Health Check

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Looking at health issues on a global scale, investigating discoveries and solutions in healthcare, and asking how to deliver a healthier world.

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Men's cancer risk.

Cancer busting carrots.

Recession and health.

Dreams and creativity.

Why are men more at risk from getting and dying from cancer? Claudia Hammond talks to Alan White, Professor of Men's Health at Leeds Metropolitan University about what might be causing this surprisingly dramatic gender gap.

We all know that eating plenty of vegetables is good for us, but it now seems how we cook them is also key.

Carrots are known to contain a cancer fighting chemical, and scientists at the University of Newcastle, have discovered that cooking them whole, rather then chopping them, helps maximise the cancer fighting qualities of this popular vegetable.

Armed with this information, Claudia visits Tony Fleming, Executive Chef at one of London's top hotels, One Aldwych, to get his top carrot cooking, cancer busting tips.

Claudia talks to Professor Sir Michael Marmot of University College London, and Dr Stuart Whitaker from the University of Cumbria about the worrying health consequences that could result from the current economic crisis.

Dr Sara Mednick at the University of San Diego has been putting dreams to the test and explains how just a short nap, really can help creative thinking and improve our puzzle solving abilities.

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Claudia Hammond reports from Britain's Royal Society summer exhibition.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Claudia Hammond reports from Britain's National Academy of Science, the Royal Society, as it hosts its annual summer exhibition.

Some of the latest medical innovations are on display, including a new technology using light to fight and detect breast cancer.

Claudia also gets to grip with a virtual cow, as she discovers how a new tool designed to train vets, could be used by doctors dealing with human patients.

Angela Robson reports from Tuva in Siberia, on how global warming could be the cause of the huge increase in cases of Tick-borne encephalitis.

Following the news of Michael Jackson's death Claudia talks to Dr Marvin Seppala of the Hazelden substance abuse treatment centre in Minnesota, about the huge increase in prescription drug addiction in the USA.

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Maternal Mortality.

How lives are changed through sport.

Gambling Addiction in Russia.

More than 500,000 mothers still die during childbirth each year, a figure that has not changed in 20 years.

Claudia Hammond talks to Brigid McConville of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, about the campaign to get the issue of Maternal Mortality back on the agenda at the G8 conference in Italy.

Claudia attends the Beyond Sport Awards being held in central London this week, and hears about the projects transforming lives through sport.

Nivedita Pathak reports from India and visits one of the shortlisted projects in the health category, “Saving Lives through Dance”.

Russian authorities have closed down most of the casinos and gaming halls in Russia in an effort to prevent addiction to gambling.

But will this dramatic clampdown work? Claudia hears from BBC Moscow correspondent Richard Galpin, and talks to Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling addiction at Nottingham Trent University in the UK.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Childhood obesity.

Low-fat curry.

Health and politics.

Do obese parents lead to obese children? A new study has shown that copying your same-sex parent's eating habits, will influence your body mass in later life.

Fat mothers seem to lead to fat daughters, and fat fathers lead to fat sons.

Does this new research confirm the idea that obesity is all about behaviour, rather than our genes?

A new website has been set up to help the south asian community living in the UK to improve their health by eating a lower fat diet.

Anna Lacey tries some of the delicious low fat curry recipes on offer.

With recent concerns over the health of Apple leader Steve Jobs, and the effects this might have on the company, Lord David Owen, author of “In Sickness and in Power” talks about how the health problems of great leaders has impacted key moments in history.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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The writer, Timothy O'Grady examines the benefits and pitfalls of medical tourism.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Six months on from successful surgery on his spine in Poland, the American author Timothy O'Grady, examines the growth in the popularity of medical tourism.

Every year, thousands of patients roam the planet in search of medical care which is either unaffordable or unavailable back home.

Medical tourism has become a multi-billion dollar industry, involving governments, travel agencies, investment banks, patients and medical personnel all over the world.

Fifty countries now name medical tourism as one of their national industries.

The system which ancient Greeks initiated when they travelled to the Saronic Gulf to be treated by the god Asklepios, has been taken up with great enthusiasm in the modern world.

Timothy O'Grady talks to patients, doctors and health brokers about its inexorable rise.

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The writer, Timothy O'Grady examines the pros and cons to medical tourism.

Medical tourism is big business.

Every year tens of thousands of patients roam the planet in search of cheaper health care than they can get at home.

This vast industry, worth billions of dollars, involves governments, insurance companies, investment banks and of course patients and medical personnel all over the world.

For some medical tourism is unethical, for others it's an infringement of their market and health service and for many more a boon.

Though exalted by many, medical tourism some say, should come with a health warning.

What happens when things go wrong?

In the second part of this series, Timothy O'Grady asks what if there is malpractice and the patient wants to sue the foreign hospital.

What are the safeguards against fraudulent agents and brokers of medical tourism?

After the initial flurry of excitement what is the long-term prognosis for medical tourism?

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Brain scans and Acupuncture.

Heart Disease.

Time perception in children with ADHD.

Does Chinese acupuncture work and if so what is going on in the brain? Claudia Hammond talks to researchers who have been putting this ancient technique to the test.

Heart Disease is now the number one killer in Botswana and many other parts of the developing world.

After years of focusing on health issues such as HIV and Malaria, countries like Botswana are now having to tackle a problem normally associated with unhealthy western lifestyles.

Claudia finds out how children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may experience time differently from the rest of us.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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British Versus US healthcare debate.

Why optimism is good for your health.

Space medicine.

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British Versus US healthcare debate.

Why optimism is good for your health.

Space medicine.

The US Versus the UK – which country's health system is better? Claudia Hammond hears from both sides of the Atlantic about the dramatic war of words that has erupted over President Obama's plans to reform the US health system.

Would a system like Britain's National Health Service work in the USA?

Claudia hears from Professor Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, why being optimistic makes you healthier and even live longer.

Space Medicine – as China prepares to launch its manned space programme do astronauts need to be super-human? Dr Kevin Fong tells Claudia about the health requirements for going into space.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Japanese Encephalitis.

Genetics of Perfect Pitch and healthy fasting during Ramadan.

Claudia hears from India about the current outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis causing problems in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

A new book looks at how social inequality leads to poor health for the rich in society as well as the poor.

Claudia finds out why.

The genetics of perfect pitch and how to keep healthy whilst fasting for Ramadan, even if you are taking medication.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Dementia special to mark World Alzheimer's Day.

Shocking new figures reveal that the number of people with dementia is expected to almost double in the next twenty years.

In a special edition of Health Check, to mark World Alzheimer's Day, Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Martin Prince from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London, about why we are sitting on a global time-bomb, and what can be done.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Claudia Hammond on the latest global abortion figures and Carl Jung's famous Red Book.

As the availability of contraception has increased, the total number of abortions carried out worldwide has dropped by 5 million in the past decade.

But 70,000 women a year still die from unsafe backstreet abortions according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute.

The authors Dr Akin Bankole and Sharon Camp talk about the findings of their report.

Carl Jung was one of the big names in psychoanalysis in the 20th century.

His famous Red Book, the story of his own soul, has been locked away in a Swiss bank vault and never been seen.

But now it's being published and for the first time people can actually see the book at the Rubin Gallery in New York.

Jane O'Brien reports on the public reaction to its appearance.

And Claudia Hammond finds out about Jung's legacy from James Aster, from the Society of Analytical Psychology, who practises Jungian analysis.

When Professor Anthony Kong, a neurologist at the University of Central Florida in the USA, was working in Singapore with people who had difficulty in speaking or in understanding and using language after a stroke he noticed a big difference in patients' symptoms depending on whether they spoke English or Chinese.

This is because the languages are processed in different parts of the brain – English mainly in the left side and Chinese, as a tonal and pictorial language, more in the right.

Professor Kong has just got funding to start the first Chinese-specific data bank on the way brain damage affects speech and he explained how his research could in the future lead to better ways of helping Chinese language speakers recover from strokes.

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Can seasonal winds can make you ill? And the state of the world's vaccines.

People who experience the seasonal winds, such as the Foehn and the Santa Ana, often say they get migraines, become depressed or develop breathing difficulties.

There's even some evidence that suicide attempts rise in some places.

But why should the change in weather brought about by these winds make us feel ill? Claudia Hammond discusses this question with weather forecaster Wayne Elliot of the UK's Meteorological Office and John Bart, the founder of the Canadian Medical Meteorological Network.

A new report from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the World Bank has found that the number of children dying before they are even five years old has dropped to less than ten million for the first time – and part of this is down to vaccines.

But India and Indonesia, two countries which produce and export vaccines, have lower rates of immunisation in their own countries.

Dr Fred Were from the Kenyan Paediatric Association talks to Claudia about the report.

It's 200 years since Louis Braille was born.

The method of embossed letters he developed so that blind people can read is very much in use today all over the world.

London eye surgeon Professor William Ayliffe told Claudia about Braille's remarkable discovery and its importance today, and the BBC's Gary O'Donoghue, who is blind, explains how he uses Braille in his job as a political correspondent.

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How the reunification of Germany has affected the health of two nations in various ways.

When the Berlin Wall fell on this day twenty years ago, its effect on health probably wasn't the on the minds of the inhabitants anywhere in Germany.

But for epidemiologists the joining of these two countries provided a natural experiment of how fundamental political change can affect health.

And within just a couple of years reunification was already affecting the levels of disease in both the former East Germany (the GDR) and West Germany - and it wasn't all good news.

Claudia Hammond talks to Ellen Nolte, a public health specialist from the Cambridge think-tank the Rand Group, who since 1990 has tracked patterns of disease and life expectancy in the former east and west Germany.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Romania orphans today, future funding for HIV, Lifeline Express Train and the body clock.

ROMANIAN ORPHANS 20 YEARS ON

It's almost 20 years since the world peered into Romanian orphanages and saw the hell inside.

But what's happened to those babies?

Health Check talks to Professor Sir Michael Rutter at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who has followed some of the orphans' progress for the last two decades.

He talks about how their recovery has contributed to our scientific understanding of the way the brain develops, and discusses what - if anything - the findings can offer in the way of clinical advice and treatment for children who suffer severe stress or trauma early in life.

THE FUTURE FOR HIV/AIDS FUNDING

December 1st is World AIDS Day and as the progress of the virus comes under the spotlight, UNAIDS has released a report listing some of the successes of recent years in control and treatment.

In 2008, four million people from poor and mid income countries were receiving antiretroviral treatment to prolong and improve their quality of life.

This is a 36 per cent increase on the year before and a ten fold increase in the number receiving these treatments in the whole of the previous five years.

However there are deep concerns from the AIDS2031 Group and MSF - Medicins Sans Frontieres - about the availability and international willingness to continue to give HIV/AIDS a priority in funding.

They say there is already signs of donor fatigue and a sense that the virus is already well controlled and that it no longer needs so much funding.

This trend threatens the goal of being able to control the virus by 2031 - which would mark 50 years since it first emerged - and risks ever escalating costs, according to Tido von Schoen-Angerer of Medicins Sans Frontieres and Farzana Muhib of the Results for Development Institute in Washington DC.

LIFELINE EXPRESS IN INDIA

The difficulties of accessing medical care in poor and isolated regions of the world continues to be a problem, but the Lifeline Express has proved to be an inspiring solution in India.

It's a train that carries operating theatres and doctors and dentists' surgeries around the country, offering free care to thousands each year.

It began in 1991 and Nivedita Pathak reports on how it works, and the medical care it offers.

NEW INSIGHTS ON THE BODY CLOCK

Professor Hugh Piggins at the University of Manchester in the North of England has discovered a new group of brain cells that are involved in regulating the body clock.

They behave unlike any other cell seen so far in the body in that they become so highly agitated that they stop functioning and seem quiet or dormant; then they recover and become normally active again later when they calm down.

The unusual and surprising activity of these cells in the body clock might provide the clue to why jet lag and sleep disorders are so hard to treat, and offer potential treatments in the future.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

20091214

Psychology and climate change - how to encourage more environmentally sensitive behaviour.

What would convince you to change your lifestyle and use less energy? Despite more people than ever knowing about climate change, few actually do much to minimise their environmental impact.

Why are people so reluctant to change their ways and how can they be persuaded?

Claudia Hammond looks at the psychology of saving the planet through the science of persuasion and the subtle techniques which might get us all to behave differently.

She is joined in the studio by two guests, Simon Retallack from the British think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research which has produced a detailed report on how to get British people to adopt six chosen behaviours to minimise environmental impact, and Professor of Psychology Alan Kazdin from Yale University who recently gave an address to the American Psychological Association on the role of psychology in climate change.

Among the conclusions of the discussions and research are that more information about Climate Change is not effective in making people change behaviour - instead techniques that use financial incentives, fashion and fun are more likely to succeed.

Professor Noah Goldstein from the University of California at Los Angeles reports on his own successful trial using persuasion to make people in hotels re-cycle their towels.

By changing the wording in hotel rooms he increased re-cycling of towels by 33 per cent.

If people are given information that lets them know that other people in the room before them re-cycled towels they tend to want to do the same.

If they are only told that recycling towels will help the environment far fewer people choose to re-cycle.

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In 2011 Israel will bring in a unique system for encouraging people to become organ donors. Donor card holders and their immediate family will get priority treatment over non-card holders if they ever need a new kidney, heart or lung themselves. Health Check discusses the novel scheme and other forms of incentive aimed at boosting the numbers of people willing to donate organs for transplant operations.

Claudia Hammond reviews some of your responses to a recent competition to re-name schizophrenia and she looks at the importance of the right kind of nutrition for hospital patients, from Chad to the UK.

Should people be rewarded for donating their organs for transplants?

In 2011 Israel will bring in a unique system for encouraging people to become organ donors.

Donor card holders and their immediate family will get priority treatment over non-card holders if they ever need a new kidney, heart or lung themselves.

Health Check discusses the novel scheme and other forms of incentive aimed at boosting the numbers of people willing to donate organs for transplant operations.

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Why do patients volunteer for clinical trials - just to get better or for the common good?

Doctors and patients both want the best chance of recovery from an illness. But when the condition is cancer - and current treatments have failed - what hope do clinical trials offer?

Vivienne Parry asks whether patients take part in clinical trials simply to get better - or for the common good, hoping for future cures. Now that cancer treatments are becoming more individually tailored and effective, is it worth the risk of trying to develop new drugs which may only be slightly better?

Doctors and patients both want the best chance of recovery from an illness.

But when the condition is cancer - and current treatments have failed - what hope do clinical trials offer?

Vivienne Parry asks whether patients take part in clinical trials simply to get better - or for the common good, hoping for future cures.

Now that cancer treatments are becoming more individually tailored and effective, is it worth the risk of trying to develop new drugs which may only be slightly better?

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Vivienne Parry follows patients and doctors involved in cystic fibrosis clinical trials.

Vivienne Parry continues her look at why patients take part in clinical trials, this week focusing on gene therapy trials for cystic fibrosis.

The lungs in cystic fibrosis patients get clogged up with sticky mucus because of a faulty gene.

Patients receiving the first doses of this “gene therapy” explain to Vivienne Parry why they’re excited about taking part in a trial - which might not even benefit them personally.

Patients receiving the first doses of this “gene therapy” explain to Vivienne Parry why they're excited about taking part in a trial - which might not even benefit them personally.

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Health Check investigates the downside of being positive for cancer patients.

Claudia Hammond meets journalist Barbara Ehrenreich who challenges the tyranny of positive thinking for cancer patients.

Ten years after the human genome was transcribed, promising to reveal the secrets of disease, how much do we know about genes and mental illness?

Professor Nick Craddock discusses what genes can and can’t tell us about bipolar, schizophrenia and depression.

The importance of clean water for avoiding disease is a regular subject on Health Check as almost 900 million people in the world don’t have access to a safe supply of water – the majority of them women and children. Reporter Kati Whitaker has been to the West African state of Liberia, a country struggling to recover from the civil war which left a quarter of a million people dead, and where water pumps were stolen to be made into weapons.

As well as the emotional trauma of disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti,

many people fear that bodies might harbour disease. Removing them is often seen as a priority – resulting in mass graves and families who can’t find their loved ones. But in fact the risk from bodies that haven’t died from disease is minimal, as Oliver Morgan, a specialist in public health explains.

New research published in the journal Neuroscience looks at migraine and light sensitivity. Scientists at Harvard Medical School have worked out why light seems to make the pain of a migraine so much worse. And it’s people who are blind and get migraines who’ve provided the key. Rami Burstein, who’s Professor of Anaesthesia had to scour the world from China to Guam to find willing guinea pigs for his study.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Soap Operas With A Mission: how radio and TV are delivering health messages.

Soap Operas With a Mission: how radio drama is delivering health over the airwaves. Tim Cooper from the BBC World Service Trust and Felicity Finch, who stars in the world’s longest running soap opera, The Archers on BBC radio in the UK, discuss how and when powerful storylines can successfully change behaviour and save lives.

Pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smith Kline has announced that they will allow open access to the thousands of the compounds they hold that are linked to the Malaria parasite. Dr Mogha Kamal Yanni from Oxfam welcomes the company’s steps on neglected diseases but tells Health Check GSK can still do more.

Post 9/11, toxins like Anthrax, Ricin and Botox have been very closely regulated. Scientists around the world have to undergo strict checks before they can work with them and other potentially dangerous pathogens. But now there are claims that the restrictions are too rigorous, preventing vital work on vaccines. Arturo Casadevall, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York tells Claudia Hammond why the Select Agent and Toxins List in the USA needs to be reduced and rules relaxed.

Last week’s solar eclipse in India caused great excitement because it was the first time since 1965 that the country had experienced a full annular eclipse. But as well as causing excitement, it also caused great anxiety, because there is a widespread belief that solar eclipses are dangerous if you’re pregnant. Nivedita Pathak from New Delhi describes how women expecting babies stayed in their homes during the eclipse and tells the story of the gynaecologist who went to the cinema, because he knew his patients would be staying indoors!

Soap Operas With a Mission: how radio drama is delivering health over the airwaves.

Tim Cooper from the BBC World Service Trust and Felicity Finch, who stars in the world's longest running soap opera, The Archers on BBC radio in the UK, discuss how and when powerful storylines can successfully change behaviour and save lives.

Pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smith Kline has announced that they will allow open access to the thousands of the compounds they hold that are linked to the Malaria parasite.

Dr Mogha Kamal Yanni from Oxfam welcomes the company's steps on neglected diseases but tells Health Check GSK can still do more.

Post 9/11, toxins like Anthrax, Ricin and Botox have been very closely regulated.

Scientists around the world have to undergo strict checks before they can work with them and other potentially dangerous pathogens.

But now there are claims that the restrictions are too rigorous, preventing vital work on vaccines.

Arturo Casadevall, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York tells Claudia Hammond why the Select Agent and Toxins List in the USA needs to be reduced and rules relaxed.

Last week's solar eclipse in India caused great excitement because it was the first time since 1965 that the country had experienced a full annular eclipse.

But as well as causing excitement, it also caused great anxiety, because there is a widespread belief that solar eclipses are dangerous if you're pregnant.

Nivedita Pathak from New Delhi describes how women expecting babies stayed in their homes during the eclipse and tells the story of the gynaecologist who went to the cinema, because he knew his patients would be staying indoors!.

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Surgeon Dr Atul Gawande tells us about simple but ingenious solutions to medical problems.

Claudia Hammond is joined by surgeon and writer Dr Atul Gawande to discuss the simple but often ingenious solutions to medical problems.

He explains why a simple check list, inspired by the kind of list used by pilots before take-off is saving lives in operating theatres across the world.

The World Health Organisation are promoting its use across the world.

He explains why it has been so successful the world over and even prevented deaths in his own surgical practice.

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Banking sleep.

Why was swine flu so mild? MMR paper retracted.

Functional foods in Japan.

Claudia Hammond talks to sleep researcher Tracy Rupp about why you can bank sleep in advance.

Her study showed that people who built up a ‘credit' of extra sleep by sleeping more every night for a week before being deprived of sleep suffered fewer ill effects of sleep deprivation.

Was the swine flu pandemic overblown by the World Health Organisation? Christophe Fraser, one of the epidemiologists who studied the outbreak in Mexico when it started explains the difficulty of assessing the severity and spread of swine flu.

Also as The Lancet retracts the paper that linked MMR vaccines to bowel disease and autism, Dr Richard Horton editor of The Lancet talks to Claudia about the reasons for the retraction and the legacy of its publication in 1998.

Also, Roland Buerk reports from Japan on how foods which make claims to improve health are being regulated to show scientific evidence of their benefit.

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Two births from ovarian transplant;Winter Olympic dentistry;C-sections;Sleep deprivation.

TWO BIRTHS FROM 1 OVARIAN TRANSPLANT

A world first - Stinne Bergholdt became the first women to give birth to two children after an ovarian transplant restored her fertility after cancer treatment.

She talks to Claudia about the birth of her second child and Professor Claus Anderson from Copenhagen in Denmark explains how the ovarian transplant meant Stinne could get pregnant naturally.

He explains why this might offer hope to menopausal women.

DENTISTRY AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS

From Wu Tangs in the Skier Cross to keeping your stone in the house – the Winter Olympics in Vancouver has been showcasing some of the most exciting, unusual and occasionally dangerous winter sports.

What's less well known is that over 75 dentists are on hand to treat the competing athletes for fractures, check ups and sometimes even worse.

Claudia talks to the Winter Olympics chief dentist Dr Chris Zed about some of the worst cases in his chair like abscesses and why it's an elite athletes high pain threshold which might mean they sometimes neglect their dental health.

CAESAREAN SECTIONS

A new report in the medical journal The Lancet looked at the outcomes of more than 100,000 births in 9 Asian Countries.

China had by far the highest rate of C sections.

With nearly half of all births done by this method.

Jim Dornan, past international vice president of the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians in the UK one of the authors of the new study – Metin Gülmezoglu, an obstetrician working for the World Health Organisation in Geneva discuss the findings and the conclusions that can be drawn from the study.

SAILING THE ATLANTIC OCEAN AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Charlie Pitcher has just won the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race sailing over 2000 miles from to Antigua.

To achieve this he rowed 2 hours then would have 1 hour off, rowing in total 16 hours a day.

Chris Idzikowski from the Edinburgh Sleep Centre in Scotland explains what effects this kind of sleeping pattern would have on Charlie and his race.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

20100308

Malaria in Cambodia.

