Tag: Public health

(I am not a) Vessel: the importance of women’s reproductive rights

(I am not a) Vessel: The importance of women’s reproductive rights
Rebecca Blaylock is a student on the Master of Public Health programme at Imperial and here makes the case for increased access to reproductive healthcare.


Students from Imperial’s Master of Public Health programme recently organised a screening of the award-winning film “Vessel”. Vessel chronicles the story of Dr Rebecca Gomperts – a former doctor on a Greenpeace ship – who had an innovative idea to provide women with vital reproductive health services. During her time travelling the world with Greenpeace, Gomperts witnessed the unbearable suffering caused by unsafe abortions. She saw women haemorrhage to death, die from sepsis and sustain life-long disabilities, and refused to “stand there and just let that happen”. Around 25 million unsafe abortions take place every year, accounting for between 4.7 and 13.2% of global maternal deaths.

Gomperts founded Women on Waves, and took her abortion clinic (built inside a ship’s container) and anchored 12 miles off the coast of countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted. Here, Women on Waves legally provided abortions for women who desperately needed them. (more…)

The truth about HTLV-1: unravelling 30 years of misconceptions

HTLV-1
Based on the number of articles published in mainstream media, and the number of interview requests I have received in the last week, it seems that everyone wants to know about HTLV-1, the human T-cell leukaemia virus, after 30 years of turning a blind eye. Why the sudden interest in a virus that few outside my field of human retrovirology have heard of?

The explosion of interest has its epicentre in Alice Springs, Australia. It’s here that Dr Lloyd Einsiedel, an infectious diseases physician, has made three astonishing findings:

  1. Almost half of all the local indigenous population are infected with HTLV-1, a rate of infection that exceeds anything previously reported.
  2. This infection is associated with a high risk of a lung condition called bronchiectasis. This is a long term condition where the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened, leading to a build-up of excess mucus that can make lungs susceptible to serious infections.
  3. This combination is resulting in deaths in young adults.

(more…)

Universal Health Coverage in the United Kingdom: past, present and future

NHS staff with a patient at Charing Cross Hospital
NHS staff with a patient at Charing Cross Hospital

In 2018, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) celebrates its 70th anniversary. With the creation of the NHS in 1948, universal health coverage was finally implemented in the United Kingdom, with the NHS replacing the previous patchy health coverage schemes that had left many people with limited access to health services. All residents of the United Kingdom were given the right to register with a general practitioner, who was responsible for both providing primary care services and organizing referrals for specialist care.

Maintaining the system

Seventy years after the creation of the NHS, most medical services provided by the NHS remain free at the point of use. This includes consultations with doctors (both general practitioners and hospital specialists) and other health professionals, emergency treatment in accident and emergency departments, elective and urgent operations, screening services, and immunizations that are part of national programs (such as those for children and people at risk of influenza). (more…)

The Asbestos Story: a tale of public health and politics

The Asbestos Story: a tale of public health and politics
Public awareness of the hazards of asbestos can be dated to the period immediately following the death of Nellie Kershaw aged 33 in 1924.  She had worked during the previous seven years in a textile factory spinning asbestos fibre into yarn. She died of severe fibrosis of the lungs. The pathologist, William Cooke, who found retained asbestos fibres in the lungs, called the cause of death asbestosis.  Nellie Kershaw was not the first case to be reported of lung fibrosis caused by asbestos. Montague Murray in 1899 had reported the case of a 33-year-old man who had worked for 14 years in an asbestos textile factory. He had died of fibrosis of the lungs which Montague Murray, also finding asbestos in the lungs, had attributed to inhaled asbestos fibres.  The patient had told Murray he was the only survivor from ten others who had worked in his workshop.

However, unlike the Montague Murray case, which had aroused little interest, the death of Nellie Kershaw and its cause was widely reported. It led to the government commissioning the Chief Inspector of Factories, Edward Merewether, with an engineer, Charles Price, to report on workers’ health in the asbestos industry. They found, among those still at work who had been employed for more than five years, one third had asbestosis and of those still working in the factory after 20 years, four-fifths had the disease.

The government introduced regulations in 1931 to control exposure to asbestos, together with arrangements for regular medical surveillance of the workforce and eligibility for compensation for factory workers with asbestosis. A benefit commented on by the workers in one factory was a clock on the wall becoming visible to them for the first time. (more…)

Give HIV the Finger – National HIV Testing Week 2017

HIV testing week

It is the time of year again for HIV Testing Week!

Coordinated by HIV Prevention England (HPE) since 2012, National HIV Testing week has focused on three main aims:

  • improving awareness of HIV testing, particularly among communities at high-risk
  • increasing opportunities to take the test in clinics and other community settings
  • reducing the number of people diagnosed with HIV at a late stage

This year’s theme is ‘Give HIV the Finger’ – a cheeky reference to the free finger-prick test that people can receive by post, to provide a blood sample for testing without attending a clinic.

HIV in the United Kingdom

According the latest surveillance from Public Health England (PHE), just over 5,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2016; this is an 18% drop compared with 2015.[i] 54% of diagnoses were among gay and bisexual men; 19% and 22% among heterosexual men and women respectively. Late diagnosis is an important predictor of morbidity and premature death in people with HIV. In 2016, 42% diagnoses were made at a late stage of infection when treatment is less effective. (more…)