Tag: Public health

Lockdown Hangover: The impact of COVID-19 on alcohol consumption

With reports of a spike in alcohol sales suggesting that many are turning to alcohol during these unprecedented times, PhD student Emily Palmer is conducting a survey to find out more about alcohol consumption and the potential public health consequences.


I blink my eyes open. Head is throbbing, suddenly I realise how thirsty I am and reach for the glass of water on my bedside table. Blissful saviour. Then slowly, the blurry memory of uncorking yet another bottle of wine swims to the forefront of my mind. This is my experience of being hungover.

Throughout my teenage years, hangovers were a ritualistic reprimand for a failure in self-control. However, throughout my studies – first in biomedical science and then neuroscience – I began to learn more about the science of the hangover phenomenon. My interest started with a project in my undergrad degree focusing on alcohol. Alcohol in the context of intoxication and addiction is widely researched, and there is no shortage of published papers. I was fascinated to learn how this widely used, socially acceptable drug ravages the brain and body. (more…)

Radiation and human health – separating scientific facts from urban myths

Professor Gerry Thomas
This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.

Our first is Professor Gerry Thomas, a leading authority on the health impacts of radiation, who tells us why we should focus on the facts.


I was born in the 1960s and grew up believing that the word ‘radiation’ meant something that was infinitely dangerous. Back then, we were led to believe that nuclear weapons would lead to the extinction of our species, and that to be bitten by a radioactive spider would confer supernatural powers! I was therefore sceptical about the use of nuclear power. It wasn’t until 1992, when I started to study the health effects of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986, that I began to question whether my understanding of the health effects of radiation came more from science fiction than scientific fact. (more…)

HTLV-1: Time to care, time to take action

HTLV-1

Ahead of the WHO Global Consultation on HTLV-1, Professor Graham Taylor outlines three steps to prioritise the neglected cancer-causing virus.


“I couldn’t do anything for a week after I opened the letter and saw that I was infected with it. I saw H and thought I had HIV. I’d never heard of HTLV”.

It’s not the first time that I’ve heard this, but this was two days ago, almost 40 years since the report in 1980 of the discovery of the human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1). Sadly Janet* is joined in her lack of awareness not only by almost the entire general public but also by most healthcare professionals.

This weekend saw World HTLV Day marked for the second year, with the slogan is: ‘It’s time to care’. This is in response to a general perception that there is a widespread indifference toward HTLV. Hopefully this will change soon. This week, I fly to Tokyo to participate in a WHO Global Consultation on HTLV-1 to address the public health impact and implications of this little-known virus. (more…)

Why we need to protect children from junk food, alcohol and gambling ads

Dr Tim Chambers explains the damaging effects of marketing of unhealthy commodities on children’s health and what we can do to tackle the problem.


Unhealthy commodities such as junk food, alcohol, and gambling are leading causes of non-communicable diseases, mental illness, injury, and many social harms. The collective global health burden of diet– and alcohol-related diseases is estimated at five million deaths each year.  But what is the role of marketing of these unhealthy commodities in driving their growing consumption?

Unhealthy commodities marketing through the eyes of a child

Children’s exposure to unhealthy commodities marketing, regardless of the product, has an adverse impact on their health. For example, junk food marketing shapes children’s dietary preferences and alcohol marketing is positively associated with earlier onset drinking and the likelihood of engaging in hazardous drinking. Children are particularly susceptible to marketing as they are unable to fully comprehend the biases inherent in ads. But with the unprecedented access and engagement with different media, how much marketing for unhealthy commodities are children actually seeing on a daily basis? (more…)

Nature wants you dead – here’s how vaccines work to help keep us all alive

 

Dr John Tregoning takes us on a tour of vaccination’s greatest successes, explaining how this incredible human achievement works to keep us all safer from disease – as long as we keep vaccinating ourselves and our families.


Nature wants you dead. Not just you, but your children and unborn children and everyone you have ever met.

It wants you to cough and sneeze and poop yourself into an early grave. If it can, it wants you your blood vessels to burst and pustules to explode all over your body. Put simply, Nature is trying to kill you.

And until relatively recently, it was really good at doing this. The average life expectancy of a human in 1900 was 31 years. I should already be dead.

But then science intervened with two critical innovations, clean water and vaccines, and changed everything. Clean water has had the biggest impact, but vaccines are a close second. (more…)

The economics of universal health coverage

Universal Health Coverage

Dr Katharina Hauck, a Health Economist, explains how economics can help to implement universal health coverage in the real world.


Millions of people still have no access at all to health care. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and even a home. Globally, over 800 million people incur catastrophic out-of-pocket spending every year, with health care costs consuming at least 10% of their household budgets.

Therefore, this year’s World Health Day focuses on universal health coverage (UHC). The World Health Organization defines UHC as “ensuring that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.”  Many countries have declared their commitment to UHC. But after the political declarations are made, policymakers are left to grapple with a central issue: what services should be made available? (more…)

A teaspoon of salt away from high blood pressure

This Salt Awareness Week, Dr Queenie Chan puts the salt intake guidelines to the test and looks at the reality of curbing salt intake for better heart health. 


Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in foods or is added during manufacturing or both. Table salt is a combination of sodium and chloride, which was one of the most valuable modes of currency in ancient times. It has been used to preserve food for thousands of years and it is most commonly associated as a form of food seasoning. Salt also plays a role in food processing, providing texture and enhancing colour. (more…)

Fighting the next epidemic with the Typo Challenge

Dr Anne Cori and Dr Marc Baguelin explain why they need the public’s help to help make data on epidemics like Ebola and Zika more accurate.


Controlling epidemics relies on key decisions, like how many hospital beds are needed and who should be vaccinated or treated first. These decisions rely on data about people who are infected, but mistakes can be made when entering information, which can lead to incorrect decisions being made.

What is the Typo Challenge?

The Typo Challenge is a fun challenge where you are asked to type dates into an app on your computer, laptop, tablet or phone, which helps us collect information about what kind of mistakes people make when they enter dates electronically. With this information we want to create software for researchers trying to better understand how epidemics spread so when they receive data about epidemics in the future they will be able to automatically check the results for accuracy by using the software. (more…)

(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.

(more…)

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

HTLV-1

As the human T-cell leukaemia virus is discussed on the world stage, Professor Graham Taylor addresses the misconceptions surrounding 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? (more…)