Condom fit.

Feeling bad when ill.

The internet and disability.

Could the great hope for treating malaria be losing its power? Artemisinin is the world's most effective drug for treating malaria, but resistance to it is emerging on the Thai Cambodian border – worryingly the place where resistance to the previous drugs for the disease first emerged.

Last week experts from round the world met in Phnom Penh to discuss the problem, from Cambodia Guy De Launey reports.

When you're ill with flu the symptoms are bad enough – the aching, the fever, the exhaustion, but along with the physical comes the emotional side of being ill – feeling depressed, tired and withdrawn.

Researchers at Sussex University have found that it's not the physical symptoms that are making us feel so rotten, it's brain's response to the infection.

Dr Neil Harrison from Sussex University explains.

Condom fit: New research has found that the men who found that condoms didn't fit properly were more likely to find they broke, slipped off or reduced their or their partner's pleasure.

Professor Bill Yarber from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in the USA explains.

As part of the BBC's Superpower season Anna Vissens from the BBC's Russian service explains how some people with disability in Samara, Russia are using the internet for the first time and blogging about their experiences.

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Stephen Hawking's voice; i2Home; Computer Braille; disability and the internet.

For more than twenty years, the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins who suffers from motor-neurone disease has relied on an electronic voice to communicate with the outside world.

Sam Blackburn demonstrates the technology behind his computerised voice.

Geoff Adams-spink visits a demonstration in Germany of technology to integrate home appliances for those of us needing care around the house - where all the facilities can be controlled through a television and a handy avatar.

The BBC correspondent Gary O'Donoghue who has been blind since he was an eight-year-old describes his use of a computerised Braille system for reading.

An experiment in Thailand provides people with disabilities with an opportunity to use the internet for the first time.

And a unique blogging project in Russia shines a light on the life of disabled people.

20100322

Wheat allergy; morning after pill; dangerous tape worms; end of life visions.

New research in the UK suggests that far fewer people are suffering from wheat allergy and intolerance than is generally believed.

Professor Tara Dean from the University of Portsmouth joins Health Check to discuss the dangers of self-diagnosing wheat allergy.

There's a report from Peru on the dispute on the legality and morality of dispensing free emergency contraception, known as the morning after pill.

There's news on the dangers of Echinococcus Multilocularis, a tape worm that can spread from dogs to man, and that can be fatal.

And Peter Fenwick discusses the latest research into end of life experiences, where people close to death have strange visions and visits from the dead.

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Health messages, too scary? generic drugs; pregnancy screening in Egypt; men's health

Research shows that one fifth of people might be ignoring public health messages because they are too scary.

Why do some people avoid emotionally negative information and can public health messages be changed to make sure their messages reach everyone?

In Egypt some doctors are calling for the introduction of a national ante-natal screening programme.

Marriage between cousins isn't uncommon in Egypt, increasing the risk of abnormalities in a foetus – abnormalities which can often be detected through screening.

Eva Dadrian reports from a conference organised by the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Cairo.

India has become known as the pharmacy of the world, the place where generic drug companies produce usually-expensive medicines at knock-down prices, which many people in developing countries have come to rely on.

But some believe that Free Trade Agreements currently under negotiation between the EU and India could put a stop to this - by strengthening the intellectual property rights of the big pharmaceutical companies, meaning fewer cheap medicines can get made.

Mdecins Sans Frontières has been campaigning for access to essential medicines.

Claudia talks to their Policy Advocacy Director, Michelle Childs.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that in virtually every country men's lifespan lags behind women's.

Men are 20% less likely than women to see their family doctor.

Claudia goes to one of the biggest football clubs in the world – Chelsea FC – to meet staff from one hospital who are giving men a health check before the football match.

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Ahead of London's 30th marathon Claudia investigates the growing interest in barefoot running.

A recent report in Nature by evolutionary human biologist Daniel Lieberman on Kenyan runners investigates the differences between running in bare feet and in running shoes.

Does the extra cushioning of a running shoe really offer protection from injury? His study suggests running with no extra cushioning forces the foot into a running style which causes least impact on the body.

Tim Davie, one of the BBC's directors recently completed the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara desert.

Running over 250 km over 7 days.

Why did he do it and what are the effects of running in extreme heat and over such huge distances.

Daniel Lieberman discusses the different ways the human body has adapted to long distance running and why we're able to take part in such extreme endurance events.

Research just published in the Lancet shows that globally the rates of the maternal death have fallen, with particular progress being made in China, Egypt, Ecuador and Bolivia.

But it still a global problem with over 500 women dying everyday in childbirth.

The news that Canada is to use its Presidency of the G8 to launch a maternal and child health initiative has been welcomed by many.

But now there's a question mark over whether they will include access to family planning as part of the initiative.

If they don't many say the initiative simply will not work.

Claudia discusses with Gill Greer, Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Health benefits of barefoot running; endurance running; the G8 maternal health initiative.

20100426

Why black and Asian Britons are reluctant to volunteer as blood and organ donors?

Why are black and Asian people in Britain reluctant to act as blood and organ donors?

The problem is made even more stark when it is realised that black people, for example, are three times more likely to need a kidney transplant than the general population because they have a higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure, leading to kidney failure.

Beverley De-Gale examines the imbalance between donors and recipients in the black population.

Beverley De-Gale's son, Daniel, was in need of a bone marrow transplant and held out hope for six years before finding a donor but sadly died from complications a few years later.

The years of anxious waiting on a list exposed a truth: the pool of black donors was virtually dry.

In the wake of the death of her son, Beverley De-Gale asks just what is behind the conundrum of Britain's black population's disinclination to volunteer as blood and organ donors.

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Worldwide shortage of medical isotopes.

PACO in Buenos Aires.

Tinnitus.

Smallpox and HIV.

There is a worldwide shortage of the radioactive material used in medical tests for cancer, heart disease and kidney function.

Scans to detect cancer rely on isotopes which are only produced at six nuclear reactors in the world.

In July 2009 the biggest reactor in the world, Chalk River, in Canada was closed temporarily and a Dutch reactor, the largest in Europe closed in March 2010 for routine maintenance.

The result is a critical shortage of medical isotopes in hospitals across the globe.

Some patients are waiting longer for tests and even diagnoses.

Professor Alan Perkins, President of the British Nuclear Medicine Society explains.

PACO is a highly addictive drug popular amongst children in the slums of the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires.

PACO is a paste made from raw cocaine cut with glue, crushed glass and even rat poison.

It's cheap and emergency departments at hospitals in Buenos Aires say they're seeing more admissions for this drug than for any other.

It's estimated to kill two people a week and its use is spreading.

Valeria Perasso reports from Buenos Aires.

Tinnitus is a condition where people hear a constant sound all day and night regardless of what's going on around them.

It might be a ringing, a screeching, a buzzing or even a roaring in the ears.

It affects around 15% of people at some point in their lives and there's no cure.

Claudia Hammond visits the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London to meet clinical psychologist, Laurence McKenna and two of his patients to find out how mindful meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy are helping manage their symptoms.

New research published in the journal BMC Immunology is suggesting that it might be no coincidence that as smallpox was eradicated and the vaccine to protect people against it was gradually withdrawn, rates of HIV increased.

Is it possible that the smallpox vaccine somehow gave people some protection against HIV? Dr Raymond Weinstein from George Mason University in Virginia explains why there might be a link between HIV and Smallpox.

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Henrietta Lacks; new definitions of psychiatric conditions; premature babies and pain.

One woman born in the 1920s is the source of trillions of cells used in medical research all over the world.

Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 from a virulent cervical cancer.

A sample of those cancer cells was taken at the time and the way they behave has changed medical science forever – contributing to everything from the polio vaccine to drugs for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Rebecca Skloot has spent over ten years researching Henrietta and her extraordinary legacy.

In mental health care staff constantly have to make difficult decisions about what constitutes everyday behaviour and what counts as a psychiatric illness.

One tool to help is the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of psychiatric disorders, otherwise known as the DSM.

It’s a good barometer of where worldwide thinking in psychiatry is heading.

It’s updated every decade or so and the proposed revisions for the latest edition have been announced.

“Hoarding” makes it in as new condition, and there’s even the new idea of diagnosing conditions before people have all the symptoms.

Asperger’s syndrome is earmarked for removal.

Professor Terry Brugha from the University of Leicester and American psychiatrist Daniel Carlat discuss the implications of the proposed changes.

Premature babies have to undergo invasive but essential procedures, sometimes as often as ten times every day.

But it’s very hard to know how much pain these procedures cause.

New research has found that babies who were born prematurely respond differently to painful procedures than full term babies.

Dr Rebecca Slater from University College London explains the research and its implications.

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Oil spill health effects.

Menopause test.

Fake psychiatric patients.

Mobile phone masts.

As the clean-up operation continues after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico hundreds are still out on boats helping with the clean up.

Health Check looks at the possible impact of both the oil and the chemicals used to disperse it on the health of people involved in the clean up - both now and in the years to come.

Cancer epidemiologist, Ed Trapedo and Environmental and occupational health expert Jim Diaz from Louisiana State University discuss the possible risks.

For the first time young women could be able to predict the likely year of their menopause with nothing more than a simple blood test.

Research unveiled at the Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome suggests that testing just one hormone in the blood can predict a woman’s age at menopause to within as little as four months.

Ramezani Tehrani, Associate Professor at Shaid Behesthi University of Medical Sciences in Tehran in Iran led the research.

One of the top psychiatric hospitals in the Netherlands is using fake psychiatric patients to test the standards of care that genuine patients in mental health units would experience.

The technique is spreading to other countries too which is raising some ethical concerns from critics.

Consultant Menko Suitors helped to devise the Dutch “mystery shopping” experiment to assess the service provided.

Dr Tom Walker is the Director of the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele University in the UK.

He explains why he has recently voiced his concerns about these practices in the journal The Psychiatrist.

As the use of mobile phones spreads the number of mobile phone masts increases.

They are all over the world and on average you are one kilometre away from one.

But do they pose any risk to health? Paul Elliott is Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College London.

He has conducted the largest ever study to examine whether there’s a link between pregnant women living near phone masts and childhood cancers.

They found no link.

He explains his findings published in the British Medical Journal.

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50 years after the female pill, why is no reversible contraceptive yet available to men?

It’s now 50 years since the pill was approved for contraceptive use.

These days women have 10 methods of reversible contraception to choose from.

Men, on the other hand, can either use condoms, or opt for the permanent option of vasectomy.

Why has medicine failed in this department, and is this fair?

Carl Djerassi – one of the founders of the pill, is pessimistic about the prospects of such a product ever being made available.

The climate of liability that has overshadowed drug development since the 1970s makes pharmaceutical companies reluctant to open up new areas of liability, while the potential profits are too small to justify the expense of research.

Meanwhile, scientists in non-profit areas of medicine have successfully created hormonal methods in the form of injections, skin gels and implants.

They’ve also discovered that ultrasound can cause temporary male infertility.

Indian biomedic Professor Sujoy Kumar Guha has invented a polymer that can kill sperm when injected into the vas deferens, and can last 10 years.

He explains how men have travelled from the West to his clinic in India, demanding the injection – showing just how frustrated some men are with the current lack of choice.

Hundreds of men have taken part in medical trials for various methods, including Bill Crozier.

He and his wife Rachael discuss why a reversible male contraceptive is so important to them.

Elaine Lissner, director of medical research programmes at the Parsemus Foundation and long-standing advocate of male contraception, explains that a male contraceptive will be reliant on the non-profit sector and government backing if it is ever to become available.

20100712

Exercise and obesity.

Breast milk banks.

Philippines sex education.

Neuroscience of charisma

Many campaigns across the world promote exercise as a key part of programmes to tackle childhood obesity.

But a new study may turn the assumption that exercise prevents obesity on its head.

Professor Terry Wilkin from the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, England heads the Early Bird diabetes study.

He has been following children over a decade and has found that although fatness does lead to inactivity, inactivity doesn’t lead to fatness.

What implications do these counterintuitive findings have for tackling obesity in children?

When a baby is born prematurely some mothers find they’re unable to produce breast milk.

Meanwhile some mothers of full-term babies find they have more than enough.

So the women with plenty of milk can donate it to the premature babies of women without.

There are breast banks in many parts of the world, but the country with more than any other is Brazil, where there are nearly 200.

Paulo Cabral reports from a bank in Sao Paulo.

In the Philippines many girls have their first baby not long after puberty.

In an attempt to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections, a government initiative is introducing sex education lessons to 160 schools for the very first time.

But there is vocal opposition from the Catholic Church.

The BBC’s reporter in the Philippines Kate McGeowan explains.

What is it about a charismatic person that draws you in to what they are saying? If we think someone has charisma, neuro-scientific research can reveal that we lower our guard and trust them just that little more than we might have done otherwise.

Uffe Shudt, a researcher at Arhus University in Denmark has been investigating what happens in the brains of Christian and secular participants who were listening to prayers by speakers they’d been told had special healing powers.

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Claudia Hammond reports on head size and Alzheimer’s disease, and heart failure treatment.

New research suggests that having a big brain may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Robert Perneczky, a psychiatrist at the Technical University in Munich, about his findings (based on tests of 270 patients with Alzheimer’s disease in US, Canada, Germany and Greece).

Heart failure affects millions of people.

It occurs when the muscle of the heart struggles to pump enough blood around the body.

Dr Martin Thomas, a cardiologist at the London Heart Hospital, is pioneering a new way of tailoring a pacemaker to improve the lives of people with heart failure.

Over one billion people in the world have to defecate out in the open.

Open defecation leads to many diseases.

Anna Lacey visits a project in Kenya which encourages the building and use of pit latrines.

Steve Lee is living with the incurable cancer, mesothelioma.

It’s caused by exposure to asbestos.

Despite his illness Steve has continued to run and he has lived for longer than his doctors expected.

Professor Julian Peto, of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, tells Claudia Hammond how it was discovered that asbestos is so dangerous to health.

He explains why currently the UK has more deaths from asbestos-related diseases than any other country.

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Can literature help doctors and nurses understand mental illness? Claudia Hammond reports

With today’s psychiatric knowledge is it possible to give Hamlet a firm diagnosis of mental illness? What sort of mental health problem might Sherlock Holmes have had? And could looking to literature help doctors and nurses understand mental illness better? These were some of the questions raised at the 1st International Health Humanities Conference held this weekend in Nottingham, UK.

Claudia Hammond speaks to Charley Baker, who co-founded the Madness and Literature Network, and Dr Alison Convey, co-author of research into ICD10 diagnoses of Shakespearean characters.

Haiti had high rates of tuberculosis before the earthquake there six months ago, but it’s not yet clear whether TB incidence has increased since.

Dr Kevin Schwartzman from the Montreal Chest Institute, takes a historical look into TB following other natural disasters and complex emergencies, and discusses whether it’s inevitable that TB rates rise after such events.

It was 90 years ago that people with diabetes began injecting themselves with regular doses of insulin.

Doctors have been trying to perfect the control of glucose levels ever since, and a device known as an insulin pump may help many patients.

John Pickup, Professor of Diabetes and Metabolism at Guy’s Hospital in London explains the idea behind it, and we meet Andy Skinnard, a diabetes patient who recently switched to the pump and describes how it’s affected his life.

Rheumatic heart disease is a preventable disease largely eliminated from the developed world, but in poorer countries it’s still a serious concern, and a study from Mozambique found it to be even more common than previously thought.

Dr Ana Olga Mocumbi from Maputo Heart Hospital, who ran this study, discusses their findings.

We speak to World Heart Federation expert Professor Bongani Mayosi, who advocates more liberal use of penicillin to help eliminate the disease from Africa.

20100816

Could a new form of resistant superbug spell the end for antibiotics

NDM-1 is a gene which makes bacteria resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics.

A year ago hardly anyone had heard of it but now it has spread from India and Pakistan to Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Australia.

New research just published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, found that a group of patients with NDM-1 infections resistant to certain antibiotics could be traced back to trips to India and Pakistan, some of them for medical tourism.

NDM-1 can spread easily and into other bacteria so with no new antibiotics to tackle it does its emergence spell the end for antibiotics?

The Latvian capital Riga has already become a big destination for medical tourism.

There are cheap flights from other parts of Europe, the cost of living is low, and treatment costs are cheaper than in many other European countries.

One clinic in Riga is branching out and offering implants for people addicted to alcohol.

But are they effective.

Damien McGuinness reports from the Latvian capital.

Hot on the heels of the Football World Cup Johannesburg has been inundated with people once again.

This time 3000 paediatricians from 134 countries attended the World Congress of the International Paediatric Association, the first time it has taken place in sub-Saharan Africa.

Claudia Hammond talks to reporter Vivienne Parry about the mood of the conference and the latest developments in childhood vaccination.

Optical illusions could make a remarkable contribution to our understanding of schizophrenia.

People with schizophrenia apparently can’t see this kind of visual trickery.

In the future this could provide a way of testing for the condition.

Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Steve Dakin from the Institute of Ophthalmology in London.

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Strange objects which have turned up in people’s airways

This week the Chinese Centre for Disease Control released the results of its Global Adult Tobacco Survey, revealing that more than 300 million people in China smoke, half of all adult men.

The BBC’s reporter in Hong Kong Angharad Law went over to Shenzhen in the south of China for the launch of the survey.

 

New research just published suggests high stress levels may delay women getting pregnant.

Researchers measured the levels of two different stress hormones in the saliva of more than 250 women who were trying to conceive.

Dr Cecilia Pyper, a researcher at Oxford University, tells the BBC what the results revealed.

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the USA, killing more than 1800 people and flooding 80% of the city.

In the years since the storm the region has slowly been rebuilt, but for many it is the mental scars which have been hardest to heal.

And as Laura Sheeter reports, the mental health services in New Orleans were washed away along with everything else, so the city has had to find new ways of helping people.

You might have heard on the news this week about the extraordinary story of Ron Sveden, who feared he had lung cancer, but turned out to have a pea plant growing in his lung.

Health Check was dying to find out how this could happen, so called Sherry Myerson, Professor of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Arizona.

A new experimental laser treatment has been developed for Keratoconus, an eye condition which can lead to blurred vision in young adulthood and in severe cases vision loss.

Claudia Hammond went to the Accuvision clinic in London to meet optometrist Vikash Patel and Hardeep Jhutti, a patient who has just had the treatment.

She also spoke to ophthalmologist John Dart at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital.

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Claudia Hammond revisits classic case studies that have advanced psychological research

A man known as HM provided the key to one of the mysteries of the human brain.

Having lost his own memory through surgery for epilepsy, HM revealed how new memories are formed.

Without a few unusual people, human behaviour would have remained a mystery - ordinary people whose extraordinary circumstances provided researchers with the exceptions that proved behavioural rules.

Claudia Hammond revisits the classic case studies that have advanced psychological research.

When a 27 year old man known in the text books simply as HM underwent brain surgery for intractable epilepsy in 1953, no one could have known that the outcome would provide the key to unravelling one of the greatest mysteries of the human mind - how we form new memories.

HM was unable to remember anything that happened after the operation, which was conducted by Dr William Scoville in Hartford, Connecticut, though his life before the surgery remained vivid.

For 55 years, until he died in December 2008 at the age of 82, HM - or Henry Molaison, as he was identified on his death - was studied by nearly 100 psychologists and neuro-scientists; he provided data that enabled them to piece together the memory process.

The research was first coordinated by Dr Brenda Milner of McGill University and then by Professor Suzanne Corkin at MIT.

Both women got to know Henry well, but he never got to know them; for him each meeting with them was the first.

His inability to form new memories meant that HM was unable to look after himself, but he remained cheerful, with a positive outlook on his condition.

He was happy, he maintained, to provide information that could help others.

And this he continues to do, even after death.

His brain was dissected by Dr Jacopo Annese of the Brain Observatory at UCSD, and is the subject of an ongoing on-line collaborative study.

20100920

Innovation or medical staff? The first of four debates on improving global health

Claudia Hammond talks to Tania Bowler from Marie Stopes International in the light of a new World Contraception Day report. The study shows that since last year, rates of unprotected sex have risen amongst 15-24 year olds in Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and North America.

Over the next four weeks Claudia Hammond will be asking experts to put their cause on the line – to fight for the one thing that would make the most difference to the health of the world’s poorest people. This week: technology and innovation versus something simpler – increasing medical staff on the ground. Peter Singer, Professor of Medicine at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Canada argues for innovation, while Bridget Lloyd of the People’s Health Movement in South Africa champions an increase in staff.

Hepatitis C has been called a silent disease: for many years it can have no symptoms. In Northern Europe it’s often associated with drug users sharing needles, but worldwide it’s more commonly contracted via non-sterile medical equipment. In the UK, Hepatitis C is more prevalent among South Asian communities, so health campaigners have been going into mosques to get the message across. Health Check talks to Graham Foster, Professor of Hepatology at the Royal London Hospital, and Shabana Begum from the Hepatitis C Trust, who herself contracted Hepatitis C on a family holiday to Pakistan.

There’s nothing like a nice walk in the country on a sunny day to make everything seem a bit better, and this can even make a difference if you have a serious mental health problem. Clinical psychologist Guy Holmes has founded Walk and Talk – a group open to anyone which meets every week in Shrewsbury and then winds its way out of town along the picturesque river Severn.

Claudia Hammond talks to Tania Bowler from Marie Stopes International in the light of a new World Contraception Day report.

The study shows that since last year, rates of unprotected sex have risen amongst 15-24 year olds in Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and North America.

Over the next four weeks Claudia Hammond will be asking experts to put their cause on the line – to fight for the one thing that would make the most difference to the health of the world’s poorest people.

This week: technology and innovation versus something simpler – increasing medical staff on the ground.

Peter Singer, Professor of Medicine at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Canada argues for innovation, while Bridget Lloyd of the People’s Health Movement in South Africa champions an increase in staff.

Hepatitis C has been called a silent disease: for many years it can have no symptoms.

In Northern Europe it’s often associated with drug users sharing needles, but worldwide it’s more commonly contracted via non-sterile medical equipment.

In the UK, Hepatitis C is more prevalent among South Asian communities, so health campaigners have been going into mosques to get the message across.

Health Check talks to Graham Foster, Professor of Hepatology at the Royal London Hospital, and Shabana Begum from the Hepatitis C Trust, who herself contracted Hepatitis C on a family holiday to Pakistan.

