Category: Society

Imperial in the news: The Life Scientific

It is not every day that you turn on the radio and get to hear one of your colleagues talking about their career over the airwaves while you eat your corn flakes. But then, it is pretty rare that one of your colleagues is a Fellow of the Royal Society, President of the Royal Meteorological Society, sat on the International Panel for Climate Change and has a CBE for services to atmospheric physics.

Imperial’s Head of Physics, Professor Jo Haigh, was interviewed by Professor Jim Al-Khalili for BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific, a This is Your Life-style programme for scientists and researchers who have shaped their fields and influenced society.

Imperial in the news: obese children

Last month’s biggest story involving research at Imperial looked at the increase in children admitted to hospital with obesity-related conditions.

During the period studied there was a four-fold increase in admissions for children experiencing obesity-related conditions, from 872 in 2000 to 3806 in 2009.  Teenage girls with pregnancies complicated by obesity accounted for hospital admissions in 2009.

Surveys suggest that around 30 per cent of children aged 2-15 are overweight and up to 20 per cent are obese.

“The burden of obesity is usually thought to have its serious consequences in adulthood, but we now see it manifesting earlier, in childhood,” said Dr Sonia Saxena, from the School of Public Health at Imperial, who led the study.

Imperial in the news: surgery shock

Last week it was widely reported, following a study at Imperial, that elective surgery towards the end of the week had an increased risk of death for the patients.

Operations on Fridays were 44 per cent more likely to result in death than those on Monday, reported the study that appeared in the British Medical Journal. However, the overall risk remained low; the average risk of death within 30 days of surgery was 0.67 per cent – just over 27,000 out of four million operation data recorded.

Dr Paul Aylin (School of Public Health) led the study. He said: “The first 48 hours after an operation are often the most critical period of care for surgery patients.

Imperial in the news: sterile sperm

As February takes hold and it becomes harder to maintain the resolutions to lose weight and do more exercise, Professor Lord Robert Winston allayed the concerns of those fearing a return to a sedate lifestyle could impact their fertility.

The ‘Child of Our Time’ presenter, who is Professor of Science and Society at Imperial, explained in the Guardian that there is little scientific basis for claims that inactivity on a leather sofa or watching television would reduce the amount of sperm or eggs an adult produces. This is in response to a study of nearly 200 university students by researchers at Harvard stating otherwise, although it’s worth pointing out that no one claimed correlation implied causation.

Imperial in the news: asthma research

This week has seen the publication of two important studies about asthma – one relating to the fall in the number of children being admitted to hospital with asthma since smoke-free legislation was introduced in England in 2007, and one on occupations where workers are likely to develop the disease.

The study about the reduction in hospital admissions for children was led by Dr Christopher Millet [School of Public Health] who was interviewed by the BBC. The story gained a lot of coverage, including the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Huffington Post, Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Independent featured an editorial.

Imperial in the news: childhood obesity calculator

Stories around child health consistently capture the attention of the public and press alike. A new study published in PLOS ONE that estimates the chances of children becoming obese has been picked up by a number of national and international media organisations.

The research, led by Professor Philippe Froguel and Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin [both School of Public Health], has generated a formula whereby parents can predict the likelihood of their child becoming obese.

Outlets including the BBC, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Metro here in the UK led with the story prominently featuring on their health pages this morning, while international news agency Reuters and leading Canadian newspaper the Toronto Star also placed a special importance on the item.

Imperial in the news: heart disease inequality

Dr Perviz Asaria and Professor Majid Ezzati [both School of Public Health] were both quoted on the BBC website this morning following the publication of a study they have produced detailing deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) across England since the 1980s.

The analysis of the figures showed a general improvement and regions that had high levels of fatal heart disease in the 1980s were much lower now. However, while mortality rates fell across most of the areas, some regions in the North West of England, Yorkshire, parts of Birmingham and deprived boroughs of London had fallen further behind the best-performing parts of the country.

Imperial in the news: ash fungus

“Ash everywhere,” cricketers say when they bowl out an opponent, referring to the stumps and bails that are made from this wood. Unfortunately, imported trees carrying ash fungus and other diseases are the suspected causes of an outbreak of Chalara ash dieback, which could cost up to £1.3billion to the economy.

The Times has reported that a number of products could still stop the spread of the disease. One developed at Imperial is a fungicide that is taken up naturally by the plants and could possibly be produced at just 10-30p per diluted litre. Visiting researcher Hans Dobson [Centre for Environmental Policy] believes that it would take around 10 litres to cover a hectare, but tests for the product will take time and with winter approaching, the window to act is diminishing.

Imperial in the news: pension predicaments

People currently in employment will pay more into their pensions for less return to cover the previous generation’s own pension agreements, the Guardian reported today.

In the late 1970s, pensioners received around a third as much as workers each year. By 2010-2011, the average retired household had a disposable income of £17,700, compared to £35,000 for a working household – more than half.

Imperial’s Professor James Sefton [Business School], a former advisor to the Treasury, said that younger people are effectively subsidising the older generation. “I think they should be angry. I think the deal they are getting is poor,” he said.