By James Frater, Amos Bursary student
As part of my gap year, with the help of the Amos Bursary and Imperial College London, I was given the opportunity to spend 3 months in The Gambia. I assisted the PROLIFICA (Prevention of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer in Africa) project, where I was able to experience various laboratory procedures and resource-poor healthcare services.
I was given a thorough induction on laboratory etiquette and different laboratory practices, as well as training on how to handle laboratory equipment and the various biomedical samples. This meant I was confidently able to work in and navigate my way around the laboratory with a relatively good level of competence.
By Alison Reynolds and Dr Thomas Churcher from Imperial’s Malaria Modelling Research Group
World Mosquito Day (20th August) commemorates the discovery that mosquitoes transmit the parasite that causes malaria, made in 1897 by British doctor Ronald Ross.
A hundred and eighteen years later this transmission still continues, to some extent unabated. There have been huge successes in malaria control, most notably in recent years, though a child still dies every minute from a disease which continues to ravage large swathes of Africa and Asia. Importantly these deaths are completely avoidable, as we have effective tools to treat malaria and stop people dying.
Today, the 28th July, is World Hepatitis Day and the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch (Barry) Blumberg, discoverer of the hepatitis B virus and developer of the first hepatitis B vaccine.
Viral hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver, caused a variety of viruses, named alphabetically from A to E. These are spread mostly through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids. With hepatitis B, it can also be passed between mothers and children, sexual partners and between patients and health workers where unsafe medical practice occurs. The prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in injection drug users is also very high, while approximately 10% of the world’s population is currently infected or has been exposed.
By soon to be Imperial medical student, Hannah Lewis
I will start my medical course at Imperial in October 2015 and I was lucky enough to spend 5 months in Gambia at the beginning of the year, gaining insight into medical research in resource-poor settings. It is the smallest country in West Africa, and it is where the British Medical Research Council (MRC) has a big research unit. I worked closely with the Prevention of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer in Africa (PROLIFICA) group, who are looking at the link between hepatitis B and liver cancer.
Initially, I was concerned that, with no previous medical training, I would not be able to learn as much from the experience as fully-fledged medical students.
By Imperial Medical Student, Aisha Chaudry
As part of my gap year placement, I was given the opportunity to be involved in the PROLIFICA study at the Medical Research Council Unit (MRC) in The Gambia.
PROLIFICA is an EC funded project investigating liver cancer, which arises because of cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, a chronic condition that can stop the liver from functioning.
Having reached my halfway point of my time abroad, I have decided to write a report about my experience so far.
Whilst being at the MRC, I have been able to experience research in both a clinical and laboratory setting.
By Dr Kris Murray, Grantham Lecturer in Global Change Ecology
Our planet is ill. Ongoing loss and endangerment of species, degradation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their services, and man made changes to the global climate are dramatic symptoms of a major decline in the planet’s environmental health.
In glaring contrast, human health has improved, in some cases radically. Decreases in malnutrition, mortality due to infectious diseases and infant mortality rates, accompanied by substantial increases in life expectancy, can be observed in every major region of the world.
So why is health winning a war, while the environment is losing one?
By Dr Michael Templeton, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London
With World Water Day approaching on 22 March, research at Imperial College London is highlighting yet another example of why access to clean water is so vitally important to human health.
The research is seeking to quantify the role of access to clean water in reducing the odds of becoming infected with the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis.
A schistosomiasis worm
It has been estimated that 200 million people in developing countries are infected with the parasite causing this disease, which manifests itself in a range of symptoms, including enlargement of the liver and spleen, anaemia, increased risk of bladder cancer, exacerbation of the transmission of HIV and its progression to AIDS, and in extreme cases seizures.
By Francis Peel from Imperial’s Partnership for Child Development.
To celebrate International School Meals Day on the 5th March, schools from around the world share their experiences of school meals. It’s a fun way for school kids to learn what’s on their plates and on what children the other side of the world will be eating.
However given the depressing regularity of nutritional bad news focusing on obesity or malnutrition perhaps policy makers should be just as excited by school meals and the wider school health and nutrition movement which can provide countries with the tools to tackle this problem.
In fact, school feeding and school health programmes are present in almost every country in the world – low, middle and high income alike.
Today, 4th February, is World Cancer Day. Taking place under the tagline ‘Not beyond us’, World Cancer Day 2015 will take a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions do exist across the continuum of cancer, and that they are within our reach.
The campaign will explore how we can implement what we already know in the areas of prevention, early detection, treatment and care, and in turn, open up to the exciting prospect that we can impact the global cancer burden – for the better.
World Cancer Day is a unique opportunity to raise awareness that there is much that can be done at an individual, community and governmental level, to harness and mobilise these solutions and catalyse positive change.
Today, the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) will join 500+ organisations around the world to launch the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day. This historic coalition will mark the anniversary of a landmark UN resolution urging all countries to provide universal access to healthcare without financial hardship.
We believe that no one should fall into poverty because they get sick and need healthcare. Universal health coverage (UHC) is essential for making progress against challenges like HIV, cancer, Ebola, dementia, diabetes and mental health issues – and for creating a fairer, more resilient society.
Universal healthcare coverage is one of the seven forums at 2015’s World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), which takes place in Doha from 17-18th February and launched by the Qatar Foundation.