There’s nothing like a nice walk in the country on a sunny day to make everything seem a bit better, and this can even make a difference if you have a serious mental health problem.

Clinical psychologist Guy Holmes has founded Walk and Talk – a group open to anyone which meets every week in Shrewsbury and then winds its way out of town along the picturesque river Severn.

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The cholera outbreak in Haiti has reached the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The disease is predicted to continue to spread around the country.

Yael Vellerman from Water Aid explains to Claudia Hammond that improved sanitation is the answer to preventing further cholera outbreaks.

New research shows that young offenders are two to three times as likely as other people to have had a head injury.

Huw Williams, a psychologist at Exeter University, talks to Claudia about the consequences of his findings.

Infectious respiratory diseases cause much illness and even death.

Prudent Nsengiyumva reports from a vaccination station in Rwanda where there’s a campaign to prevent one respiratory disease altogether – pneumonia.

Pneumonia is just one of the respiratory diseases that the World Lung Foundation feels is neglected and it has highlighted that and others in the Acute Respiratory Atlas which has come out this week.

The author of the Atlas, Dr Neil Schluger, tells Claudia why he thinks these diseases are neglected.

Immunotherapy, in which the body’s immune system is harnessed to fight against cancer, is a treatment that has long held promise, but not delivered real benefits.

Dr Mickey Koh, a consultant haematologist at St George’s Hospital in London has been carrying out pioneering research in this field in Singapore, and explains why he thinks immunotherapy may soon be an effective treatment.

How to stop cholera spreading further in Haiti.

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The case that for years apparently proved that nurture not nature dictates gender identity

Janet and Ron Reimer's twin sons, Bruce and Brian, were born in Winnipeg in Canada in August 1965.

During a routine circumcision Bruce suffered a catastrophic injury to his penis.

A year later, on the advice of Dr John Money, founder of the Gender Identity Clinic at Johns Hopkins University Medical Centre in Baltimore, Bruce became Brenda and the Reimers began to raise their son as a daughter.

John Money published the case as one of successful gender re-assignment when the twins were 9.

Yet by the time Brenda was a teenager she was suicidal.

When her parents finally told her the truth, Brenda decided to change back to her original gender; she became David Reimer.

The medical literature continued to quote the John/Joan case as evidence of successful gender reassignment, until Milton Diamond, Director of the Pacific Centre for Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii, finally tracked down David Reimer and published an article in 1997.

Journalist John Colapinto followed it up with a book about David in 2000.

As a man, David appeared finally to have found happiness in marriage.

But a series of events took their toll: his twin brother's death, the loss of his job, and separation from his wife all proved too much and he took his own life on 4 May 2004.

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How do we know which medical stories to act on that are reported in the news?

Women talk about their menopausal experiences to help dispel myths for others.

Traditional foods are promoted in Kenya to try to encourage healthy eating.

Do different sounds have an affect on your perception of taste?

Interpreting medical research, menopausal experiences, and does sound influence taste?

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Claudia Hammond hears how complimenting your doctor may not have the effect you hoped for

You might think that a paying your doctor a compliment at the start of a consultation might improve their mood and increase the chance of a good diagnosis.

But research involving dozens of real-life consultations in the United States has shown that praising doctors can backfire.

Claudia Hammond talks to one of the researchers, Pamela Hudak from the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in Canada, about why doctors wouldn’t always like a compliment.

Angela Saini visits the Corsellis Collection in London, the home of thousands of preserved human brains.

The collection dates back more than half a century and includes brains affected by hundreds of different diseases, from strokes and epilepsy to schizophrenia and dementia.

Researchers are able to study the brain tissue in much greater detail than with a brain scan, to learn about brain injury and mental illness.

The Human Connectome Project is a major new project which will map how different areas of the brain connect to each other and help understand what makes us human.

Others say we would learn more about our minds by looking at the minute detail, at how brain cells communicate with each other within individual circuits.

Gero Miesenbork the Wayneflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford University and Tim Behrens from the Human Connectome Project explain what each of these approaches can tell us about human behaviour.

Back in July we heard from Steve Lee who suffers from mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with exposure to the cheap building material asbestos.

Despite his illness, last year Steve ran a half-marathon and now his running club has raised more than £40,000 to fund research into the disease.

To see how the money is being spent and what exactly scientists are hoping to discover our reporter Martin Vennard went along with Steve to Queen Mary.

20110103

Does it work to pay people to adopt healthy behaviours, such as stopping smoking?

Giving people cash in exchange for doing the right thing for their health is the latest trend.

Mexico lead the way in paying people to look after their health with a system set up in 1997 called Opportunidades.

Mothers in five million households receive cash in exchange for tasks like attending pre and post natal check ups and making sure their children receive vaccinations and go to school.

At least thirty other countries have since set up similar schemes.

In the past few years in the UK, National Health Service funded schemes have sprung up, offering financial incentives in the form of shopping vouchers to encourage people to be more healthy.

The schemes target a whole range of behaviours, from quitting smoking and eating less to getting teenagers to turn up for the course of vaccinations against the human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer.

But does paying people to be healthy work? Claudia Hammond assesses the evidence and makes a discovery that astonishes her.

In one completely unexpected area of healthcare - drug addiction - shopping vouchers are proving to be not only effective, but cost effective too.

This is a highly controversial scheme.

Many people in the UK are uncomfortable with the idea that drug addicts should be paid to give up crack.

Director of the National Addiction Centre, Professor John Strang, disagrees.

When it comes to addiction, 'it's bordering on negligent not to be willing to do that'.

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Freud used his first case history, Dora, to show how dreams could be used in analysis

Dora was the pseudonym Sigmund Freud gave to the teenage girl who claimed that her father had offered her to his friend in exchange for the continued sexual favours of the friend's wife.

Freud used this, his first case history, to show how the interpretation of dreams could be used in analysis.

Also to illustrate his new theory of infant sexuality, and to explain transference.

Although Freud said he believed Dora's account of the adults' love triangle, Dora ended the analysis after just 11 weeks.

Freud wrote up his account immediately, but didn't publish it until 1905, as Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.

In the 1970s the case was taken up by feminists to discredit Freud's theories.

Claire Pajaczkowska made a film about it: Dora: A Case of Mistaken Identity.

She speaks about it to Claudia Hammond in the Freud Museum, Sigmund Freud's former London home.

American psychoanalyst, Karin Ahbel-Rappe, asserts that Dora, a vulnerable teenager, was badly let down by Freud.

So does Anthony Stadlen, a psychotherapist who has researched the real people behind the pseudonyms in Freud's case histories.

Dora was in fact Ida Bauer, later Ida Adler, and the image of the self-obsessed hysteric perpetuated by Freud and his followers was apparently untrue.

Janet Sayers, Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology at the University of Kent, and Michael Billig, Professor of Social Science at Loughborough University, also feature in the programme.

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The US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, survived being shot in the head at close range in Arizona.

She survived the injury by having her skull cut to allow her brain to swell without damaging it.

Marc Nuwer, critical care expert and neurologist at the University of California Los Angeles discusses the surgical techniques used for these kinds of injuries.

After the referendum in South Sudan many believe that the voters will choose to see the South gain independence from North Sudan.

If so, the people of the South will be the country with some of the poorest healthcare in the world.

Peter Martell in Juba, Sudan reports for the BBC.

Some scientists are questioning the World Health Organisation's recommendation that ideally all mothers around the world should breastfeed exclusively for the first six months with no powdered milk or other foods.

Mary Fewtrell from the Institute of Child Health in London is one of the authors of a new paper on the topic published in the British Medical Journal.

She discusses the evidence that advice on breast feeding might not be the same for everyone across the world.

During the violence following the disputed election in Kenya three years ago more than 1,200 Kenyans died and over half a million were displaced.

Our East Africa correspondent, Kevin Mwachiro reports on one community reconciliation project which aims to allow people from different, once rival, tribes to talk and work together to discourage and reduce tribalism.

And it uses yoga.

Gabrielle Gifford's brain surgery.

Breastfeeding.

Health in Southern Sudan.

Yoga in Kenya

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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As public protests spread, does a psychologist think that a crowd has a mind of its own?

Public protests have spread across the Middle East and North Africa – with demonstrators taking to the streets in Yemen, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt.

So is some kind of domino effect taking place, following the ousting of the Tunisian President? Dr Chris Cocking is a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology from London Metropolitan University.

He’s studied the behaviour of crowds and experienced some first-hand – including the recent events in Tunis.

He dispels the myths about mass-panic and violent behaviour by crowds – pointing out instead ways that police and soldiers could successfully keep crowds safe.

If you really feel the cold you might be tempted to turn up the heating when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

But research suggests that as the temperatures have been rising in our homes we have been getting fatter.

Dr Fiona Johnson from University College London has been analysing how exposure to fluctuations in temperature might help the body to burn energy instead of laying down fat.

There’s progress in the field of regenerative medicine – where a person’s own tissue is grown and used to treat another part of their body.

Scientists in Australia are recruiting patients with osteoarthritis of the knee for a trial where stem cells found in body fat will be injected into their painful joints.

And vets at Taronga Zoo in Sydney have been trying out the technique - on a snow leopard with osteoarthritis.

20110207

Access to medicines; how to sleep well; Cambodia toilets; preventing traumatic flashbacks

As the EU-India Trade Agreement reaches final stages of negotiation, aid agencies are warning that it could result in a dramatic rise in the price of non-branded drugs.

The EU says the generic drug industry in India will not be harmed.

Oxfam’ senior policy advisor Mohga Kamal-Yani and EU spokesperson, John Clancy battle it out in the Health Check studio.

A new survey of sleeping habits in the UK shows that people with insomnia are three times more likely to feel depressed than people who sleep well.

Professor Colin Espie advises on how to get a good night’s sleep.

Guy De Launey reports from Cambodia on a new marketing campaign designed to shame villagers into buying a toilet.

Until recently, just one in five people in the rural areas had access to a toilet.

Now ten thousand toilets have been sold and it’s hoped owning a toilet will soon become as much of a status symbol as having a mobile phone.

Unpleasant flashbacks are a common symptom of post traumatic stress disorder but if a certain kind of computer game is played immediately after the original traumatic event, it seems to help prevent such flashbacks from occurring at a later date.

New research from Wellcome Trust Fellow, Emily Holmes at Oxford University.

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Why do some women eat clay during pregnancy, and is it safe?

A desire to eat clay, especially while pregnant, is widespread throughout the world.

The real reasons aren’t well understood, though tradition, perceived health benefits, and a craving caused by the smell of clay baking may all play a role.

In Bangladesh the baked clay is called sikor; Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Parvez Haris about his new research which found high levels of toxic substances in sikor imported to Britain from Bangladesh.

More and more people are being bitten by bats carrying rabies in Peru.

Health teams have started vaccinating villagers against the virus in remote regions of the Amazon, while researchers are trying to discover why there seems to be an increase in the numbers of biting incidents.

Reporter Dan Collyns reports from an area of rainforest bordering Ecuador affected by this problem.

If pregnant women with HIV take anti-retroviral drugs and steps are taken to prevent transmission of the virus during childbirth, the risk of passing the virus to their child can be as low as 1%.

There are now hundreds of thousands of babies born free from HIV, even though their mothers have it.

But new research conducted in Cape Town, South Africa finds that those babies might still have a weaker immune system than other infants.

John O’Donoghue, a poet born in London to Irish parents, lost his father when he was just 14.

His mother, stricken with grief, became ill and ended up in an asylum on the outskirts of London.

John was fostered, but shortly afterwards he found himself having treatment in the very same asylum.

He wrote about his experiences in the award-winning Sectioned - A Life Interrupted, and talks to Claudia about the part writing played in his life in and out of the mental healthcare system.

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New ways to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers

Claudia Hammond and guests look at the best ways around the world to improve the lives of people with dementia and those who care for them.

Thirty five million people in the world have dementia and as people live longer those numbers are set to almost double every twenty years.

The result will be that millions of people with dementia will need to be cared for either by their relatives and friends or in care homes.

Professor June Andrews, Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre in the Department of Applied Social Science at the University of Stirling joins Claudia to explain what dementia is and what its impact is on the lives of the patients and their families.

Trish Vella-Burrows, of Christchurch University in Kent, runs singing clubs for people with dementia.

She tells Claudia that her research has shown that these activities bring benefits to the patients.

Nivedita Pathak reports from Goa where psychiatrist, Dr Amit Dias, is running the award-winning Sangath Dementia Project, in which trained volunteers deliver support to families and people with dementia.

Dr Huali Wang, of Peking University Institute of Mental Health, explains that the awareness of dementia is growing in the big cities in China.

She also talks about a survey she carried out that demonstrated that Chinese families prefer to look after family members with dementia at home, rather than putting them in an institution.

There are simple technological changes that can be made to a home to make it safer for a person with dementia to live there.

A demonstration Dementia House has been set up at the University of Stirling and reporter Christopher Sleight is shown around it by Eileen Richardson.

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A special programme on the extraordinary case of Phineas Gage, a 19th century railway worker who survived a bizarre accident that changed him and the study of neuroscience forever.

A moment's distraction was Phineas Gage’s downfall.

As foreman of the gang clearing rocks for the laying of the railway line near Cavendish, Vermont, he was responsible for setting the charge, drilling a hole in the rock and using an iron rod to tamp the explosive down before lighting the fuse.

On September 13th 1848, his tamping iron struck the side of the hole, setting off a spark which ignited the powder.

The resulting explosion sent the iron, which was over a metre long and three centimetres in diameter, up through his skull above his eye and out through the top of his head.

It landed 30 metres away.

Amazingly Phineas Gage survived.

Unconscious for a few seconds, he got up, rode an oxcart into town and lived for a further 12 years.

However he did not escape unscathed - his personality was considerably altered.

Phineas Gage was no longer a hardworking, dependable and well-liked foreman.

He swore, was shiftless, and behaved inappropriately.

For the first time, this was evidence that the brain affects the way we behave, and the scene was set for the mapping of the brain functions.

Claudia Hammond visits Harvard Medical School Museum in Boston to see for herself what remains of the man with the hole in his head.

At the Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Ely, Cambridgeshire she meets clients with brain injuries similar to those suffered by Phineas Gage and discovers how far we've come in understanding and treatment since Gage suffered his appalling trauma.

The man with the hole in his head - one of the most famous case studies in brain science.

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Healthcare in Ethiopia without using doctors or nurses.

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OBESITY AND DIABETES

Obesity is a becoming a huge global problem.

You can find out if you are overweight or obese – by using one of the many BMI or Body Mass Index calculators on the internet.

You simply provide your height, weight and gender and a chart will show you whether you need to lose weight to protect your health.

But a new British study is calling for the definition of obesity amongst South Asians to be reclassified.

A person is said to be obese if their BMI is over 30.

But using data from more than 6,000 people Professor Kamlesh Khunti from Leicester University is calling for a lower cut-off point.

TWIN MINDS

Twin girls from Canada - Tatiana and Krista Hogan - are challenging what we know about the mind.

The 5 year old girls are joined at the head, and each has her own brain but one part – the thalamus – is joined.

So one girl can see or taste something whilst the other seems to respond.

Professor Todd Feinberg, the author of From Axons to Identity: Neurological Explorations of the Nature of the Self, is particularly interested in what their case can tell about our ideas of self.

He and the girls’ neurosurgeon, Professor Doug Cochrane from BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, consider how the anatomy of the twins’ brains is challenging accepted ideas about the mind.

SLEEPING SICKNESS

In Uganda there is a fear that two types of a lethal disease are moving closer together.

Sleeping sickness is spread by tsetse flies, which carry the trypanosome parasite.

The two strains of the disease are now separated by just 100km - and part of their life cycle is spent in cattle, which are moved around the countryside.

Treating the condition is expensive and it’s often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic malaria.

It’s hoped that better prevention and treatments can limit its spread.

Could a different cut-off point for calculating obesity in South Asians fight diabetes?

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After the fall of Nicolai Ceausescu in Romania, news of how babies and children were treated in Romanian orphanages horrified the world.

Images of infants, silent and malnourished, rocking in their cots, hosed down with cold water, prompted an outburst of collective outrage and thousands of would-be parents rushed to adopt.

But little was known then, in 1990, about the long-term effects of such extreme, early deprivation: how would the babies and toddlers who had been denied basic human contact and care, adapt and recover when they were transfered to their new, loving and caring families?

Twenty one years on, and scientists who have been tracking the progress of these children in the English and Romanian Adoptees study, have made some astonishing discoveries.

Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Sir Michael Rutter and his team about this "unique and natural experiment", which enabled scientists to pinpoint, exactly, when severe deprivation ended and good parenting began.

She discovers just how quickly these babies and toddlers caught up with their English peers and hears encouraging evidence about the capacity of human beings to recover from the most appalling early treatment.

But she finds out too, that for some of these children, the sobering reality is that their impairments appear to be long-lasting.

Cindy and Anthony Calvert from Northallerton in North Yorkshire describe bringing 18-month old Adi back from an orphanage in the north of Romania.

She was dehydrated, with tiny, wrinkled, dry hands and a terror of flies.

She flourished in her new home, but was so fearful of being thirsty, she would drink water whenever she could.

And her early experience of being held under freezing cold water to wash her, she admits, has left her with a life-long fear of swimming.

Adi is testament to the remarkable resilience shown by so many of the babies and toddlers who were adopted from these Romanian institutions.

And it's finding out why children like her appear to have overcome the most traumatic of early years, while others continue to struggle, that makes the long-term ERA study so important.

Claudia Hammond reports on the progress of Romanian orphanage babies adopted 21 years ago.

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Today we’re devoting the whole programme to the topic of thinking, with someone Claudia Hammond has long wanted to interview – the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. He’s someone whose work has really made her stop and think over the years. He can ask you a question which sounds easy, but inevitably you get the answer wrong, revealing the common mistakes which a lot of us make systematically in everyday thinking - mistakes which can lead us to make some very poor decisions. Although he’s a psychologist Professor Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics for his work with Amos Tversky, which called into question the economists’ assumption that we’re all selfish, rational and logical. His new book “Thinking, fast and slow” covers his 45 years of work in this area. He talks to Claudia about the two kinds of thinking he identifies – system one which is fast, automatic and emotional and system two which is slower and more logical.

Claudia Hammond talks to psychologist Prof Kahneman on his book “Thinking, fast and slow”.

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SPANISH HEALTH REFORMS

In order to reduce Spain's budget deficit in line with European Union targets, Spain has recently announced health reforms which aim to cut $7 billion, or 10% of the government’s total spending on health. Currently health care in Spain is financed through general taxation and is free to everyone, but under new plans, controversial measures are being introduced. For example illegal immigrants will no longer be entitled to free health care except in emergencies and there is going to be a co-payment system, where patients are expected to contribute towards the cost of drugs.

Some critics believe the reforms put Spain on the road away from universal healthcare towards an insurance-based system. Others think that these measures are essential if Spain is to deal with the economic crisis. Claudia Hammond speaks to Professor Manel Peiro, Director of Health Care Management at ESADE Business School and Dr Hixinio Beiras, a cardiologist and member of the Spanish Federation of Associations for the Defence of Public Health.

HEALTH MYTH – EATING FOR TWO

This week’s medical myth is: Is it true that if you are pregnant you should eat more, because you are eating for two after all? Professor Patrick O’Brien, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at University College London Hospital, sets the record straight.

STREET THERAPY

Confusingly, there are many different types of therapy that exist, but it is usually very clear where, traditionally, any therapy takes place. It is generally in an office or a consulting room and lasts for 50 minutes to an hour. But four years ago, on a street in North London, a young clinical psychologist called Charlie Alcock approached a group of young people who were in gangs and committing all sorts of anti-social behaviour on the local social housing estate. She began giving them a completely new form of therapeutic delivery, called “street therapy”.

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The rabies outbreak in Peru which has killed seven children.

RABIES

Seven children have recently died from rabies in Peru, and this week a patient who had been bitten by a dog in Asia died from the same disease in a London hospital.

Rabies is a viral infection found in certain mammals including dogs, foxes and bats and occurs in various places around the world including India, Indonesia and North America.

When a person is bitten by an infected animal, the virus migrates from the skin into the nerves and into the brain, where it causes serious damage. Death from rabies is very unpleasant, with patients often becoming terrified of water and so agitated that they become violent and have to be restrained or put into an anaesthetic coma.

There are very expensive drugs to cure rabies if it is caught within a day or so of being bitten, but they are hard to get hold of and 50,000 people die from the disease every year.

What is unusual about this outbreak in Peru is that the cases have appeared within such a short time-frame. Dr Ron Behrens from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tells Health Check what he thinks has happened, and how rabies can best be controlled.

TB AND LA BOHEME

What do the great 19th century classics such as La Traviata and La Boheme have in common? In both of these stories, the leading ladies succumb to consumption, or tuberculosis as it is known now.

But despite being commonplace in the literature of centuries ago, TB remains a problem.

In a unique partnership with the Global Fund that aims to increase awareness of TB, the South African theatre company Isango Ensemble is performing a new production of La Boheme. The BBC’s Smitha Mundasad went along to one of their London performances.

TINNITUS

Tinnitus is a condition which affects as many as 15% of people at some point in their lives and can drive people to distraction. Sufferers constantly hear a sound in their ears. This might be a ringing, a screeching, a buzzing or even a roaring and can affect one or both ears.

The curious thing about tinnitus is that no one knows exactly what causes it, but the latest thinking is that brain activity generates the perception of sound. To get relief, some patients try to avoid silent rooms so that they cannot hear it as much. Others try masking the sound with machines that produce white noise.

Rilana Cima, a clinical psychologist from the University of Maastricht, is trying the opposite approach - training people to focus on the sounds in order to get used to them. The results of her study, just published in the Lancet, show that for many it seems to work.

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The results of a major trial which hoped that cannabis might slow down progression of MS.

CUPID CLINICAL TRIAL RESULTS

Multiple Sclerosis is a serious neurological condition that damages the myelin sheath of the nervous system, causing symptoms such as pain, numbness and blurred vision.

There is currently no cure for MS, however one way to help alleviate the symptoms is to use a medical version of cannabis. Its main active ingredient THC, has been shown to help with pain, stiffness and muscle spasms.

