Health & Wellness: making a drama out of public health

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A
great
deal of time and effort these days goes into making TV medical dramas both authentic and technically accurate. But it would appear that an unlooked for bonus of such detail is that these dramas – whilst being mainly entertainment vehicles- unintentionally improve health awareness in the watching public. They do so by providing accurate health information and can cause individuals to take action in regard to their own health or that of their family. In other words, take action to achieve “wellness”. These dramas can thus aid the current shift of focus of governments and public health practitioners to deliver Health & Wellness, aka Health & Wellbeing, (a National Wellness service rather than a National Health service?)  

This shift to Wellness i.e. staying healthy, is in response to the rise of chronic diseases and inequity. The aim is to empower the individual to make healthy choices and to address the social, environmental and economic factors which limit that choice. Health awareness is therefore a prerequisite for wellness.

Call the Midwife, the hit medical TV drama,  works hard to depict accuracy and authenticity 

An essay in April's Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine describes the steps taken by the writers, production team and actors of the hit BBC TV series, Call the Midwife, to ensure the series has sufficient medical accuracy and authenticity [the series is set in the poor Poplar district of East London during the early years of the National Health Service (1950s)]. The series  is viewed by more than 10 million people each week, and sold to almost 200 territories worldwide.

The author  of the essay is the actor Stephen McGann who plays the local community docter [GP], Dr Patrick Turner.

As one would expect, a clinical advisor [a practising midwife and lecturer] oversees childbirth and nursing procedures but this series has gone further. Open-access journals and the Wellcome Trust archive are used as resources by the writer, and relevant health charities are called upon to provide an insight into the health impact of social conditions of the time. McGann himself deliberately chose to make his character a smoker “after reading a BMJ study* [by Richard Doll: Mortality in relation to smoking’: 50 years' observation on male British doctors  BMJ 328 (7455): 1519] which observed the effects of smoking on men over a 50-year period, starting in 1951.  A total of 34,439 smokers took part in the research – all of them doctors.” [*The first publication based on this cohort was in 1954 and is in the Global Health Archive database: ‘The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits.  BMJ 328 (7455): 1529.]

But McGann then goes on to explain that the medical accuracy and authenticity pioneered by ‘Call the Midwife’ has communicated valuable insights to ordinary people into important public health issues …giving them the information to improve their own health.

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April 25th World Malaria Day: affordable medicines & artemisinin-based control


World-Malaria-Day

April 25th is World Malaria
Day and we’ve had some mixed news this month concerning the GlaxoSmithKline
RTS,S vaccine, reported in New England Journal
of Medicine
. 65% of children were protected in the 1st year,
but protection then declined to zero over the next 3 years: which means booster
shots will be essential.  Vaccine efficacy also declined faster in children who were more exposed
to malaria than in those who had below-average exposure. Not the grail we hope
for, but we inch our way there.

Effectiveness is at the heart of the problem of malaria
control. Last year Oxfam’s report “Salt,
Sugar And Malaria Pills
  highlighted their concerns on the effectiveness of the “Affordable
medicines facility for malaria” (AFMm)
hosted and managed by the Global Fund, with financial support from UNITAID, the
UK Department for International Development (DFID), and others.

A fuller discussion of these issues can be found in the April issue of Global Health Knowledge Basealong with the latest research on drug-related aspects of malaria control

Related articles

Wellcome Image of the Month: Malaria
News in Brief: Malaria drug made by baker's yeast
Amyris (AMRS) Scientists to Publish Data on Breakthrough in Key Malaria Vaccine Ingredient
Prevalence rate of malaria declining in Ghana
Malaria: the Institute of Tropical Medicine focuses on elimination using knowledge

Sunnyside up…

Friday 16 July 2010. AS I listened to Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
on the way to work, I found myself increasingly incensed & talking to the
airwaves.

In the studio was a male travel medicine expert, a woman who
loved the suntanned look, and another woman who was determined to be “pale
& interesting”.

The travel medicine expert
remarked that in the conference
he’d attended the previous week, filled with  reports on vaccinations & exotic diseases linked to travel, there was but “one paper on
the sun”, by which he meant the detrimental effects of it on your health.
This reminded me of an interesting and equally “only one” poster at the UKPHA
meeting 2010 in Bournemouth which intrigued me
because I’d not thought such research was necessary. Elizabeth Norton, a nurse
researcher of Bournemouth University was conducting a study on why young women
were sunbathing on the Bournemouth beach
without sunscreen or other precautions such as reducing the time they spent in
the sun. It was a case of knowing the dangers but just not bothering; comfort
& looking good mattered more.

Our in studio Radio 4 expert claimed that people of his ilk,
were becoming exhausted at warning of the dangers of the sun, without
apparently changing anyone’s behaviour and having any impact on the rising
incidence of skin cancer (2000 people per yr in the UK die from this disease).(I
would have wanted a breakdown on the age groups…are these people who would
have begun package holidaying in the sun since the 1970’s,  how many were veterans of the second-world war
who were unable to take precautions & after 60 tend to get skin cancer? Linked
to the nurse’s study, is it more girls than men? I provide references below
which have some of this information).

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The First European Veterinary Week, 10-16 November 2008

European vets are gearing up for their first veterinary week, which will be held from 10-16 November in various locations across Europe. This is a joint initiative organised by the European Commission and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE). The organising team is also supported by an advisory group of stakeholders (farmers’ organizations, industry and other stakeholders) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The initiative is aimed at promoting the Community Animal Health Strategy,  "Prevention is better than cure", as well as the "One Health" concept. It will also focus on biosecurity, and in particular biosecurity on farms and at country borders.

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