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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How mobile phones could make a difference to maternal health

Theni Jakhammal using her mobile phone_6459818213_o
Mobile technology is revolutionising health and health care in developing countries enabling health promotion campaigns, reminders about therapy and data collecting. To women it could provide a lifeline for them during pregnancy and birth. But what evidence is there that mobile messages are accessible to women in these situations and that they could change women’s behaviour? In this blog for International Women’s day I describe two mobile services and look for some evidence about the impact of mobiles on women’s health.

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Low-level iodine-deficiency produces lower IQ children in UK


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IN my March
2013 blog “Eat
less salt but make sure it contains iodine
!”, I described the  problems of addressing iodine–deficiency
diseases
in Pakistan and  the worrying
rise in iodine deficiency in the UK, 
linked to a shift  in eating patterns
away from dairy and oily fish, our traditional sources of iodine.   Whereas, other developed countries had relied
on introducing a national supply of iodised salt, we had got away without it.
But even countries using iodised salt, now had to watch out, as salt–reduction  campaigns to tackle rising cardiovascular
diseases, were allowing iodine-deficiency to reoccur albeit at a low-level (as
compared to the high level of iodine deficiency found in developing countries)

NOW there is further support for re-emerging iodine deficiency
in the UK:  this time a study on pregnant
women
published in the Lancet. They have identified changes in the IQ of primary-school
children born to mothers with low-level iodine deficiency:  IQ goes down 3 points & reading age is
reduced.   For more information, read the BBC article Iodine deficiency 'may lower
UK children's IQ
and the Lancet
study
.

Need I say more? In the March blog, which featured
on Global Health Knowledge Base
and CABI-Handpicked & carefully
sorted
, I covered the spectrum of iodine-deficiency diseases which can
occur in children born to mothers with iodine-poor diets,  leaving the children with permanent physical
& mental intelligence problems. 
Daily it seems, the case is being made to consider introducing iodised
salt into the UK  and to advise would-be
pregnant mothers not only to ensure folic acid is in their diet but also
adequate iodine ( BUT not  through
seaweed supplements). Pregnant mothers who rely on organic milk should be aware that this contains less iodine than usual and they will need to increase iodine intake to compensate.

WE do indeed “have a new challenge to addressing
iodine deficiency in both developing and developed countries”.

Related articles

Iodine Deficiency during Pregnancy Linked with Lower IQ in Children
VIDEO: Iodine deficiency 'may lower IQs'
Iodine deficiency 'may lower children's IQ'
Iodine levels in mothers linked to children's IQ scores
Iodine deficiency 'may lower IQs'
Mothers' diets may harm IQs in two-thirds of babies
Women who drink organic milk in pregnancy could be harming their baby's IQ
Pregnant women should up iodine intake to increase child's IQ

Low salt diets could allow iodine-deficiency diseases to re-emerge

Salt has been used for thousands of years to flavor
& preserve food BUT reliance on fast food, biscuits and tinned goods, with
their hidden salt content, has created for us a high salt diet and with it an
alarming rise in cardiovascular disease.
SaltshakercreditPHILandamandamillls_cropped3

Reducing our salt intake, by working
with food industry and educating the public (World Salt Awareness Week), should
counter this disease epidemic.  BUT take this too far, and could an old
disease re-emerge? I speak of iodine deficiency in the diet, which can cause abortion,
stillbirth, goitres, mental retardation & birth defects: iodized salt
solved it.

WHO recommend universal salt
iodization for developing countries as a simple, safe and cost-effective
measure to address iodine deficiency, and many developed countries follow this
too. 

                                                                        Image: Amanda Mills, USDA. 

People afraid of salt so a disease re-emerges or is unaddressed?

If we ever needed
a reminder of the importance of iodized salt & public attitudes to health, you
only had to read “salt
rumors add to health crisis in pakistan
” (Washington Post).

A fuller discussion of these issues can be found in the March issue of Global Health Knowledge Basealong with the latest research on iodine
deficiency and salt iodisation.

 

 


 

 

 

 

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