The results of this clinical trial which proved that cannabis can help with symptom amelioration and experimental evidence from laboratories suggested that cannabinoids might help to protect nerve cells from damage and thus slow the progression of the disease. So in 2008, another major clinical trial called CUPID, or Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease, began.

Professor John Zajicek, from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, presented the results of the CUPID trial at the Association of British Neurologists last week.

HEALTH MYTH – DOES SUNBURN FADE INTO A TAN?

True or false; if you get sunburnt, does the burn fade into a tan a few days later? Tony Bewley, Consultant Dermatologist at Barts and London Hospitals, provides the answer.

INTEGRATED MEDICINE IN ECUADOR

In many countries around the world, traditional medicine is slowly disappearing as it is being replaced by modern medicine.

But despite a lack of controlled trials, many people still believe in treatment given by traditional healers and it can be much cheaper than seeing a Western doctor. So in some countries indigenous medicine is still very much alive.

In the Andean highlands of Ecuador, there is one hospital where the two forms of medicine work side by side. Every patient has basic medical tests, but provided the condition is minor, those who prefer can see an Andean medicine man instead of a modern doctor. The BBC’s Irene Caselli reports.

3D BODY SCANNERS and EATING DISORDERS

People with eating disorders often have a distorted view of their own bodies. Researchers at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen are now using 3D body scanners to test whether giving this accurate feedback of body shape could help in the treatment of life-threatening illnesses like anorexia and bulimia.

Dr Arthur Stewart, from the Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology at Robert Gordon University in Scotland, has just completed the initial research.

(Image: A cannabis plant. Credit: Press Association)

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The results of a major trial which hoped that cannabis might slow down progression of MS.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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POLYPILL

Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Sir Nicholas Wald of London's Wolfson Institute about his latest study on the polypill. This is the multi-drug tablet, taken once a day, for the prevention of heart disease and stroke which he proposed conceptually ten years ago. His latest trial is one of several undertaken around the world. The studies have tested various combinations of cholesterol-lowering and blood pressure-reducing drugs – all relatively cheap and used separately by doctors for many years. But the idea is controversial, particularly around the use of the polypill which Nicholas Wald advocates. He argues that it could be taken by everyone above a certain age even if they've not been identified as being at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Being over 50 years old is the only necessary risk factor to consider, he argues.

Professor Denis Xavier of the St John's Medical College and Research Institute in Bangalore is also an enthusiast of the polypill, at least for people diagnosed by tests to be at increased risk of heart disease or stroke. He's been involved in three trials of the tablet in India and was in London recently to speak at a health seminar organised by the organisation C3 Collaboration for Health.

DIET AND HAIR LOSS IN WOMEN

Claudia also consults John Gray over a question sent to Health Check by listeners in Tanzania and Kenya. Is there a link between the consumption of eggs and hair loss in women? (There isn't.)

CONTRACEPTION IN NIGERIA

BBC Health correspondent Jane Dreaper reports from southern Nigeria on an initiative to improve contraception services to rural areas, where she meets health staff and women seeking family planning in the village of Nassarawa.

(Image: Close up of a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure meter) and stethoscope. Credit: Science Photo Library)

New findings on the polypill for heart disease and stroke prevention.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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OLYMPICS POLYCLINIC

Claudia Hammond talks to orthopaedic surgeon Fares Haddad of University College London on his role at the sports injury frontline at the 2012 London Olympics polyclinic.

FIDGET

Health Check visits the Fidget – a collaborative project of an artist and doctor, designed to get everyone moving to improve their cardiovascular health.

AIDS 2012

Claudia also hears from two people attending this week's international Aids conference in Washington DC – Sarah Boseley, health editor of the Guardian newspaper, and Dr Sania Nishtar, a doctor specialising in non-communicable chronic disease and leading health policy reformer in Pakistan.

Aids 2012 conference and the clinic for athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.

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Claudia Hammond reports on the Global Health Policy Forum Summit in London – an international showcase of ideas for better healthcare for more people for less money.

The summit brought together hundreds of health policy specialists, government ministers, senior medics, social entrepreneurs, health industry representatives and NGOs and focussed discussion around six themes for healthcare innovation.

The summit chair Lord Darzi of the Institute for Global Health Innovation told Health Check what he hopes the Forum will achieve.

Christine Hancock outlined two innovations from Abu Dhabi and South Africa for tackling the accelerating burden of non-communicable illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran led the Forum’s report on innovations in maternal care and told Claudia about the use of obstetric surgical technicians in Mozambique – specialist midwives in rural areas trained to perform emergency caesarean operations.

Social entrepreneur Javier Okhuysen from Mexico describes how his new health care company Sala Uno imported a fast, low cost cataract operation technique from India.

Better health care for more people for less money. Global summit in London shows how.

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Health Check this week spans all stages of human life from infancy, through the middle years, to old age.

BABY MINDS

Claudia Hammond meets babies, mums and the iconoclastic psychologist Prof Vasu Reddy of the University of Portsmouth who is studying them. Professor Reddy argues that, contrary to orthodox thinking, we begin to understand that other people have their own thoughts at a very young age. A baby teasing its parents and siblings is just one example of an infant developing a concept of other people’s mentality and an ability to play mind games.

LIFTING WEIGHTS AND TYPE 2 DIABETES

Could lifting weights in the gym regularly dramatically reduce your own risk of developing Type 2 diabetes? A prospective study of 32,000 men suggests that pumping iron could improve your chances by as much as 30%. The work was done by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Southern Denmark. Claudia talks to study author Anders Grontved.

AGE SUIT

To get the perspective of an elderly person, Abby Darcy dons the Age Suit at the Charite University Hospital in Berlin. The weighted overalls and helmet simulate the muscle weakness, stiff joints, hearing loss and impaired vision common in old age. All medical students at this Berlin University training hospital have to do the same, at the instigation of Dr Rahel Eckardt. Dr Eckardt of the Evangelical Geriatric Centre wants her trainees to appreciate first-hand the physical limitations the ageing process can impose on their patients, and treat them accordingly. As the number of people over 65 years in Germany and most other countries increases, new doctors need a greater appreciation of what it is like to grow old.

Baby mind games. Weights cut diabetes risk. And turning young doctors into 70 year olds

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ALCOHOL AND CANCER

Claudia Hammond looks at the links between alcohol consumption and certain cancers, and talks to Dr Silvia Balbo, a researcher in United States, whose new findings help to explain why alcohol can increase your risk of cancer of the mouth, and possibly the oesophagus.

TRAMADOL MISUSE

There’s also a report from Gaza on the growing incidence of tramadol misuse among young men in the Palestinian territory. Tramadol is a prescription pain-killer and Adam Mackridge, a senior lecturer in pharmacy practice at Liverpool John Moores University, talks about the drug and the current knowledge of its potential for misuse.

Alcohol and cancer risk, and the dangers of painkiller misuse

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Addressing maternal mortality, new ways to fund healthcare and myths about sperm.

MATERNAL MORTALITY IN SOUTH SUDAN

Claudia Hammond hears from South Sudan which has the highest recorded rate of maternal mortality in the world. There, one woman in seven is likely to die in childbirth. Medical facilities seem inadequate, with only a handful of trained midwives in the whole county. However, initiatives are taking place right now to change this, in particular training local women to act as community midwives.

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

We also look at ways to fund public health systems in countries which have ineffective or limited taxation systems. New research looking at nine different countries has found a range of innovative solutions.

SEX

And we examine the widely held belief that the timing of sexual intercourse can determine the sex of a child.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Surgeon Dr Atul Gawande tells us about simple but ingenious solutions to medical problems.

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Claudia Hammond is joined by surgeon and writer Dr Atul Gawande to discuss the simple but often ingenious solutions to medical problems.

He explains why a simple check list, inspired by the kind of list used by pilots before take-off is saving lives in operating theatres across the world.

The World Health Organisation are promoting its use across the world.

He explains why it has been so successful the world over and even prevented deaths in his own surgical practice.

Surgeon Dr Atul Gawande tells us about simple but ingenious solutions to medical problems.

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Two births from ovarian transplant;Winter Olympic dentistry;C-sections;Sleep deprivation.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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TWO BIRTHS FROM ONE OVARIAN TRANSPLANT

A world first - Stinne Bergholdt became the first woman to give birth to two children after an ovarian transplant restored her fertility after cancer treatment.

She talks to Claudia Hammond about the birth of her second child and Professor Claus Anderson from Copenhagen in Denmark explains how the ovarian transplant meant Stinne could get pregnant naturally.

He explains why this might offer hope to menopausal women.

DENTISTRY AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS

From Wu Tangs in the Skier Cross to keeping your stone in the house – the Winter Olympics in Vancouver has been showcasing some of the most exciting, unusual and occasionally dangerous winter sports.

What's less well known is that over 75 dentists are on hand to treat the competing athletes for fractures, check ups and sometimes even worse.

Claudia talks to the Winter Olympics chief dentist Dr Chris Zed about some of the worst cases in his chair like abscesses and why it's an elite athletes high pain threshold which might mean they sometimes neglect their dental health.

CAESAREAN SECTIONS

A new report in the medical journal The Lancet looked at the outcomes of more than 100,000 births in 9 Asian Countries.

China had by far the highest rate of C sections with nearly half of all births done by this method.

Jim Dornan, past international vice president of the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians in the UK, one of the authors of the new study – and Metin Gülmezoglu, an obstetrician working for the World Health Organisation in Geneva discuss the findings and the conclusions that can be drawn from the study.

SAILING THE ATLANTIC OCEAN AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Charlie Pitcher has just won the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race sailing over 2000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

To achieve this he rowed 2 hours then would have 1 hour off, rowing in total 16 hours a day.

Chris Idzikowski from the Edinburgh Sleep Centre in Scotland explains what effects this kind of sleeping pattern would have on Charlie and his race.

Two births from ovarian transplant;Winter Olympic dentistry;C-sections;Sleep deprivation.

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For years, the reality of mental illness in Hong Kong has remained hidden - a combination of shame, stigma and denial.

In the first of two special programmes, Claudia Hammond hears from those who have experienced mental distress about the discrimination they suffer, and talks to mental health campaigners and professionals about the urgent need to expand and modernise the mental health care.

Mental Health in Hong Kong - first of two special programmes presented by Claudia Hammond

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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You might have heard this week the news that if you’re a woman your ability to conceive in your 30s or 40s might be affected by your blood type.

An American study has found that women with the most common blood group – Group O - have higher levels of a certain chemical called FSH which suggests they have fewer eggs left than the women with type A or B blood.

The research was presented to the Conference of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

Fertility expert Professor Simon Fishel talks to Claudia Hammond.

A decade ago telemedicine was the one of the big hopes for getting healthcare to the most remote parts of Africa.

There were plans for 200 sites in South Africa alone, and yet a recent government review there found that only 32 are working.

Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Maurice Mars from Cape Town.

Next week experts in the field will be gathering in Washington to discuss the potential for mobile health in the future.

Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Val Stevenson of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London and finds out how telemedicine is working there.

She also talks to Professor Victor Patterson in Belfast about a project which links doctors with other doctors, so that specialist knowledge can be shared around the world.

Today a vast immunisation campaign begins in Chad and Sudan and campaigns in another dozen countries were launched last week.

Most children will be getting the new so-called bi-valent vaccine which protects against two types of polio.

Just last week the results of an Indian trial came out showing that this vaccine is 30% more effective.

So could we really be approaching the day when polio is eradicated? Rod Curtis from the World Health Organisation in Geneva talks to Claudia about how the situation is looking at the moment.

A woman's ability to conceive in her 30s or 40s might be affected by her blood type.

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More than a million babies die every year – the toll of premature birth.

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More than a million babies die every year – the toll of premature birth

THE TOLL OF PREMATURE BIRTH

15 million babies are born too soon around the world every year. And more than 1 million of them die as a result of complications because they are premature. For the first time ever we now have country by country figures for premature births. But there are ways of preventing some premature births and of saving more babies without always needing hi-tech equipment according to Dr Joy Lawn from Saving Newborn Lives, Save the Children. In countries like Malawi “kangaroo care” – where the baby is placed next to the mother’s skin to keep warm – has been shown to reduce the risk of infections and help premature babies to grow. And steroids can be injected before birth to improve the condition of the baby’s lungs.

UNNECESSARY TESTS

Doctors can order blood tests and scans to help work out what’s behind a symptom. But are those tests always necessary? Nine medical specialities in the United States have each released a list of five tests and procedures that they say are often unnecessary. They hope the Choosing Wisely campaign will encourage doctors and their patients to spend more time discussing what tests are really needed. Dr Chris Cassell is the President of the American Board of Internal Medical Foundation, a charity spearheading the campaign. She says the unnecessary tests result from both the way healthcare is funded in the States and a lack of knowledge of the latest evidence behind treatments.

DA VINCI DRAWINGS

16th century anatomical drawings by the renowned artist Leonardo Vinci are still being used today to teach new doctors. Buckingham Palace in London is the venue for a new exhibition of the sketches which opens this week. The scientific papers were left unpublished after da Vinci’s death – a fact that Peter Abrahams who’s Professor of Clinical Anatomy at Warwick Medical School believes actually held back the development of medical science. Many of the drawings show the intricate workings of the body – such as the heart, the foetus inside the uterus and the workings of muscles and ligaments in extended limbs. Many of them mirror the way that modern imaging scans display “slices” of the body.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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More than a million babies die every year – the toll of premature birth

THE TOLL OF PREMATURE BIRTH

15 million babies are born too soon around the world every year. And more than 1 million of them die as a result of complications because they are premature. For the first time ever we now have country by country figures for premature births. But there are ways of preventing some premature births and of saving more babies without always needing hi-tech equipment according to Dr Joy Lawn from Saving Newborn Lives, Save the Children. In countries like Malawi “kangaroo care” – where the baby is placed next to the mother’s skin to keep warm – has been shown to reduce the risk of infections and help premature babies to grow. And steroids can be injected before birth to improve the condition of the baby’s lungs.

UNNECESSARY TESTS

Doctors can order blood tests and scans to help work out what’s behind a symptom. But are those tests always necessary? Nine medical specialities in the United States have each released a list of five tests and procedures that they say are often unnecessary. They hope the Choosing Wisely campaign will encourage doctors and their patients to spend more time discussing what tests are really needed. Dr Chris Cassell is the President of the American Board of Internal Medical Foundation, a charity spearheading the campaign. She says the unnecessary tests result from both the way healthcare is funded in the States and a lack of knowledge of the latest evidence behind treatments.

DA VINCI DRAWINGS

16th century anatomical drawings by the renowned artist Leonardo Vinci are still being used today to teach new doctors. Buckingham Palace in London is the venue for a new exhibition of the sketches which opens this week. The scientific papers were left unpublished after da Vinci’s death – a fact that Peter Abrahams who’s Professor of Clinical Anatomy at Warwick Medical School believes actually held back the development of medical science. Many of the drawings show the intricate workings of the body – such as the heart, the foetus inside the uterus and the workings of muscles and ligaments in extended limbs. Many of them mirror the way that modern imaging scans display “slices” of the body.

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Having ten years of education as a child instead of nine reduces your risk of developing dementia by 11%, and the risk keeps decreasing the more years you stay on at school or college.

New research by scientists in Finland and the UK, which looked at over 800 brains donated to science, may help us understand why this is the case.

Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Hannah Keage from Cambridge University, co-author of the study.

Piles, or haemorrhoids, causes pain to millions.

Sometimes they go away by themselves, but when surgery is required the recovery process can be agonising.

A new technique being pioneered in Europe may help reduce this pain and improve recovery time dramatically.

We meet one patient who’s had the treatment, and his surgeon Gordon Buchanan, who learnt the technique in Italy.

A century after the first case was recorded the First Global Congress on Sickle Cell Disease has just been held in Ghana.

Claudia Hammond speaks to one of the organisers, sickle cell expert Dr Kwaku Ohene-Frempong from the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.

Cecilia Shoetan, who runs a support group for people living with the condition in the UK, attended the congress and gives her perspective.

In the UK twelve apparently fit and healthy young people die each week from what is later discovered to be an undiagnosed heart problem.

Speaking recently at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, Professor Greg Whyte from Liverpool John Moores University discusses how often sudden cardiac deaths occur during exercise, and what can be done to avoid such tragedies.

Claudia Hammond reports on new research showing how education may lower dementia risk.

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Every day the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of women die in childbirth.

Many of these deaths are preventable.

Claudia Hammond asks why, when great strides have been made in other areas of health, childbirth is no less deadly than it was twenty years ago.

Health ministers from around the world met at the UN Population Fund in Ethiopia last week and said that in some countries the number of women dying was actually increasing.

Claudia speaks to Wendy Graham, Professor of Obstetric Epidemiology at Aberdeen University in Scotland to find out why so little progress has been made.

She also hears from Dr Tony Falconer from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists about why haemorrhage and obstructed labour can be fatal during childbirth, and from Professor Linda Bartlett of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in the USA who explains how the number of maternal deaths is being reduced in Afghanistan.

Maternal mortality special.

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Does it work to pay people to adopt healthy behaviours, such as stopping smoking?

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Giving people cash in exchange for doing the right thing for their health is the latest trend.

Mexico lead the way in paying people to look after their health with a system set up in 1997 called Opportunidades.

Mothers in five million households receive cash in exchange for tasks like attending pre and post natal check ups and making sure their children receive vaccinations and go to school.

At least thirty other countries have since set up similar schemes.

In the past few years in the UK, National Health Service funded schemes have sprung up, offering financial incentives in the form of shopping vouchers to encourage people to be more healthy.

The schemes target a whole range of behaviours, from quitting smoking and eating less to getting teenagers to turn up for the course of vaccinations against the human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer.

But does paying people to be healthy work? Claudia Hammond assesses the evidence and makes a discovery that astonishes her.

In one completely unexpected area of healthcare - drug addiction - shopping vouchers are proving to be not only effective, but cost effective too.

This is a highly controversial scheme.

Many people in the UK are uncomfortable with the idea that drug addicts should be paid to give up crack.

Director of the National Addiction Centre, Professor John Strang, disagrees.

When it comes to addiction, 'it's bordering on negligent not to be willing to do that'.

Does it work to pay people to adopt healthy behaviours, such as stopping smoking?

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The psychology of face recognition – why do some people have a condition which means they can't recognise the faces of their own children, while others – the super-recognisers remember the faces of complete strangers decades later? Claudia Hammond investigates the psychology of face recognition.

She also finds out whether our ability to recognise faces stands up in court.

What if you literally could never forget a face? So the face of every person you've ever encountered was somehow etched in your memory.

The so called ‘Super recognisers' is a group of people whose skills have just been discovered by neuroscientists.

She finds out why their abilities are providing scientists with some tantalising evidence about how our brains recognise faces.

She also hears from the people at the other extreme – those who can't recognise their own children, loved ones and sometimes even their own reflection.

This programme uncovers how we recognise one of the most important patterns in our visual world.

The psychology of face recognition.

Why can't some people recognise their own children?

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NORWAY MASSACRE SURVIVORS

Seventy seven people died as a result of the shocking events which took place in Norway on the 22 July 2011, and many more went through the trauma of witnessing the events.

Mental health professionals are adopting a “watch and wait” approach.

With evidence after 9/11 that rushing in hoards of counsellors might have hindered, rather than speeded recovery for some individuals, the thinking about offering everyone counselling after traumatic events has changed.

In Norway survivors will be offered help, but only if they are still experiencing symptoms after a month.

It is assumed that not everyone will need it.

Jennifer Wild is a consultant clinical psychologist at Kings College London and trains staff in Norway to treat post traumatic stress disorder.

She begins by telling Health Check which symptoms are typical two weeks on from an event like this.

OBESITY RISES IN EMERGING COUNTRIES

New figures from the World Health Organisation show that alongside a rapid rise in their GDP, emerging economies have also seen a steep increase in obesity levels.

These countries, some of which have struggled to feed their people in the past, are now faced with the opposite problem and an unprecedented increase in diseases such as diabetes.

As part of a special World Service season, Pablo Uchoa from BBC Brasil has been looking at the new data.

PORTABLE BLOOD TEST

The most reliable way to diagnose many diseases is through a blood test, which usually involves patients going to a clinic to have blood taken, then waiting while it is sent off to a lab for testing.

This is not always easy in remote areas.

Now a new credit card sized device called the mChip, can give you test results for multiple diseases within minutes, using just a pinprick of blood.

It has been trialled in Rwanda and the results which have just been published in the journal Nature Medicine show that it is 95% accurate in diagnosing HIV and 76% accurate with syphilis.

Dr Ruben Sahabo is the Rwanda country director for the International Center for Aids Care and Treatment Programs.

Claudia Hammond speaks to him on the line from Kigali.

How to help Norway massacre survivors deal with their psychological trauma

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Why do patients volunteer for clinical trials - just to get better or for the common good?

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Doctors and patients both want the best chance of recovery from an illness.

But when the condition is cancer - and current treatments have failed - what hope do clinical trials offer?

Vivienne Parry asks whether patients take part in clinical trials simply to get better - or for the common good, hoping for future cures.

Now that cancer treatments are becoming more individually tailored and effective, is it worth the risk of trying to develop new drugs which may only be slightly better?

Why do patients volunteer for clinical trials - just to get better or for the common good?

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Claudia Hammond talks to psychologist Prof Kahneman on his book “Thinking, fast and slow”.

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The third of four debates on improving global health in which Claudia Hammond asks experts to put their cause on the line – to fight for the one thing that would make the most difference to the health of the world’s poorest people.

This week, Julian Lob-Levyt from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and Professor Oona Campbell from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine argue for vaccinating more children against improving the health of mothers.

Simulation centres to train doctors how to deal with difficult operations are now very realistic, but also very expensive.

Roger Kneebone, Reader in Surgical Education at Imperial College in London, is the man behind a low cost portable operating theatre which looks like an igloo and inflates in just 3 minutes.

Claudia discovers from trainee surgeon Alex Cope that although the patients are just lifelike mannequins things can still get pretty hectic.

Roger Kneebone tells her that the igloo is being used to train doctors all over the world.

Back in the 1940s the psychologist Abraham Maslow studied successful individuals like Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt to work out what motivated them, and consequentially all of us.

The result was a hierarchy of human needs usually laid out like a pyramid.

He said our primary motivation in life is to satisfy our physiological needs like food, water and shelter.

Once we’ve got those we strive for security.

