised regularly, did not smoke, ate a healthy diet, and were light to moderate drinkers.

The researchers suggest that if both mothers and their children stuck to a healthy lifestyle this could result in an even further reduction in the risk of …

King Canute and the tide of migration

The G7 met last month in Canada.  Did you notice the big distraction? Or, perhaps I should say distractions.  The world leaders met, and yet failed to consider the most pressing problem of our time - climate change and habitat loss.  Yet,  these are the man-made causes of their problems. Instead,  they were concerned largely with trying to stabilise the status quo on global trade.  To keep things as they are.  The meeting ended in chaos.  The system is broken, but goes on clunking away destroying the planet at each turn of the wheel. 
Political wood mouse We thought of writing about the wood mouse again.  The wood mouse was deemed too 'political'  for us to promote in the USA, or at least one major social outlet deemed that this was so for our podcast Learning from the Wood Mouse.  What we can learn from  Wood Mice is dangerous stuff!  So, we will try not to mention the wood mouse in this article.  
Global trade drives pollution and climate change  As we have said in previous…