Next up the pyramid is love, then esteem and at the top is the big one – self-actualisation - fulfilling our creative potential.

But now it’s had a revamp.

Claudia Hammond talks to Doug Kenrick, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University in the United States about how he has redrawn the pyramid.

Maternal health or vaccinating children? Another debate on how to improve global health.

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Health messages, too scary? generic drugs; pregnancy screening in Egypt; men's health.

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Claudia Hammond is joined by surgeon and writer Dr Atul Gawande to discuss the simple but often ingenious solutions to medical problems.

He explains why a simple check list, inspired by the kind of list used by pilots before take-off is saving lives in operating theatres across the world.

The World Health Organisation are promoting its use across the world.

He explains why it has been so successful the world over and even prevented deaths in his own surgical practice.

Dr Atul Gawande talks to Claudia Hammond.

Simple, ingenious solutions to medical problems.

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50 years after the female pill, why is no reversible contraceptive yet available to men?

05/07/201020100711

It is now 50 years since the pill was approved for contraceptive use.

These days women have 10 methods of reversible contraception to choose from.

Men on the other hand, can either use condoms, or choose the permanent option of vasectomy.

Why has medicine failed in this department, and is this fair?

Carl Djerassi – one of the founders of the pill - is pessimistic about the prospects of such a product ever being made available.

The climate of liability that has overshadowed drug development since the 1970s, making pharmaceutical companies reluctant to open up new concerns in this area, while the potential profits are too small to justify the expense of research.

Meanwhile, scientists in non-profit areas of medicine have successfully created hormonal methods in the form of injections, skin gels and implants.

They have also discovered that ultrasound can cause temporary male infertility.

Indian biomedic Professor Sujoy Kumar Guha has invented a polymer that can kill sperm when injected into the vas deferens, and can last 10 years.

He explains how men have travelled from the west to his clinic in India, demanding the injection – showing just how frustrated some men are with the current lack of choice.

Hundreds of men have also taken part in medical trials for various methods, including Bill Crozier.

He and his wife Rachael discuss why a reversible male contraceptive is so important to them.

Elaine Lissner, director of medical research programmes at the Parsemus Foundation and long-standing advocate of male contraception, explains that a male contraceptive will be reliant on the non-profit sector and government backing if it is ever to become available.

Fifty years after the pill's invention, why is there no male equivalent?

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Why did fatal car accidents rise in the US by 1,600 in the year after 11 September 2001?

RISK

How good at you at estimating risk? In this edition of Health Check, Claudia Hammond talks to Wolfgang Gaissmaier about his analysis of the increase in fatal car accidents in the USA following the 9/11 attacks. People turned from flying and decided to drive instead, believing it to be safer – the result was 1,600 extra road deaths that year.

PAINKILLER MISUSE

What are the risks and dangers of pain-killer misuse? We consult pharmacist Adam Mackridge of Liverpool John Moores University and Wilson Compton, addiction psychiatrist at the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse.

RESUSCITATION

And the dilemma for doctors who have to judge the right time to give up on attempting to resuscitate someone who's had a cardiac arrest. Is it worth them trying for a little longer? Cardiologist Brahmajee Nallamothu of the University of Michigan explains the findings of his survey of practice and outcomes in North American hospitals, published by the Lancet.

(Image: Toyota cars crash during a collision test. Credit: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

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Migration of trained medical staff is an issue faced by countries all over the world.

But Ethiopia’s brain drain has left just one doctor for nearly 30,000 people.

How can a country with some of the worst health problems cope with such a loss of its human health resources? Even fewer doctors work in rural regions where the majority of the country’s population lives.

So what’s driving doctors away and what measures are being taken to keep them in the country?

Claudia Hammond travels to Ethiopia to find out more about their medical brain drain.

There she meets medical students to find out why they want to work abroad.

She meets the country’s Health Minister to find out about his measures to keep doctors in the country and why he hopes quadrupling the number of medical students helps tackle the problem.

She also talks to a general practitioner working in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa to find out what working life for an Ethiopian doctor is really like.

Why doctors trained in Ethiopia are leaving in their hundreds to work abroad

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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FERTILITY NEWS

Thousands of the world’s top experts in reproductive medicine met in Sweden this week.

Research unveiled at the European Society for Human Reproduction meeting included a formula which can help to predict which women would still end up with a healthy baby – even if only one embryo was implanted.

In the past some doctors implanted numerous embryos, to improve the chances of pregnancy.

But twins (or more) increase the risk of complications in pregnancy for both the mother and baby.

Now just four criteria can be used to calculate the chance of success with just one embryo: the mother’s age; whether she has had fertility treatment before and if it resulted in pregnancy; the quality of the embryo; and the number of eggs released when the ovary is stimulated with hormones.

Other research included how brushing her teeth properly can help a woman to conceive more quickly

BLOATING AND PEPPERCORNS

Can eating peppercorns cure a bloated stomach, as some people from Sri Lanka believe? London-based gastro-enterologist Professor Ray Playford explains what is usually behind bloating – Irritable Bowel Syndrome

HIV DRUGS AND AGEING

Some of the older HIV drugs – which have saved millions of lives around the world – are now found to be responsible for premature ageing.

A study published in the journal Nature Genetics by Professor Patrick Chinnery showed how muscle cells in HIV positive people showed the same characteristics you’d expect to see in an 80 year old without HIV.

Garry Brough was just 23 when he was given a diagnosis of HIV.

He’s taken anti-retrovirals since 1997 and has experienced fat-loss as well as osteopoenia, where the bones become less dense.

He’s doing his best to keep healthy – and Professor Chinnery agrees it’s important to value these life-saving drugs and now turns efforts towards limiting these side effects

A new method of reducing the number of twins born to women having fertility treatment

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Claudia Hammond tells the story of SB, who transformed the field of visual perception.

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A new vaccine specifically targeted at the Meningitis Belt of Africa.

Ground-breaking surgery on a deaf four year old girl enables her to hear for the first time.

A one-stop drugs pack for all HIV+ mothers in developing world countries.

We find out how the mind of a suicide bomber works

Meningitis vaccine, the mind of a suicide bomber, surgery curing deafness, HIV kit.

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As the EU-India Trade Agreement reaches final stages of negotiation, aid agencies are warning that it could result in a dramatic rise in the price of non-branded drugs.

The EU says the generic drug industry in India will not be harmed.

Oxfam’ senior policy advisor Mohga Kamal-Yani and EU spokesperson, John Clancy battle it out in the Health Check studio.

A new survey of sleeping habits in the UK shows that people with insomnia are three times more likely to feel depressed than people who sleep well.

Professor Colin Espie advises on how to get a good night’s sleep.

Guy De Launey reports from Cambodia on a new marketing campaign designed to shame villagers into buying a toilet.

Until recently, just one in five people in the rural areas had access to a toilet.

Now ten thousand toilets have been sold and it’s hoped owning a toilet will soon become as much of a status symbol as having a mobile phone.

Unpleasant flashbacks are a common symptom of post traumatic stress disorder but if a certain kind of computer game is played immediately after the original traumatic event, it seems to help prevent such flashbacks from occurring at a later date.

New research from Wellcome Trust Fellow, Emily Holmes at Oxford University

Access to medicines; how to sleep well; Cambodia toilets; preventing traumatic flashbacks.

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Access to medicines; how to sleep well; Cambodia toilets; preventing traumatic flashbacks.

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A special programme on the extraordinary case of Phineas Gage, a 19th century railway worker who survived a bizarre accident that changed him and the study of neuroscience forever.

A moment's distraction was Phineas Gage’s downfall.

As foreman of the gang clearing rocks for the laying of the railway line near Cavendish, Vermont, he was responsible for setting the charge, drilling a hole in the rock and using an iron rod to tamp the explosive down before lighting the fuse.

On September 13th 1848, his tamping iron struck the side of the hole, setting off a spark which ignited the powder.

The resulting explosion sent the iron, which was over a metre long and three centimetres in diameter, up through his skull above his eye and out through the top of his head.

It landed 30 metres away.

Amazingly Phineas Gage survived.

Unconscious for a few seconds, he got up, rode an oxcart into town and lived for a further 12 years.

However he did not escape unscathed - his personality was considerably altered.

Phineas Gage was no longer a hardworking, dependable and well-liked foreman.

He swore, was shiftless, and behaved inappropriately.

For the first time, this was evidence that the brain affects the way we behave, and the scene was set for the mapping of the brain functions.

Claudia Hammond visits Harvard Medical School Museum in Boston to see for herself what remains of the man with the hole in his head.

At the Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Ely, Cambridgeshire she meets clients with brain injuries similar to those suffered by Phineas Gage and discovers how far we've come in understanding and treatment since Gage suffered his appalling trauma.

The man with the hole in his head - one of the most famous case studies in brain science.

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Should men who sleep with men be allowed to give blood? In most countries there’s a lifetime ban on any man who's ever had sex with a man from donating blood because of the risk they might have HIV.

Students in Canada are boycotting blood donation drives in protest at what they say amounts to discrimination against gay men.

And now HIV researchers writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal are calling for the ban to be lifted.

Professor Norbert Gilmore from the McGill Faculty of Medicine in Canada joins Ian Franklin, the Medical and Scientific Director of the National Blood Transfusion Service in Scotland to discuss the ban.

Fabio Capello, the England manager is limiting his players' access to their wives and girlfriends before and after matches.

But does sex before a match affect performance on the pitch? Greg Whyte, Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise at Liverpool John Moores University explains.

In Georgia a new health insurance scheme has already been introduced to give people better access to health care.

The government subsidises it and it costs just $15 a year.

But as Angela Robson reports still 70% of Georgians have no insurance at all.

Around the world four million babies die every year before they are even a month old.

New research out in the journal the Lancet shows that a surprisingly simple solution can make a difference – or at least it can in some places.

And that simple solution is to set up women's groups.

Professor Anthony Costello from the University College London Institute of Child Health has evaluated the impact of women’s groups in both India and Bangladesh

Gay men and blood donation.

Sex and sport.

Georgia health.

Women's groups and babies' health.

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CHEAP DRUGS AND HEART ATTACKS

Millions of people have heart attacks and strokes every year.

The United Nations is about to meet to discuss how best to tackle this.

But a paper in the Lancet has pointed out that many people are missing out on cheap drugs which could cut the risk of future problems.

So who’s to blame? Is it a case of doctors not prescribing properly – or the patients just not taking the pills? After someone’s had a heart attack these basic drugs like aspirin and statins can reduce their risk of a second heart attack by 25%.

Claudia Hammond asks heart disease expert Professor Tony Heagerty from the University of Manchester in the north of England what he thinks is behind the low take up of these effective and safe medicines

CHARITY TO HELP LIBERIAN CHILDREN IN IVORY COAST

Half a million people who were displaced by the violence following elections in Ivory Coast in West Africa are still afraid to return to their homes, according to a new report by the International Crisis Group.

Many children are trying to come to terms with the trauma of seeing their families murdered or injured.

United Nations investigators found evidence that crimes against humanity have been committed in Ivory Coast by forces loyal to the country’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and by forces loyal to his opponent and successor, Alassane Outtara.

One hundred and fifty thousand refugees have sought safety close to the border in neighbouring Liberia where our reporter Angela Robson has been to visit a project to help traumatised primary school children

FACIAL EXPRESSIONS and EMOTIONS

And what’s in a smile? Different cultures appear to interpret facial expressions differently according to new research from Scotland.

An experiment found that Western Caucasians read emotions by looking at the eyebrows and mouth area while East Asians focussed more on the direction the eyes move.

Claudia Hammond talks to Rachael Jack

Are a smile and a sneer the same everywhere? Research on the facial expression of emotions.

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Are a smile and a sneer the same everywhere? Research on the facial expression of emotions.

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Banking sleep.

Why was swine flu so mild? MMR paper retracted.

Functional foods in Japan.

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Claudia Hammond talks to sleep researcher Tracy Rupp about why you can bank sleep in advance.

Her study showed that people who built up a ‘credit' of extra sleep by sleeping more every night for a week before being deprived of sleep suffered fewer ill effects of sleep deprivation.

Was the swine flu pandemic overblown by the World Health Organisation? Christophe Fraser, one of the epidemiologists who studied the outbreak in Mexico when it started explains the difficulty of assessing the severity and spread of swine flu.

Also as The Lancet retracts the paper that linked MMR vaccines to bowel disease and autism, Dr Richard Horton editor of The Lancet talks to Claudia about the reasons for the retraction and the legacy of its publication in 1998.

Also, Roland Buerk reports from Japan on how foods which make claims to improve health are being regulated to show scientific evidence of their benefit.

Banking sleep.

Why was swine flu so mild? MMR paper retracted.

Functional foods in Japan.

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Malaria in Cambodia.

Condom fit.

Feeling bad when ill.

The internet and disability.

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Could the great hope for treating malaria be losing its power? Artemisinin is the world's most effective drug for treating malaria, but resistance to it is emerging on the Thai Cambodian border – worryingly the place where resistance to the previous drugs for the disease first emerged.

Last week experts from round the world met in Phnom Penh to discuss the problem, from Cambodia Guy De Launey reports.

When you're ill with flu the symptoms are bad enough – the aching, the fever, the exhaustion, but along with the physical comes the emotional side of being ill – feeling depressed, tired and withdrawn.

Researchers at Sussex University have found that it's not the physical symptoms that are making us feel so rotten, it's brain's response to the infection.

Dr Neil Harrison from Sussex University explains.

Condom fit: New research has found that the men who found that condoms didn't fit properly were more likely to find they broke, slipped off or reduced their or their partner's pleasure.

Professor Bill Yarber from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in the USA explains.

As part of the BBC's Superpower season Anna Vissens from the BBC's Russian service explains how some people with disability in Samara, Russia are using the internet for the first time and blogging about their experiences.

Malaria in Cambodia.

Condom fit.

Feeling bad when ill.

The internet and disability.

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Fertility specialist Professor Simon Fishel of Care Fertility, has pioneered a new screening test which could dramatically increase the success rates of the fertility treatment IVF.

The pioneering technique could double or even triple a woman's chances of having a baby.

Before the fertilised embryos are implanted back into a woman’s womb, the embryos with the best chance of survival are selected using something called BCS which stands for Blastocyst Chromosome Screening.

Simon Fishel tells Claudia Hammond why he thinks the new technique is so significant.

Simon Berry has come up with the idea to fill the space in every crate of Coca Cola bottles with essential medical items and then use the company's amazing distribution system to get them out to remote places.

Claudia discusses the viability of this scheme with Simon Berry and Euan Wilmshurst from Coca Cola.

In Kilifi, one of the poorest districts in Kenya, women and girls don't have access to basic sanitary protection.

Anna Lacey reports on how a girls' football organisation in Kilifi, called Moving the Goalposts is trying to find a solution.

Jane Shepherd has a condition known as post polio syndrome after contracting polio as a baby 57 years ago.

After hearing last week's Health Check item about the attempts to eradicate polio through vaccination, she contacted the programme to tell us about the often forgotten condition that affects millions of people around the world.

New IVF technique could double or even triple a woman's chance of conceiving.

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Can literature help doctors and nurses understand mental illness? Claudia Hammond reports.

09/08/201020100815
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How the reunification of Germany has affected the health of two nations in various ways.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

09/11/200920091115

When the Berlin Wall fell on this day twenty years ago, its effect on health probably wasn't the on the minds of the inhabitants anywhere in Germany.

But for epidemiologists the joining of these two countries provided a natural experiment of how fundamental political change can affect health.

And within just a couple of years reunification was already affecting the levels of disease in both the former East Germany (the GDR) and West Germany - and it wasn't all good news.

Claudia Hammond talks to Ellen Nolte, a public health specialist from the Cambridge think-tank the Rand Group, who since 1990 has tracked patterns of disease and life expectancy in the former east and west Germany.

How the reunification of Germany has affected the health of two nations in various ways.

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Keeping track of flu - how you the patient can help scientists to monitor outbreaks.

GENETICS OF FLU IN CAMBODIA

Flu experts around the world are planning for the possibility of a global flu pandemic.

Flu is seasonal – and many people succumb to the infection every year.

But when flu is caught from an animal – like a bird or pig – it can be much more dangerous.

Luckily bird flu has so far shown a very limited ability to pass from human to human.

New research reveals that a young Cambodian boy and his teacher were found to have two strains of flu at the same time.

Neither was bird flu and the two viruses didn’t combine.

But scientists are worried about what might happen if they did.

MAPPING FLU

As well as analysing strains of flu for any genetic changes, researchers are also trying to track the spread of infection.

And this week a Europe-wide flu survey has gone live – to monitor the health of people across the continent.

The public is being asked to note any symptoms – as well as how long their illness lasts and whether they previously had a flu jab.

LINK BETWEEN DIABETES AND TB

There’s news of the curious link between two medical conditions - why is it that people with diabetes are three times more likely to develop TB?

HEALTH MYTH - SUGAR AND WIND

And – a delicate question – is it true that sugar causes wind?

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

10/01/201120110111

Freud used his first case history, Dora, to show how dreams could be used in analysis.

10/05/201020100511
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New research just published in the British Medical Journal has interviewed people who lost relatives through what they called ‘traumatic death'.

They included suicide, accident or murder and they spoke to relatives of those killed in the London tube bombings and the explosions on the Indonesian island of Bali.

But does seeing the damaged body help or hinder in the grieving process? The researchers found many people did find it helpful and are calling for relatives to be given the option to view their relative, even when the death was violent.

Sue Zielband from Oxford University discusses viewing the dead with Claudia Hammond.

How much TV should you let toddlers or children under 4 watch? In some countries governments have issued guidelines that they watch for no more than two hours each day.

Researchers in Canada have followed a group of 1300 children as they grow up.

They've found that the more TV they watched as toddlers, the more likely they are to do badly at school and to eat junk food at the age of 10.

Dr Linda Pagani from the University of Montreal was one of the researchers.

The most common cancer in men is prostate cancer.

In some countries such as the U.S.

a lot of men are tested regularly; in others men don't even know what their prostate does.

And this can lead to late diagnosis which can jeopardise a man's chances of recovery if they do get cancer.

The prostate gland is found at the top of a man's urethra which secretes the fluid that carries sperm.

Dr Roger Kirby from the London Prostate Centre explains what it is and the importance of monitoring its health.

Viewing the dead after traumatic death.

Should toddlers watch TV? Prostate cancer.

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Vivienne Parry follows patients and doctors involved in cystic fibrosis clinical trials.

11/01/201020100117
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There is a breakthrough in the treatment for those with Parkinson's Disease.

Dr Haydeh Payami has identified genes that can reduce the symptoms of the disease when stimulated by caffeine, smoking or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

This means a future drug treatment could be identified that could help about 40% of sufferers alleviate symptoms.

Also, following our recent discussions, we ask whether changing the way we give aid would help us reach the Millennium Development Goals sooner.

Ketamine is a horse tranquilizer, but is also a very popular recreational drug, particularly with young people in Hong Kong.

However, regular use can shrink your bladder and the more you use it, the more the the damage becomes irreversible.

We speak to doctors working on how to improve the situation for drug users in Hong Kong.

There is a good news story for child-bearing women: a drug used in car accidents to stop bleeding could also be useful to stop haemorrhage after childbirth and thus help reduce the number of deaths of new mothers around the world.

Scientists have made a breakthrough in Parkinson's Disease, giving hope of new therapies.

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Research shows that one fifth of people might be ignoring public health messages because they are too scary.

Why do some people avoid emotionally negative information and can public health messages be changed to make sure their messages reach everyone?

In Egypt some doctors are calling for the introduction of a national ante-natal screening programme.

Marriage between cousins isn't uncommon in Egypt, increasing the risk of abnormalities in a foetus – abnormalities which can often be detected through screening.

Eva Dadrian reports from a conference organised by the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Cairo.

India has become known as the pharmacy of the world, the place where generic drug companies produce usually-expensive medicines at knock-down prices, which many people in developing countries have come to rely on.

But some believe that Free Trade Agreements currently under negotiation between the EU and India could put a stop to this - by strengthening the intellectual property rights of the big pharmaceutical companies, meaning fewer cheap medicines can get made.

Mdecins Sans Frontières has been campaigning for access to essential medicines.

Claudia talks to their Policy Advocacy Director, Michelle Childs.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that in virtually every country men's lifespan lags behind women's.

Men are 20% less likely than women to see their family doctor.

Claudia goes to one of the biggest football clubs in the world – Chelsea FC – to meet staff from one hospital who are giving men a health check before the football match.

Health messages: too scary? Indian generic drugs; Egypt pregnancy screening; Men's health.

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Exercise and obesity.

Breast milk banks.

Philippines sex education.

Neuroscience of charisma.

12/07/201020100718

Many campaigns across the world promote exercise as a key part of programmes to tackle childhood obesity.

But a new study may turn the assumption that exercise prevents obesity on its head.

Professor Terry Wilkin from the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, England heads the Early Bird diabetes study.

He has been following children over a decade and has found that although fatness does lead to inactivity, inactivity doesn’t lead to fatness.

What implications do these counterintuitive findings have for tackling obesity in children?

When a baby is born prematurely some mothers find they’re unable to produce breast milk.

Meanwhile some mothers of full-term babies find they have more than enough.

So the women with plenty of milk can donate it to the premature babies of women without.

There are breast banks in many parts of the world, but the country with more than any other is Brazil, where there are nearly 200.

Paulo Cabral reports from a bank in Sao Paulo.

In the Philippines many girls have their first baby not long after puberty.

In an attempt to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections, a government initiative is introducing sex education lessons to 160 schools for the very first time.

But there is vocal opposition from the Catholic Church.

The BBC’s reporter in the Philippines Kate McGeowan explains.

What is it about a charismatic person that draws you in to what they are saying? If we think someone has charisma, neuro-scientific research can reveal that we lower our guard and trust them just that little more than we might have done otherwise.

Uffe Shudt, a researcher at Arhus University in Denmark has been investigating what happens in the brains of Christian and secular participants who were listening to prayers by speakers they’d been told had special healing powers.

Why a lack of exercise may not necessarily be causing childhood obesity.

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Clever women make better wives; Famous hypochondriacs; Public health trials.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

12/10/201120111013

Should donors be tougher on poor countries to encourage them to invest more in healthcare?

DONOR HEALTH FUNDING

With the current global economic situation, there are question marks over how long low income countries will be able to rely on donations from richer states when it comes to funding their health care, whether in terms of medicines, vaccines or staff.

At the Global Health 2011 Conference, Professor David Heymann from the think tank Chatham House in London, called for donors to be tougher on poor countries to encourage them to invest more in their own health programmes.

Although in 2001, 53 African countries signed the Abuja Declaration agreeing to aim to spend 15% of their national budgets on health, ten years later this has not been achieved.

Many countries have increased their health expenditure, but for eleven countries spending has gone down, and only Tanzania has reached the 15% target.

Can countries really afford to pay more of their healthcare costs themselves? David Heymann and Martha Gyansa-Lutterodt, director of Pharmaceutical Services at the Health Ministry in Ghana, joined Claudia to debate the issues.

CATCHING A COLD

Your grandmother tells you that if you do not wear enough clothes you will catch a chill, but are you really more likely to get a cold when you are cold and wet? Professor Ron Eccles, Director of the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, tells us about his latest research on this controversial subject.

THE PILL AND ATTRACTION

It has been known for some time we seem to be attracted to people with immune systems which differ genetically from our own and that this could be the x-factor; the mysterious spark that people say they are looking for in a relationship.

Researchers have also found that if women are taking the contraceptive pill something changes, and they switch to preferring men with similar immune systems to their own.

So what does that mean in the long term if a woman meets her partner while she is taking the pill? Will the couple still be compatible?

New research just published in a Royal Society Journal could give us the answer.

Dr Craig Roberts from the University of Stirling in Scotland surveyed 2,500 women in the Czech Republic and the United States.

They were asked how satisfied they were with their relationships and whether they were taking the pill at the time when they met their partners.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

12/10/201120111017

Should donors be tougher on poor countries to encourage them to invest more in healthcare?

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

13/04/201120110417

Claudia Hammond reports from Ethiopia about the government's ambitious programme to improve the entire country's healthcare by training local women to do it.

Ethiopia's Health Extension Programme was started in 2003 and aims to deliver health services to the whole country.

Eighty-five per cent of Ethiopia's population lives in rural areas.

How do you get healthcare to people without using a single doctor?

So far the government has trained more than 30,000 women to give advice on immunisation, contraception, nutrition and childbirth at health posts all over the country.

Claudia meets the health worker who explains what her job involves day to day.

How is the Health Extension Programme improving the health of the people and in what other countries has it worked?

Claudia is joined by studio guest Dr Manuel Dayrit – ex-Health Minister of the Philippines and now Director of the Human Resources for Health Department at the World Health Organisation - to discuss Ethiopia's innovative model for health and how community health workers can improve the health of a nation.

Healthcare in Ethiopia without using doctors or nurses

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Stress is how people respond to negative life events outside them – according to Angela Clow, a psycho-physiologist from the University of Westminster.

She says that stress can disrupt the body's hormones – like cortisol, which can disrupt our sleep patterns.

Bosses at work may be under pressure – but does the stress drive them to an early grave? The Whitehall Study has followed UK Civil Servants for more than four decades, showing that other workers are more at risk.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot from University College London found that those in lower-status jobs – who have less control over any pressures - were dying younger.

The BBC's Stress Test is available online now.

Clinical psychologist Professor Peter Kinderman from the University of Liverpool teamed up with the BBC’s Lab UK – to create the pioneering psychological experiment.

It gives feedback on your current levels of stress and how to deal with it better.

The test takes about twenty minutes and the researchers hope to discover what triggers depression in some people and not others.

Rumination – where you worry away about the same things over and over – often happens at night.

So what can be done to stop it and help you get back to sleep? Clinical Psychologist from Oxford University, Professor Mark Williams describes a three-step "mindfulness" technique which can help.

First you need to concentrate on the present moment.

The second step is to focus on your breathing.

Then finally you expand your attention to the rest of your body.

The idea is that concentrating on the "here-and-now" rids us of the extra meanings we add to our worries.

Other tips from our experts include regular exercise, talking to friends and trying to change how we look at the world – catch the thought, check it's what we want and if not - change it.

Stress – why are some people better at coping with life's ups and downs than others?

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

13/09/201020100914

Remembering Sir Patrick Manson, the ‘Father of Tropical Disease’.

13/09/201020100919

Sir Patrick Manson became known as the ‘Father of Tropical Medicine’ after discovering, back in the 19th century, that mosquitoes could spread disease from one person to another. It was 150 years ago this week that Sir Patrick Manson began studying medicine at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and the university is hosting two events this week to celebrate his life and work. Claudia Hammond talks to Mike Barrett, Professor of Biochemical Parasitology at Glasgow University, about Manson’s contribution to medicine.

Can creating art help people recover from brain injury? Artist Shaun Caton firmly believes in its therapeutic power – he’s been running workshops in the neurological rehabilitation unit of London’s Homerton Hospital for 15 years. A new exhibition of patients’ work at Hackney Museum in east London shows that the work is not just therapeutic, but high quality in itself.

The world’s first Masters course in International Health to focus on non-communicable diseases is about to start. As people in poorer countries become more likely to survive into adulthood, chronic, non-communicable conditions like cancer, diabetes and mental illness look set to increase. Ruth McQuillan, organiser of the distance learning course at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, explains why she thinks training in this area is so crucial.

How fast children develop skills like walking or picking things up not only shows the state of their health, but in the long term has been calculated to affect countries’ economic success. There are standard tests which chart the milestones a child reaches during the first few years of life, but it isn’t as easy as you’d think to translate these tests into different countries and cultures. Vivienne Parry reports from the recent International Paediatric Association congress in Johannesburg.

Remembering Sir Patrick Manson, the 'Father of Tropical Disease'

Sir Patrick Manson became known as the ‘Father of Tropical Medicine’ after discovering, back in the 19th century, that mosquitoes could spread disease from one person to another.

It was 150 years ago this week that Sir Patrick Manson began studying medicine at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and the university is hosting two events this week to celebrate his life and work.

Claudia Hammond talks to Mike Barrett, Professor of Biochemical Parasitology at Glasgow University, about Manson’s contribution to medicine.

Can creating art help people recover from brain injury? Artist Shaun Caton firmly believes in its therapeutic power – he’s been running workshops in the neurological rehabilitation unit of London’s Homerton Hospital for 15 years.

A new exhibition of patients’ work at Hackney Museum in east London shows that the work is not just therapeutic, but high quality in itself.

The world’s first Masters course in International Health to focus on non-communicable diseases is about to start.

As people in poorer countries become more likely to survive into adulthood, chronic, non-communicable conditions like cancer, diabetes and mental illness look set to increase.

Ruth McQuillan, organiser of the distance learning course at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, explains why she thinks training in this area is so crucial.

How fast children develop skills like walking or picking things up not only shows the state of their health, but in the long term has been calculated to affect countries’ economic success.

There are standard tests which chart the milestones a child reaches during the first few years of life, but it isn’t as easy as you’d think to translate these tests into different countries and cultures.

Vivienne Parry reports from the recent International Paediatric Association congress in Johannesburg.

Remembering Sir Patrick Manson, the ‘Father of Tropical Disease’.

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Why do some women eat clay during pregnancy, and is it safe?

14/02/201120110219

Why do some women eat clay during pregnancy, and is it safe?

14/03/201120110315

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

14/03/201120110319

Voice banking is a developing technology being used to create personalised voice synthesisers.

It could help patients who know they are about to have surgery to remove their voice box, as well as those with progressive illnesses like Parkinson’s Disease and Motor Neurone Disease.

Laurence Brewer was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease two years ago.

He’s one of the first people in the UK to try out this new technology.

Dr Sarah Creer, from the University of Sheffield, has spent years researching the use of personalised voice synthesisers.

Two weeks ago, Health Check devoted a whole programme to caring for people with dementia.

One of the features talked about simple strategies for allowing dementia patients to live in their own homes for longer.

For example having brighter light bulbs, transparent kitchen cupboard doors and even sensors which trigger an alarm if the patient gets out of bed and goes wandering.

After hearing the programme, Jenny from Australia emailed Health Check to say that although alarms may make it safer for dementia patients, carers are still left to deal with disturbed nights.

So is there anything that can be done to help carers cope with their exhaustion? Madeline Armstrong is an Admiral Nurse specialising in dementia care and she works on Dementia UK’s helpline advising people on just this sort of problem.

The high-tech manufacturing island of Taiwan is trying to get in on the multi-billion dollar market of medical tourism.

As Taiwan’s relations with its former rival China improve, they are looking to the Chinese market.

The BBC’s Taiwan correspondent Cindy Sui visited a hospital in Taipei that recently hosted a group of Chinese women on a six-day tour.

It not only took in the major sights, but included medical check-ups, heart and lung scans and minor cosmetic procedures.

The government hopes eventually Chinese tourists will come to Taiwan for everything from knee replacements to liver transplants.

Southern Sudan is in the midst of the worst outbreak of “black fever” in nearly a decade.

Black fever, also known as Kala Azar or visceral leishmaniasis kills nearly all of those infected and the World Health Organisation estimates there are up to 500,000 new cases every year.

It is spread by sandfly bites and symptoms include anaemia, nausea and a swollen liver or spleen.

Mdecins Sans Frontières has noticed a sharp increase in the numbers of patients seeking treatments at their projects in Southern Sudan.

Voice banking; medical tourism in Taiwan; Kala Azar in Southern Sudan

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Rwanda plans to introduce life sentences with no contact with other prisoners to replace the death sentence.

Claudia Hammond talks to Craig Haney a psychologist who has interviewed hundreds of prisoners in solitary confinement in the United States.

He discusses the psychological consequences of prolonged periods of sensory deprivation and no social contact – extreme anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, self-harm and suicide.

In Zamfara State in Northern Nigeria a third of the under fives have been killed in one village from lead poisoning.

It’s a result of people mining for gold and storing the crushed rocks which contain high levels of lead in their homes.

Claudia talks to Lauren Cooney the emergency coordinator for Medicins Sans Frontieres.

She explains the health problems lead poisoning can cause and how it is being treated.

Savant Syndrome can but doesn’t always accompany autism.

It can also follow a brain injury.

People with Savant syndrome have an extraordinary talent like the ability to draw detailed architectural sketches of buildings from a brief sighting or in a matter of seconds they can tell you the day of the week of any date in history.

In the U.S.A.

Darold Treffert has devoted his career to studying these rare individuals.

Restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder which affects millions of people around the world, particularly women.

Research conducted in Iceland revealed that it runs in families and last year scientists pinpointed the gene involved.

Consultant Adrian Williams sees many patients with RLS, including Beverley Finn, who hasn’t has a good night’s sleep for 46 years because of the condition.

Solitary confinement, lead poisoning in Nigeria, Savant syndrome and Restless Legs.

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UN SUMMIT ON NCDs

On this week’s Health Check we preview next week’s high-level UN summit on non-communicable diseases, principally cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases.

With people living much longer, changing diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles it is predicted that the numbers of people affected by these conditions will increase sharply.

Already 63% of all deaths around the world are due to non-communicable diseases and four out of five of these premature deaths occur in low and middle income countries.

Campaigners are hoping that the meeting could do the same for so-called 'non-communicable diseases' or NCDs as the 2001 meeting on Aids, the only other high level UN summit there has been on global health.

That meeting led to the start of the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and malaria, eventually saving millions of lives.

So what will happen this time?

Richard Smith, director of the United Health Group’s chronic disease initiative explains some of the background behind the high-level meeting.

There are so many different ways of tackling the complex issues surrounding NCDs that pre-summit talks stalled at the beginning of August after major differences of opinion between the leading negotiating countries.

Talks resumed at the beginning of September and there has now finally been agreement on a draft statement outlining the outcomes of the summit.

Ann Keeling is chair of the NCD Alliance, a new coalition of organisations set up to bring a united voice to the global campaign for recognition and action on non-communicable diseases.

SINGING AND MENTAL HEALTH

On Health Check last year we heard about the finding that singing can be good for your well-being, but until now the evidence has concerned the short-term impact.

Last week at the Public Health International Conference in London, the results of a two year study were discussed, which focused on weekly singing groups for people with mental health problems in Kent, South-East England.

The BBC’s Smitha Mundasad went to the conference to meet the man who headed the research, Professor Stephen Clift, from the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health in Canterbury.

Naturally since the topic was singing, the delegates were not going to get away without stretching their vocal chords themselves.

They were persuaded to sing by director of music, Professor Grenville Hancox.

Will next week’s high-level UN meeting on NCDs result in a global plan of action?

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Psychology and climate change - how to encourage more environmentally sensitive behaviour.

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Since 2007 outbreaks of a disease that spreads from goats to humans have been escalating in the Netherlands.

In 2009 more than 2,300 people were affected and six people died.

Q fever is caused by the bacterium Coxiella Burnetti and is spread by goats.

While Q Fever doesn't cause many symptoms in goats, in people symptoms can include fever, pneumonia, chronic fatigue and a severe headache behind the eyes.

Normally the bacteria spread fastest at this time of year, after goats have just given birth.

So what measures have the authorities taken to prevent a further outbreak? Claudia Hammond talks to Roel Coutinho, Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control in the Netherlands.

Claudia also talks to Professor Helen Christensen Director of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University about her research which shows that pregnant women have no more memory lapses than non pregnant women, contrary to popular myth.

Also, what's the difference between mind and the brain? Claudia discusses this with Adam Zeman Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Neurology at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter.

The traditional hospital gown has been hated by patients for decades, but now some hospitals are introducing more dignified, wraparound gowns.

Claudia talks to head of the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing at Midwifery at Kings College London, Professor Anne Marie Rafferty about the need for a new style of hospital gown.

Q Fever, memory and pregnancy, the hospital gown, the difference between mind and brain.

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Stephen Hawking's voice; i2Home; Computer Braille; disability and the internet.

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For more than 20 years, the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who suffers from motor-neurone disease has relied on an electronic voice to communicate with the outside world.

Sam Blackburn demonstrates the technology behind his computerised voice.

Geoff Adams-spink visits a demonstration in Germany of technology to integrate home appliances for those of us needing care around the house - where all the facilities can be controlled through a television and a handy avatar.

The BBC correspondent Gary O'donoghue who has been blind since he was eight years old, describes his use of a computerised Braille system for reading.

An experiment in Thailand provides people with disabilities an opportunity to use the internet for the first time.

And a unique blogging project in Russia shines a light on the life of disabled people.

Stephen Hawking's voice; i2Home; Computer Braille; disability and the internet.

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Could a new form of resistant superbug spell the end for antibiotics.

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In a special edition of the programme, Claudia Hammond talks to the father of Positive Psychology, Dr Martin Seligman, about why optimism is not only good for your health, but could also help you live longer.

Claudia visits Wellington College, a British secondary school that has introduced happiness lessons with some surprising results.

And we hear from Dr Julie Norem about why, for some of us, a more pessimistic approach might be the winning strategy.

Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Martin Seligman about Positive Psychology.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Could a different cut-off point for calculating obesity in South Asians fight diabetes?

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In 1796 Edward Jenner deliberately infected a young boy with cowpox and then smallpox - and in doing so demonstrated the process of vaccination.

As a result 30 years ago, the culmination of a vast vaccination programme was the eradication of the hideous disease, smallpox for good.

Gareth Williams, Professor of Medicine at Bristol University has written a new book about the disease – The Angel Of Death.

He explained why it was such a horrible disease to die from.

What's red, costs less than a cup of tea and could be on target to combat the world's biggest killer? And why is the drug company making it, happy to do so for zero profit? Claudia discusses the launch of a huge trial into a pill which aims to prevent heart disease.

Not a wonder drug, but a combination of four existing drugs like statin and aspirin, combined in one cheap pill to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Researchers hope this will prevent millions of deaths from heart attack and stroke.

For anyone desperately trying to sleep a noisy environment naturally makes it harder.

In Egypt's busy capital Cairo, almost a third of the residents have difficulty sleeping and so Cairo resident Eva Dadrian reports from the recently opened Sleep Care Clinic in Cairo.

Autism and migration.

Claudia finds out why leaving your country of birth to live elsewhere could pose a health risk to any children you later have in your new adoptive country.

For the first time a large-scale study has shown that the risk of autism could be as much as five times higher in children whose mothers migrated to the UK from the Caribbean, Africa or Asia.

She discusses this with Daphne Keen consultant paediatrician at St George's Hospital in London.

Smallpox.

Polypill to combat heart disease.

Sleeplessness in Cairo.

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Power naps; UN disease summit breakdown; Smoking risks for women; Abused kids and depression

UN SUMMIT ON NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES

By 2020 it's predicted that 70% of cancers will occur in the developing world and heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases and diabetes are all on the increase too.

In September the UN will hold its first ever high-level summit on non-communicable diseases.

But advance talks to agree the outcome of the meeting in one month's time have already broken down.

The situation is so serious that an alliance of more than two thousand organisations has written to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to attack the state of the negotiations.

Rebecca Perl, Associate Director of the World Lung Foundation talks to Claudia Hammond.

EFFECTS OF SMOKING MORE HARMFUL IN WOMEN

New research published in the Lancet this week shows that for women the harmful effects of smoking are even higher than for men.

When it comes to coronary heart disease smoking is 25% more dangerous for women.

Rachel Huxley, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota in the USA explains possible reasons for the increased risk.

TO NAP OR NOT TO NAP

Is it bad for your sleep at night if you take a quick nap during the day? Professor Matthew Walker, neurologist at University College London explains the power of naps.

MALTREATED CHILDREN AND DEPRESSION

Worldwide, one in ten children is neglected or abused psychologically, physically or sexually.

By combining the results of a number of long-term studies researchers have found that not only are these children more likely to suffer from recurrent persistent depression as adults, but they are also less likely to respond to the best treatments.

Andrea Danese, clinical lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry from Kings College London explains.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

17/08/201120110821

UN SUMMIT ON NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES

By 2020 it's predicted that 70% of cancers will occur in the developing world and heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases and diabetes are all on the increase too.

In September the UN will hold its first ever high-level summit on non-communicable diseases.

But advance talks to agree the outcome of the meeting in one month's time have already broken down.

The situation is so serious that an alliance of more than two thousand organisations has written to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to attack the state of the negotiations.

Rebecca Perl, Associate Director of the World Lung Foundation talks to Claudia Hammond.

EFFECTS OF SMOKING MORE HARMFUL IN WOMEN

New research published in the Lancet this week shows that for women the harmful effects of smoking are even higher than for men.

When it comes to coronary heart disease smoking is 25% more dangerous for women.

Rachel Huxley, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota in the USA explains possible reasons for the increased risk.

TO NAP OR NOT TO NAP

Is it bad for your sleep at night if you take a quick nap during the day? Professor Matthew Walker, neurologist at University College London explains the power of naps.

MALTREATED CHILDREN AND DEPRESSION

Worldwide, one in ten children is neglected or abused psychologically, physically or sexually.

By combining the results of a number of long-term studies researchers have found that not only are these children more likely to suffer from recurrent persistent depression as adults, but they are also less likely to respond to the best treatments.

Andrea Danese, clinical lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry from Kings College London explains.

Power naps; UN disease summit breakdown; Smoking risks for women; Abused kids and depression.

17/08/201120110822

Power naps; UN disease summit breakdown; Smoking risks for women; Abused kids and depression.

18/01/201020100119
18/01/201020100124

Claudia Hammond meets journalist Barbara Ehrenreich who challenges the tyranny of positive thinking for cancer patients.

Ten years after the human genome was transcribed, promising to reveal the secrets of disease, how much do we know about genes and mental illness?

Professor Nick Craddock discusses what genes can and can't tell us about bipolar, schizophrenia and depression.

The importance of clean water for avoiding disease is a regular subject on Health Check as almost 900 million people in the world don't have access to a safe supply of water – the majority of them women and children.

Reporter Kati Whitaker has been to the West African state of Liberia, a country struggling to recover from the civil war which left a quarter of a million people dead, and where water pumps were stolen to be made into weapons.

As well as the emotional trauma of disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti,

many people fear that bodies might harbour disease.

Removing them is often seen as a priority – resulting in mass graves and families who can't find their loved ones.

But in fact the risk from bodies that haven't died from disease is minimal, as Oliver Morgan, a specialist in public health explains.

New research published in the journal Neuroscience looks at migraine and light sensitivity.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School have worked out why light seems to make the pain of a migraine so much worse.

And it's people who are blind and get migraines who've provided the key.

Rami Burstein, who's Professor of Anaesthesia had to scour the world from China to Guam to find willing guinea pigs for his study.

Health Check investigates the downside of being positive for cancer patients.

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

18/04/201220120422
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18/10/201020101019
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The organisers of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia know a thing or two about dealing with large crowds and keeping them safe from disease.

We hear how they’re comparing experiences with those behind the biggest sporting and political events of the decade.

And why a peaceful countryside scene can take away pain.

Saving large crowds from spreading disease.

19/04/201020100420

Health benefits of barefoot running; endurance running; the G8 maternal health initiative.

19/04/201020100425
19/07/201020100720

Claudia Hammond reports on head size and Alzheimer’s disease, and heart failure treatment.

19/07/201020100725

New research suggests that having a big brain may protect against Alzheimer's disease.

Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Robert Perneczky, a psychiatrist at the Technical University in Munich, about his findings (based on tests of 270 patients with Alzheimer's disease in US, Canada, Germany and Greece).

Heart failure affects millions of people.

It occurs when the muscle of the heart struggles to pump enough blood around the body.

Dr Martin Thomas, a cardiologist at the London Heart Hospital, is pioneering a new way of tailoring a pacemaker to improve the lives of people with heart failure.

Over one billion people in the world have to defecate out in the open.

Open defecation leads to many diseases.

Anna Lacey visits a project in Kenya which encourages the building and use of pit latrines.

Steve Lee is living with the incurable cancer, mesothelioma.

It's caused by exposure to asbestos.

Despite his illness Steve has continued to run and he has lived for longer than his doctors expected.

Professor Julian Peto, of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, tells Claudia Hammond how it was discovered that asbestos is so dangerous to health.

He explains why currently the UK has more deaths from asbestos-related diseases than any other country.

Claudia Hammond reports on head size and Alzheimer's disease, and heart failure treatment.

19/10/200920091020

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Claudia Hammond on the latest global abortion figures and Carl Jung's famous Red Book.

19/10/201120111020
19/10/201120111023

Attempts in Australia to sell cigarettes in plain packaging to reduce deaths from smoking.

PLAIN CIGARETTE PACKAGING

Attempts are being made in Australia to be the first country in the world to force all tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packaging.

The aim is to cut deaths from one of the most famously health-damaging habits; smoking.

The bill was passed through the House of Representatives in August, but its journey through the Senate has stalled in the last couple of weeks.

Public health officials believe this legislation could have the single greatest effect on the numbers of smokers in the next generation.

As Nicky Phillips reports from Sydney, the tobacco industry is fighting against the plan.

MOBILE PHONE GERMS AND HAND WASHING

Nine out of ten people in the world do not wash their hands with soap after they have gone to the toilet.

As a result of this bad habit, one in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with faecal matter, according to a brand new study.

Dr Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, explains why hand washing is so vital.

BREAKING BAD HABITS

How can we break some of those automatic habits, like eating a packet of crisps every time you watch TV even though you are not really hungry? Psychologically there are two ingredients to a habit: something unconscious that you do repeatedly and in the same setting.

New research just published in Personality and Psychology Bulletin has found that psychological habits like these could be broken by doing something physically different, such as eating food with the hand you would not normally use.

Not every culture uses both hands, but in the United States most people do, and it is where Dr David Neal from the University of Southern California conducted his research - with the help of a cinema and some popcorn.

19/10/201120111024

Attempts in Australia to sell cigarettes in plain packaging to reduce deaths from smoking.

20/04/201120110425

Malaria kills over a million people every year.

Will there ever be an effective vaccine? Work to find one began almost a century ago but now one malaria vaccine is being trialled in seven sub-Saharan African countries on 15,000 children and results are due at the end of this year.

But when will it be rolled out across the regions of the world affected by malaria? Professor Brian Greenwood School of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explains the latest in vaccine research.

How exceptional is your memory? Most of us forget most of what happens to us on a daily basis.

But a rare group of people who don’t forget a thing, is exciting neuroscientists.

It is calling it super autobiographical memory.

Ellen Mahoney reports on this extraordinary group of people and the scientists who are trying to work out what’s different about their brains.

What’s the link between autism and anorexia? Anorexia is the most common eating disorder, while autism spectrum disorders cover a whole range of problems with communication and social skills - including difficulties in understanding other people’s thoughts and emotions.

But could anorexia in some people be a manifestation of undiagnosed autism? New research is underway to get to the bottom of this unexpected link.

Claudia Hammond talks to John Morgan, Head of the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders in Leeds and consultant psychiatrist at St George’s Hospital in London

People who can’t forget, link between autism and anorexia and a possible malaria vaccine?

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Claudia Hammond reports from Ethiopia where she finds out more about child marriage.

Girls as young as five, though often between the ages of nine and fourteen are married to men ten or twenty years older than them with the consent and acceptance of their family and wider community.

Often girls become pregnant very young with serious health complications like fistula or even death.

Claudia finds out about government and charity efforts to prevent the traditional practice of child marriage.

She meets Addis, a young woman who talks about her experience of early marriage and how she managed to leave her husband and resume her education.

Recent changes in the law to increase the age of marriage for women to 18 and to punish those responsible for getting a girl married at a younger age have decreased the prevalence of child marriage but in many areas the problem remains endemic with devastating health, social and psychological consequences

Producer: Pamela Rutherford

Claudia Hammond reports from Ethiopia about the consequences of child marriage

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

20/09/201020100921

Innovation or medical staff? The first of four debates on improving global health.

20/09/201020100926

Claudia Hammond talks to Tania Bowler from Marie Stopes International in the light of a new World Contraception Day report.

The study shows that since last year, rates of unprotected sex have risen amongst 15-24 year olds in Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and North America.

Over the next four weeks Claudia Hammond will be asking experts to put their cause on the line – to fight for the one thing that would make the most difference to the health of the world’s poorest people.

This week: technology and innovation versus something simpler – increasing medical staff on the ground.

Peter Singer, Professor of Medicine at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Canada argues for innovation, while Bridget Lloyd of the People’s Health Movement in South Africa champions an increase in staff.

Hepatitis C has been called a silent disease: for many years it can have no symptoms.

In Northern Europe it’s often associated with drug users sharing needles, but worldwide it’s more commonly contracted via non-sterile medical equipment.

In the UK, Hepatitis C is more prevalent among South Asian communities, so health campaigners have been going into mosques to get the message across.

Health Check talks to Graham Foster, Professor of Hepatology at the Royal London Hospital, and Shabana Begum from the Hepatitis C Trust, who herself contracted Hepatitis C on a family holiday to Pakistan.

There’s nothing like a nice walk in the country on a sunny day to make everything seem a bit better, and this can even make a difference if you have a serious mental health problem.

Clinical psychologist Guy Holmes has founded Walk and Talk – a group open to anyone which meets every week in Shrewsbury and then winds its way out of town along the picturesque river Severn.

Innovation or medical staff? The first of four debates on improving global health.

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20/12/201020101225

There are questions about the source of the strain of cholera affecting Haiti, linking it to Nepalese UN Peacekeepers.

We talk to researchers examining cholera found in the area who believe its origin might be from a different place altogether.

We talk to the 98-year-old doctor called the grandfather of allergy medicine, who worked with Alexander Flemming.

Also, the emotional fallout for the adopted teenagers who trace their birth relatives online in less than 10 minutes.

Note: Eileen Fursland's booklet for adopted teenagers will be available from BAAF in January (see link below).

Origin of cholera in Haiti.

Grandfather of Allergy medicine.

Tracing birth families online.

21/02/201120110222

Mind over matter; a different view of cancer; and a new test for glaucoma.

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21/03/201120110326

A phobia of horses developed by a small boy living in Vienna in 1904 seems unlikely evidence for the Oedipus complex.

But for Sigmund Freud, Little Hans' anxiety was the proof he had been waiting for.

Today we are used to the idea that what happens to you as a child can affect your life as an adult, but when Sigmund Freud first suggested this, it was revolutionary.

Without a few unusual people, human behaviour would have remained a mystery.

These individuals were not doctors and scientists, but ordinary people whose extraordinary circumstances provided researchers with the exceptions that proved behavioural rules.

Claudia Hammond turns the pages of psychology textbooks to find the classic case studies that have advanced psychological research over the past 200 years.

She visits the individuals who have helped unravel the complex workings of the mind, delving beneath the brief textbook descriptions of these unique cases to uncover the whole story, while bringing the research that the case kick-started up to date.

Claudia re-visits the first ever recorded case of child psychoanalysis; Little Hans.

She investigates its legacy, visiting one of the centres run by Childhood First, which deals with some of the most disturbed and damaged children using a model informed by psychoanalysis.

Considering that Freud's theories were based on childhood experiences and fantasies, it is perhaps surprising that Little Hans is the only child he analysed.

And even then, it was only in a supervisory role.

The child's father Max Graf, musicologist and member of Freud's circle, was left to observe and listen to the child and then report back to Freud.

When Little Hans (or Herbert, to give him his real name) began to refuse to leave the house for fear that a horse might bite him, Freud concluded that Herbert's fear related to his father, who might castrate him because Herbert wanted to sleep with his mother.

While today many would dismiss this interpretation of the little boy's distress, the case of Little Hans, with its detailed recording of a how a child makes sense of the world, continues to provide rich pickings for all who are interested in child development.

As the first case of child psychotherapy, it was the starting point from which a valuable discipline has evolved.

The first ever recorded case of child psychoanalysis; a small boy living in Vienna in 1904

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

21/06/201020100622

Henrietta Lacks; new definitions of psychiatric conditions; premature babies and pain.

21/06/201020100627

One woman born in the 1920s is the source of trillions of cells used in medical research all over the world.

Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 from a virulent cervical cancer.

A sample of those cancer cells was taken at the time and the way they behave has changed medical science forever – contributing to everything from the polio vaccine to drugs for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Rebecca Skloot has spent over ten years researching Henrietta and her extraordinary legacy.

In mental health care staff constantly have to make difficult decisions about what constitutes everyday behaviour and what counts as a psychiatric illness.

One tool to help is the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of psychiatric disorders, otherwise known as the DSM.

It’s a good barometer of where worldwide thinking in psychiatry is heading.

It’s updated every decade or so and the proposed revisions for the latest edition have been announced.

“Hoarding” makes it in as new condition, and there’s even the new idea of diagnosing conditions before people have all the symptoms.

Asperger’s syndrome is earmarked for removal.

Professor Terry Brugha from the University of Leicester and American psychiatrist Daniel Carlat discuss the implications of the proposed changes.

Premature babies have to undergo invasive but essential procedures, sometimes as often as ten times every day.

But it’s very hard to know how much pain these procedures cause.

New research has found that babies who were born prematurely respond differently to painful procedures than full term babies.

Dr Rebecca Slater from University College London explains the research and its implications.

Henrietta Lacks; new definitions of psychiatric conditions; premature babies and pain.

21/09/201120110922
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INTENSIVE CARE UNITS PSYCHOSIS

Intensive care units undoubtedly save many lives every year, however unfortunately some people can experience hallucinations whilst they are there.

This strange phenomenon is well known amongst doctors, but less so more generally.

Hallucinations can be so intense that it can leave patients with traumatic memories or in extreme cases post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Between 15% and 30% of people who have stayed in intensive care have symptoms of PTSD a year later.

It seems to be related to their experiences in hospital rather than to the accident or illness that brought them there.

To try to alleviate the problem, Christina Jones, a nurse consultant in critical care rehabilitation at Whiston Hospital in Prescot, has introduced the idea of diaries.

These are written by the staff detailing the patients’ stay and the idea is to help them make sense of their time there.

It has been trialled in 12 hospitals in six different European countries.

Health Check also hears from Gillian, who Claudia Hammond met some years ago after she had spent four weeks in intensive care when she had pneumonia.

SMOKING AND MULTIVITAMINS

If you are a smoker, have you ever tried to convince yourself that taking vitamin pills might somehow make up for the damage that smoking causes? Dr Wen-Bin Chiou, a psychologist at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan has an older brother who is a heavy smoker and this got him wondering whether smokers who take vitamin supplements might feel this gives them a licence to smoke and even end up smoking more.

The evidence regarding vitamins and cancer is mixed and it is clear that cutting down on cigarettes does more for your health than taking vitamin pills.

To find out whether taking vitamins does make people feel that it is okay to smoke more, Wen-Bin Chu recruited smokers who were trying to give up and told them he was doing a health food study.

BABY BUMPS

If you’re pregnant can you tell the sex of the baby from the shape of bump? Is it a neat netball for a boy and more spread out all round for a girl? Or is it the other way round? Professor Patrick O’Brien, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at University College London Hospital, sets the record straight.

PREDICTING DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAKS

Dengue fever was largely eliminated from Central America in the 1960s.

However as travel between countries increased, by the 1990s the mosquitoes which carry dengue were back, and in Costa Rica for example, new cases were diagnosed once more in 1993.

Efforts to tackle the problem are increasing again and include trying to find ways of predicting outbreaks of dengue fever by looking at extreme weather events.

At the University of Costa Rica, Claudia Hammond met Adriana Troyo, Associate Professor of Medical Entomology and Epidemiology.

She has been working with colleagues at the University of Miami using mathematical and statistical climate-based models.

Using diaries to help avoid the trauma of frightening hallucinations in intensive care

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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21/12/200920091227

As the year ends it's good to see that two long running health stories of 2009 end on an encouraging note.

The WHO's latest World Malaria Report shows increased funds and effort have led to a direct fall in incidence of the disease in a third of the most severely affected countries in Africa, and medicines for HIV/AIDS will be more available in developing countries following the decision by UNITAID to approve the pooling of patents to reduce cost and increase distribution.

There's also a report from New York where a hard-hitting campaign against obesity has been mounted.

There is also a discussion about the pros and cons of renaming the mental condition schizophrenia.

Good news from the WHO's latest Malaria Report and should schizophrenia be renamed?

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Severe dengue outbreak in South America.

Mindfulness.

Hot weather advice.

22/03/201020100323

Wheat allergy; morning after pill; dangerous tape worms; end of life visions.

22/03/201020100328

New research in the UK suggests that far fewer people are suffering from wheat allergy and intolerance than is generally believed.

Professor Tara Dean from the University of Portsmouth joins Health Check to discuss the dangers of self-diagnosing wheat allergy.

There's a report from Peru on the dispute on the legality and morality of dispensing free emergency contraception, known as the morning after pill.

There's news on the dangers of Echinococcus Multilocularis, a tape worm that can spread from dogs to man, and that can be fatal.

And Peter Fenwick discusses the latest research into end of life experiences, where people close to death have strange visions and visits from the dead.

Wheat allergy; morning after pill; dangerous tape worms; end of life visions.

22/06/201120110623
22/06/201120110626

MIDWIVES

Midwives from all over the world have been meeting in South Africa this week.

A major report into the state of midwifery has found that traditional birth attendants alone will not stop women and babies dying.

The three year training course midwives undertake equips them with the skills to help save lives.

And training just 119,000 new midwives could save the lives of 3.6 million mothers and babies by 2015.

The UNFPA report says that this relatively low number of new midwives could have a big impact.

But their presence in the community has to be supported with medical equipment and access to trained medical teams if there is a real emergency – like when a caesarean section or blood transfusion is needed, according to Petra Ten Hope who’s one of the report’s authors.

In Tanzania the rate of maternal mortality has remained persistently high for the last 20 years.

Rose Mlay is a midwife there who now co-ordinates the White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania and she describes what happens during a typical birth in her country.

LEECHES

For hundreds of years people believed that having leeches suck blood from the body would help to keep them healthy.

Then as medicine progressed and the evidence for the benefits of leeches was lacking, the practice fell out of favour.

But now hospitals in many places including London use leeches to help reinstate blood circulation supplies after plastic surgery.

In some parts of the world like the former Soviet State of Georgia, they’re trying out leeches in other rather more unusual and so far unproven ways, as Damien McGuinness reports from the capital Tbilisi.

PSYCHIATRIC TALES

A comic strip about mental health problems has become a surprise hit.

The artist Darryl Cunningham has experienced mental health problems for most of his life, and found it difficult to connect with people.

After a spell working on a psychiatric ward, it was graphic art which was to give him an escape route from his anxiety and unhappiness.

And the resulting book of cartoons Psychiatric Tales has been something of a cult hit in the UK and is now coming out in some other countries too.

How doubling the number of midwives in the world could save three and a half million lives

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

22/06/201120110627

MIDWIVES

Midwives from all over the world have been meeting in South Africa this week.

A major report into the state of midwifery has found that traditional birth attendants alone will not stop women and babies dying.

The three year training course midwives undertake equips them with the skills to help save lives.

And training just 119,000 new midwives could save the lives of 3.6 million mothers and babies by 2015.

The UNFPA report says that this relatively low number of new midwives could have a big impact.

But their presence in the community has to be supported with medical equipment and access to trained medical teams if there is a real emergency – like when a caesarean section or blood transfusion is needed, according to Petra Ten Hope who’s one of the report’s authors.

In Tanzania the rate of maternal mortality has remained persistently high for the last 20 years.

Rose Mlay is a midwife there who now co-ordinates the White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania and she describes what happens during a typical birth in her country.

LEECHES

For hundreds of years people believed that having leeches suck blood from the body would help to keep them healthy.

Then as medicine progressed and the evidence for the benefits of leeches was lacking, the practice fell out of favour.

But now hospitals in many places including London use leeches to help reinstate blood circulation supplies after plastic surgery.

In some parts of the world like the former Soviet State of Georgia, they’re trying out leeches in other rather more unusual and so far unproven ways, as Damien McGuinness reports from the capital Tbilisi.

PSYCHIATRIC TALES

A comic strip about mental health problems has become a surprise hit.

The artist Darryl Cunningham has experienced mental health problems for most of his life, and found it difficult to connect with people.

After a spell working on a psychiatric ward, it was graphic art which was to give him an escape route from his anxiety and unhappiness.

And the resulting book of cartoons Psychiatric Tales has been something of a cult hit in the UK and is now coming out in some other countries too.

How doubling the number of midwives in the world could save three and a half million lives.

22/11/201020101123

The case that for years apparently proved that nurture not nature dictates gender identity.

22/11/201020101127

Janet and Ron Reimer's twin sons, Bruce and Brian, were born in Winnipeg in Canada in August 1965.

During a routine circumcision Bruce suffered a catastrophic injury to his penis.

A year later, on the advice of Dr John Money, founder of the Gender Identity Clinic at Johns Hopkins University Medical Centre in Baltimore, Bruce became Brenda and the Reimers began to raise their son as a daughter.

John Money published the case as one of successful gender re-assignment when the twins were 9.

Yet by the time Brenda was a teenager she was suicidal.

When her parents finally told her the truth, Brenda decided to change back to her original gender; she became David Reimer.

The medical literature continued to quote the John/Joan case as evidence of successful gender reassignment, until Milton Diamond, Director of the Pacific Centre for Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii, finally tracked down David Reimer and published an article in 1997.

Journalist John Colapinto followed it up with a book about David in 2000.

As a man, David appeared finally to have found happiness in marriage.

But a series of events took their toll: his twin brother's death, the loss of his job, and separation from his wife all proved too much and he took his own life on 4 May 2004.

The case that for years apparently proved that nurture not nature dictates gender identity.

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Strange objects which have turned up in people’s airways.

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Romania orphans today, future funding for HIV, Lifeline Express Train and the body clock.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

23/11/200920091129

ROMANIAN ORPHANS 20 YEARS ON

It's almost 20 years since the world peered into Romanian orphanages and saw the hell inside.

But what's happened to those babies?

Health Check talks to Professor Sir Michael Rutter at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who has followed some of the orphans' progress for the last two decades.

He talks about how their recovery has contributed to our scientific understanding of the way the brain develops, and discusses what - if anything - the findings can offer in the way of clinical advice and treatment for children who suffer severe stress or trauma early in life.

THE FUTURE FOR HIV/AIDS FUNDING

December 1st is World AIDS Day and as the progress of the virus comes under the spotlight, UNAIDS has released a report listing some of the successes of recent years in control and treatment.

In 2008, four million people from poor and mid income countries were receiving antiretroviral treatment to prolong and improve their quality of life.

This is a 36 per cent increase on the year before and a ten fold increase in the number receiving these treatments in the whole of the previous five years.

However there are deep concerns from the AIDS2031 Group and MSF - Medicins Sans Frontieres - about the availability and international willingness to continue to give HIV/AIDS a priority in funding.

They say there is already signs of donor fatigue and a sense that the virus is already well controlled and that it no longer needs so much funding.

This trend threatens the goal of being able to control the virus by 2031 - which would mark 50 years since it first emerged - and risks ever escalating costs, according to Tido von Schoen-Angerer of Medicins Sans Frontieres and Farzana Muhib of the Results for Development Institute in Washington DC.

LIFELINE EXPRESS IN INDIA

The difficulties of accessing medical care in poor and isolated regions of the world continues to be a problem, but the Lifeline Express has proved to be an inspiring solution in India.

It's a train that carries operating theatres and doctors and dentists' surgeries around the country, offering free care to thousands each year.

It began in 1991 and Nivedita Pathak reports on how it works, and the medical care it offers.

NEW INSIGHTS ON THE BODY CLOCK

Professor Hugh Piggins at the University of Manchester in the North of England has discovered a new group of brain cells that are involved in regulating the body clock.

They behave unlike any other cell seen so far in the body in that they become so highly agitated that they stop functioning and seem quiet or dormant; then they recover and become normally active again later when they calm down.

The unusual and surprising activity of these cells in the body clock might provide the clue to why jet lag and sleep disorders are so hard to treat, and offer potential treatments in the future.

Romania orphans today, future funding for HIV, Lifeline Express Train and the body clock.

23/11/201120111124

What’s made a difference in the dramatic drop in the number of new HIV cases?

DROP IN NEW HIV CASES

The dramatic fall in new HIV infections in many parts of the world has encouraged doctors working to defeat the epidemic.

But what is it that’s made the most difference? And why it is that the HIV epidemic in North America and Western and Central Europe remains stubbornly steady?

In 2010 alone, more than 700,000 deaths from AIDS were averted due to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.

Susie McClean, a Senior Adviser to the International HIV / AIDS Alliance believes that the UNAIDS goal of eradicating HIV Aids might seem ambitious – but could be possible with appropriate interventions.

These might include anti-retroviral drugs, male circumcision programmes and needle exchange programmes for drug users.

UNNECESSARY SURGERY IN GERMANY?

There’s news of the doctors causing a storm in Germany with their claims that surgeons are operating on patients when they don’t need to.

Surgeons there are performing far more operations than in other EU countries, leading a group of experienced doctors to claim that patients are having unnecessary surgery.

The surgeons carrying out the operations claim that an ageing population and better diagnosis help to explain the trend.

But doctors who believe that unnecessary operations are taking place have set up an online “second opinion” service.

EARWORMS

That catchy tune in your head – or earworm – might help to uncover some of the workings of memory.

Any unwanted melodies stuck in your brain can appear in response to a direct memory or emotion.

And Dr Vicky Williamson who lectures on Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths University of London is studying hundreds of earworms sent in by listeners to the BBC to try to come up with strategies for banishing earworms – and perhaps even more intrusive and troubling memories like those resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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24/01/201120110129

Travelling by bus or tram makes you roughly six times more likely to have a respiratory infection a few days later, according to research from Nottingham University in the UK.

However, regular users are less vulnerable than people who only use public transport occasionally.

Psychiatrist Dr Tim McInerney reports on mental health care in the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

He talks to doctors and patients and finds out how a new Mental Health Act could make life easier for everyone.

Many people enjoy thinking about their ancestors.

Now new research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests it’s not just pleasurable, it may actually make you more clever.

Peter Fischer studied what happened when people thought about their forefathers just before taking an intelligence test and found that those who thought about the past members of their families were more likely to do well in the tests.

He believes people are more motivated to succeed when they think about their ancestors.

Taking regular breaks from your desk is good for your heart.

Sitting for long periods is not good for your heart according to research published in the European Heart Journal.

But the research also shows that apparently minor exercise like getting up and down from your desk to make a cup of tea or go to the printer can make a real difference to the heart health of millions of office workers.

Buses and flu.

Mental health in the Falklands.

IQ boosting memories.

Healthy heart tips.

24/05/201020100530

There is a worldwide shortage of the radioactive material used in medical tests for cancer, heart disease and kidney function.

Scans to detect cancer rely on isotopes which are only produced at six nuclear reactors in the world.

In July 2009 the biggest reactor in the world, Chalk River, in Canada was closed temporarily and a Dutch reactor, the largest in Europe closed in March 2010 for routine maintenance.

The result is a critical shortage of medical isotopes in hospitals across the globe.

Some patients are waiting longer for tests and even diagnoses.

Professor Alan Perkins, President of the British Nuclear Medicine Society explains.

PACO is a highly addictive drug popular amongst children in the slums of the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires.

PACO is a paste made from raw cocaine cut with glue, crushed glass and even rat poison.

It's cheap and emergency departments at hospitals in Buenos Aires say they're seeing more admissions for this drug than for any other.

It's estimated to kill two people a week and its use is spreading.

Valeria Perasso reports from Buenos Aires.

Tinnitus is a condition where people hear a constant sound all day and night regardless of what's going on around them.

It might be a ringing, a screeching, a buzzing or even a roaring in the ears.

It affects around 15% of people at some point in their lives and there's no cure.

Claudia Hammond visits the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London to meet clinical psychologist, Laurence McKenna and two of his patients to find out how mindful meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy are helping manage their symptoms.

New research published in the journal BMC Immunology is suggesting that it might be no coincidence that as smallpox was eradicated and the vaccine to protect people against it was gradually withdrawn, rates of HIV increased.

Is it possible that the smallpox vaccine somehow gave people some protection against HIV? Dr Raymond Weinstein from George Mason University in Virginia explains why there might be a link between HIV and Smallpox.

Worldwide shortage of medical isotopes.

PACO in Buenos Aires.

Tinnitus.

Smallpox and HIV.

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24/08/201120110828

Super resistant gonorrhoea.

A strain of gonorrhoea isolated from a sex worker in Japan is super-resistant to the strongest antibiotics available to treat it.

Just a few weeks ago scientists from the Swedish Reference Laboratory warned that gonorrhea could become a global threat to public health.

Why is gonorrhea able to become so resistant and what can do done to tackle the problem? Professor Cathy Ison from UK’s Health Protection Agency, in Colindale explains.

Fasting during the Olympics

The Moscow Olympics in 1980 were the last time the games coincided with Ramadan but next year, in 2012 the two events coincide again.

Team GB, British rower Mo Sbihi has already decided to postpone his fast until after the games.

But how will fasting effect those who do fast during the games? Claudia is joined by Ron Maughan, Professor of Sports Science at Loughborough University who chaired a working group reviewing the evidence.

Children going hungry in the US

In the United States children are heading back to school after the summer holidays.

Across the country 21 million children living in poverty get free or subsidised meals at school, but when the schools are closed many of them go hungry.

So some cities are running summer feeding programmes to ensure that children stay healthy during the holidays.

Health Check's Laura Sheeter reports from one programme in New Orleans.

Super resistant gonorrhea; Fasting during the Olympics and children going hungry in the US.

24/08/201120110829

Super resistant gonorrhea; Fasting during the Olympics and children going hungry in the US.

25/01/201020100126

Soap Operas With A Mission: how radio and TV are delivering health messages.

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Soap Operas With a Mission: how radio drama is delivering health over the airwaves.

Tim Cooper from the BBC World Service Trust and Felicity Finch, who stars in the world's longest running soap opera, The Archers on BBC radio in the UK, discuss how and when powerful storylines can successfully change behaviour and save lives.

Pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smith Kline has announced that they will allow open access to the thousands of the compounds they hold that are linked to the Malaria parasite.

Dr Mogha Kamal Yanni from Oxfam welcomes the company's steps on neglected diseases but tells Health Check GSK can still do more.

Post 9/11, toxins like Anthrax, Ricin and Botox have been very closely regulated.

Scientists around the world have to undergo strict checks before they can work with them and other potentially dangerous pathogens.

But now there are claims that the restrictions are too rigorous, preventing vital work on vaccines.

Arturo Casadevall, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York tells Claudia Hammond why the Select Agent and Toxins List in the USA needs to be reduced and rules relaxed.

Last week's solar eclipse in India caused great excitement because it was the first time since 1965 that the country had experienced a full annular eclipse.

But as well as causing excitement, it also caused great anxiety, because there is a widespread belief that solar eclipses are dangerous if you're pregnant.

Nivedita Pathak from New Delhi describes how women expecting babies stayed in their homes during the eclipse and tells the story of the gynaecologist who went to the cinema, because he knew his patients would be staying indoors!

Soap Operas With A Mission: how radio and TV are delivering health messages.

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COORDINATING HAITI

Claudia Hammond discusses a new report looking at charitable efforts to provide physical rehabilitation for victims of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, and whether a lack of coordination and understanding of the situation on the ground, meant some charities unintentionally did more harm than good.

EXTREME BLUSHING

We hear about the problems of extreme blushing and the operation that can cure people of this embarrassing problem.

WINTER IN ANTARCTICA

Dr Alexander Kumar speaks to Claudia, direct from the Concordia Antarctic station where he is about to embark on 4 months of extreme cold and darkness as he and his colleagues prepare for a long winter at the research station. He is studying the effects on mind and body of one of the most extreme environments on the planet, and why the European Space Agency is interested in his results.

Haiti, a cure for blushing and the effects of wintering in Antarctica

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

25/04/201220120429

Haiti, a cure for blushing and the effects of wintering in Antarctica.

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Are we seeing a tipping point in the fight to reduce deaths in pregnancy and childbirth?

Almost a thousand women living in low income countries die each day during pregnancy or childbirth, and despite many people working to improve the situation, the changes on the ground can seem small.

But now the UN Population Fund says the world is on the verge of a tipping point.

Sixteen countries including Mongolia, Senegal and Vietnam have just announced concrete commitments to drastically reduce these deaths.

Claudia Hammond asks Wendy Graham, Professor of Obstetric Epidemiology at the University of Aberdeen, whether the tide is finally turning on maternal mortality.

A Danish law requiring foods with added vitamins to be specially approved for sale caused a stir this week, when it emerged that Marmite, a spread fortified with B vitamins, might have to be taken off the country’s supermarket shelves.

But what’s the science behind this? Catherine Collins, Principal Dietician at St George’s Hospital in London, discusses safe vitamin levels and the practice of fortifying food.

Professor Raymond Playford from Barts and the Royal London Hospital tackles this week’s health myth: if you get cramp in your legs, does it mean you need more salt in your diet?

And Claudia talks to Harvard psychiatrist John Sharp about the profound impact the passing months and changing seasons can have on our emotional lives.

He began to notice seasonal changes in his patients that inspired him to survey research on how the time of year influences state of mind.

The result was his book 'The Emotional Calendar'

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

25/05/201120110530

Are we seeing a tipping point in the fight to reduce deaths in pregnancy and childbirth?

25/10/201020101026
25/10/201020101031

Ad Kerkhof is a clinical psychologist at VU University in Amsterdam who has devised treatments for people who are excessive worriers.

He explains to Claudia Hammond how the simple mental exercises involve deliberately concentrating on the worries for a fixed amount of time each day.

He adds that anyone can do the exercises themselves without the need for a therapist.

More than a third of us suffer recurrent attacks of dizziness and vertigo at sometime in our lives.

And it’s often difficult to diagnose the cause of these symptoms, which means that the sufferers don’t get the right treatment.

Now a team of doctors at the Massachussetts Ear and Eye Infirmary in the US has devised a new method involving a tilting chair that should lead to more accurate diagnoses.

Andrew Luck-Baker reports from Boston.

A billion people go to bed hungry each night, and 90% of them are chronically malnourished.

As experts debated the World Food Crisis in London, Claudia discusses how best to deliver high quality and tasty food to the hungry with Martin Bloem the Chief of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS at the UN World Food Programme.

A drug resistant strain of malaria has appeared on the border between Thailand and Cambodia.

Guy de Launey reports from the Pailin region of Cambodia where insecticides have been sprayed onto the traditional Khmer headscarf, the kromar, in the fight against the malaria mosquito.

Are you a worrier? A psychologist explains how to reduce the time you spend worrying.

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Why black and Asian Britons are reluctant to volunteer as blood and organ donors?

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Why are black and Asian people in Britain reluctant to act as blood and organ donors?

The problem is made even more stark when it is realised that black people, for example, are three times more likely to need a kidney transplant than the general population because they have a higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure, leading to kidney failure.

Beverley De-Gale examines the imbalance between donors and recipients in the black population.

Beverley De-Gale's son, Daniel, was in need of a bone marrow transplant and held out hope for six years before finding a donor but sadly died from complications a few years later.

The years of anxious waiting on a list exposed a truth: the pool of black donors was virtually dry.

In the wake of the death of her son, Beverley De-Gale asks just what is behind the conundrum of Britain's black population's disinclination to volunteer as blood and organ donors.

Why black and Asian Britons are reluctant to volunteer as blood and organ donors?

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Two decades ago infection with HIV was more or less a death sentence.

Now, provided people can get hold of anti-retroviral drugs, they can live on into old age.

But people with HIV may age faster and experience more health problems than other people of the same age.

Claudia Hammond speaks to Lisa Power, Policy Director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, who has just presented new research at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna on older people living with HIV.

BBC Vienna correspondent Bethany Bell has been at the AIDS Conference all week, and discusses two of the top stories which have emerged: research from South Africa which finds that a vaginal gel could cut HIV infections by as much as half; and the problem of soaring HIV infection rates in Eastern Europe and Russia.

For the first time researchers have found evidence that people with mental health problems can get sustained benefits from joining a choir.

Claudia speaks to Professor Stephen Clift from the Sidney De Haan Centre for Arts and Health in the UK, who did the research, and Elle Caldon, who founded a choir called the Mustard Seed Singers.

The oldest mother in the world gave birth at the age of 70 and is part of a growing trend in India to go for fertility treatment in order to have children later in life.

Our reporter in Delhi, Nivedita Pathak, asks whether pregnancy and childbirth in older women is too risky for mother or baby.

New research on the problems facing people living into old age with HIV.

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Can seasonal winds can make you ill? And the state of the world's vaccines.

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People who experience the seasonal winds, such as the Foehn and the Santa Ana, often say they get migraines, become depressed or develop breathing difficulties.

There's even some evidence that suicide attempts rise in some places.

But why should the change in weather brought about by these winds make us feel ill? Claudia Hammond discusses this question with weather forecaster Wayne Elliot of the UK's Meteorological Office and John Bart, the founder of the Canadian Medical Meteorological Network.

A new report from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the World Bank has found that the number of children dying before they are even five years old has dropped to less than ten million for the first time – and part of this is down to vaccines.

But India and Indonesia, two countries which produce and export vaccines, have lower rates of immunisation in their own countries.

Dr Fred Were from the Kenyan Paediatric Association talks to Claudia about the report.

It's 200 years since Louis Braille was born.

The method of embossed letters he developed so that blind people can read is very much in use today all over the world.

London eye surgeon Professor William Ayliffe told Claudia about Braille's remarkable discovery and its importance today, and the BBC's Gary O'donoghue, who is blind, explains how he uses Braille in his job as a political correspondent.

Can seasonal winds can make you ill? And the state of the world's vaccines.

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How some low income countries manage to make an impact on health with few resources.

Why are some poor countries able to provide much better healthcare than others, despite having similar levels of income? Professor Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is one of a group of authors who has recently published a book, Good Health At Low Cost, looking at Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Kyrgyztan and Tamil Nadu.

He tells Claudia Hammond which factors were the keys to success.

This week's health myth - if you're waiting to give birth is it true that eating a hot curry or having sex can bring on labour? Patrick O’Brien, consultant obstetrician at University College Hospital, London, provides the answer.

The most common infection in the world is caused by intestinal worms.

De-worming programmes are proving successful.

Although this rids people of the symptoms like diarrhoea, intestinal pain and even anaemia, there's a curious flipside to the absence of these worms - a rise in allergies and eczema.

So is there a way of harnessing the beneficial, protective effects of these worms, while minimising the harm they cause? Meera Senthilingam reports on the latest efforts on cutting worm infections in East Africa.

Claudia Hammond discusses ways of using worms to treat autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease with Graham Rook, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at University College London.

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Thousands of people in Japan and New Zealand and other countries hit by earthquakes are living with the trauma of disaster compounded by the experiences of aftershocks.

Claudia Hammond talks to the psychiatrist who has developed a method of mass psychological treatment for survivors of disasters like these, based on his research with 10,000 people who lived through the Turkish earthquake of 1999.

Could a single session of this kind of therapy really make a difference? Metin Basoglu is Professor of Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

The practice of wrapping babies up tightly in cloth or swaddling them is found all over the world.

Many parents find it helps their babies to sleep better.

But doctors are warning that it needs to be done the right way because over-tight swaddling which straightens the legs can increase the risk of babies developing hip problems.

Claudia hears how the problems can develop and is told the right way to swaddle a baby to protect its hips.

Psychological research and brain scanning studies show that for some aspects of brain function the brain in middle age is in peak condition.

New York Times science writer Barbara Strauch has written a book about bringing together the latest findings and has found some interesting counter-intuitive results

Treatment for earthquake trauma.

Safely swaddling babies.

Benefits of a middle aged brain

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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27/07/201120110801

In 1948 Costa Rica abolished its army and put some of the money it saved into developing a network of primary health posts all over the central American country.

Six decades later the country has a rapidly growing elderly population who now get free health care.

But the country has a financial problem in that it can no longer afford its health service.

Claudia Hammond travels to the capital, San Jose, where she meets the researchers who are finding out about the health needs of the over 60s and the doctors who are caring for these people, in the community and in hospitals.

She also visits one of the few old peoples' homes in the country and talks to the residents about why they think Costa Ricans live so long.

How is Costa Rica dealing with the health needs of its growing elderly population?

She also visits one of the few old peoples’ homes in the country and talks to the residents about why they think Costa Ricans live so long

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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The second of four debates on improving global health in which Claudia Hammond asks experts to put their cause on the line – to fight for the one thing that would make the most difference to the health of the world’s poorest people.

This week: a supply of clean water and some decent toilets versus a mother who’s had several years of education at school?

Yael Velleman from Water Aid argues for water and championing education is Professor Anthony Costello from the Institute of Child Health in London.

Endometriosis is a condition in which the cells from the lining of the uterus are found in other parts of the body.

The tissue can cause severe pain – and even infertility.

Many of the 170 million women worldwide are too embarrassed to come forward for help.

Professor Lorraine Culley from De Montfort University in the UK, has been finding out why they don’t seek medical attention.

She’s produced DVDs and books in a variety of languages to encourage women to get help.

Elite international tennis umpires need to have 20:20 vision to be able to have the final say on whether a ball is in or out.

Now a new eye test has been developed at Moorfields Hospital in London which every elite international umpire must pass.

Claudia visits Britain’s National Tennis Centre in south west London to talk to Eric Lamquet from the International Tennis Federation about what it’s like being an umpire and she tries out the new test with the man who devised it, consultant Ananth Viswanathan.

Clean water or girls' education? The second of four debates on improving global health.

27/12/201020101228

Claudia Hammond hears how complimenting your doctor may not have the effect you hoped for.

27/12/201020110101

You might think that a paying your doctor a compliment at the start of a consultation might improve their mood and increase the chance of a good diagnosis.

But research involving dozens of real-life consultations in the United States has shown that praising doctors can backfire.

Claudia Hammond talks to one of the researchers, Pamela Hudak from the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in Canada, about why doctors wouldn’t always like a compliment.

Angela Saini visits the Corsellis Collection in London, the home of thousands of preserved human brains.

The collection dates back more than half a century and includes brains affected by hundreds of different diseases, from strokes and epilepsy to schizophrenia and dementia.

Researchers are able to study the brain tissue in much greater detail than with a brain scan, to learn about brain injury and mental illness.

The Human Connectome Project is a major new project which will map how different areas of the brain connect to each other and help understand what makes us human.

Others say we would learn more about our minds by looking at the minute detail, at how brain cells communicate with each other within individual circuits.

Gero Miesenbork the Wayneflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford University and Tim Behrens from the Human Connectome Project explain what each of these approaches can tell us about human behaviour.

Back in July we heard from Steve Lee who suffers from mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with exposure to the cheap building material asbestos.

Despite his illness, last year Steve ran a half-marathon and now his running club has raised more than £40,000 to fund research into the disease.

To see how the money is being spent and what exactly scientists are hoping to discover our reporter Martin Vennard went along with Steve to Queen Mary

Claudia Hammond hears how complimenting your doctor may not have the effect you hoped for.

28/02/201120110301

New ways to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers.

28/02/201120110305

New ways to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers.

28/06/201020100704

As the clean-up operation continues after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico hundreds are still out on boats helping with the clean up.

Health Check looks at the possible impact of both the oil and the chemicals used to disperse it on the health of people involved in the clean up - both now and in the years to come.

Cancer epidemiologist, Ed Trapedo and Environmental and occupational health expert Jim Diaz from Louisiana State University discuss the possible risks.

For the first time young women could be able to predict the likely year of their menopause with nothing more than a simple blood test.

Research unveiled at the Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome suggests that testing just one hormone in the blood can predict a woman’s age at menopause to within as little as four months.

Ramezani Tehrani, Associate Professor at Shaid Behesthi University of Medical Sciences in Tehran in Iran led the research.

One of the top psychiatric hospitals in the Netherlands is using fake psychiatric patients to test the standards of care that genuine patients in mental health units would experience.

The technique is spreading to other countries too which is raising some ethical concerns from critics.

Consultant Menko Suitors helped to devise the Dutch “mystery shopping” experiment to assess the service provided.

Dr Tom Walker is the Director of the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele University in the UK.

He explains why he has recently voiced his concerns about these practices in the journal The Psychiatrist.

As the use of mobile phones spreads the number of mobile phone masts increases.

They are all over the world and on average you are one kilometre away from one.

But do they pose any risk to health? Paul Elliott is Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College London.

He has conducted the largest ever study to examine whether there’s a link between pregnant women living near phone masts and childhood cancers.

They found no link.

He explains his findings published in the British Medical Journal.

Oil spill health effects.

Menopause test.

Fake psychiatric patients.

Mobile phone masts.

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Should people be rewarded for donating their organs for transplants?

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Claudia Hammond reports on the progress of Romanian orphanage babies adopted 21 years ago.

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29/02/201220120301

Claudia Hammond makes it her cheerful mission to slay common myths about the brain and its workings.

Neuroscientific nonsense in Claudia's cross hairs includes the notion that if we are creative arty types we use the right hand side of our brains and if we are logical and scientific we are dependent on the left side. She meets Professors Sophie Scott and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from University College London, Dr Roi Cohen Kadosh from Oxford University and Dr Sergio della Sala at Edinburgh University, who have done research that shows this idea isn’t true.

The second myth Claudia busts is that a full moon makes us do strange things. Dr Eric Chudler of the University of Washington is her guide to why this idea has taken hold and why there is no evidence to support it.

Claudia Hammond slays common myths about the brain and its workings.

29/02/201220120302

Claudia Hammond makes it her cheerful mission to slay common myths about the brain and its workings.

Neuroscientific nonsense in Claudia's cross hairs includes the notion that if we are creative arty types we use the right hand side of our brains and if we are logical and scientific we are dependent on the left side. She meets Professors Sophie Scott and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from University College London, Dr Roi Cohen Kadosh from Oxford University and Dr Sergio della Sala at Edinburgh University, who have done research that shows this idea isn't true.

The second myth Claudia busts is that a full moon makes us do strange things. Dr Eric Chudler of the University of Washington is her guide to why this idea has taken hold and why there is no evidence to support it.

Claudia Hammond slays common myths about the brain and its workings.

29/03/201020100330
29/03/201020100404

President Obama has finally signed his landmark healthcare bill.

The new law is set to extend health insurance to cover 32 million Americans who had no coverage before.

As many as 18,000 Americans were dying prematurely every year because they didn't have health insurance, so how will his reforms change those figures? Joanna Silberner, health correspondent at NPR discusses what difference the new law will actually make for people and when they will happen.

Last year 60 million people in the world died, but no one knows what more than half of them died from because their deaths weren't officially recorded.

This leaves major gaps for doctors trying to understand and improve global health.

Professor Prabhat Jha from the University of Toronto explains why understanding the reasons for why people die can improve public health.

Tuberculosis is one of the world's oldest diseases.

It's been so good at surviving through the millennia that today one third of the world's population carries it.

As certain strains begin to develop resistance against the commonly-used drugs the hunt is on for a new treatment – a hunt that has taken more than thirty years without success.

Angela Saini reports from India - which has a fifth of the world's TB cases – on how a new online project is hoping that by pooling the knowledge of the world's best scientists they might come up with the answer.

Obama's health reforms; counting deaths to improve health; and India's search for TB drug.

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MENTAL FIRST AID FOR AID WORKERS

The long, gruelling hours humanitarian aid workers spend working overseas can take their toll.

Many underestimate the impact of witnessing distressing situations whilst offering vital help.

They undoubtedly save lives.

But are they putting their own health at risk? Some turn to alcohol, some to sex.

Others can't switch off and end up burnt out.

Plenty of research has been done on how best to cope, but this doesn't always get through to the people working in the field.

Now a new Masters course at the University of East London is trying to bridge that gap - as well as guidance on the most sensitive ways to work with a community in crisis.

Dr Sarah Davidson who's leading the course and Amy Braithwaite, a student from Canada who’s worked in Haiti after the earthquake and is now taking the course, explain its benefits.

POISONOUS SNAKE BITES

There is plenty of folklore in medicine – some of it based on a grain of truth and some not.

On Health Check we’re determined to get to the bottom of some of these myths.

So today's question is an ancient piece of advice about what to do if you’re bitten by a poisonous snake.

A listener in Cameroon suggested that you - or a friend – should pee on to the bite, to save your life.

What does consultant dermatologist from east London, Tony Bewley think?

BOTOX AND READING EMOTIONS

The easiest way to tell how someone else is feeling is to look at their facial expressions – are they smiling and happy? Are they frowning and cross? By the ages of two months babies can distinguish between four emotions – happiness, fear, surprise and anger - but by adulthood we get very good at reading other people's faces and the intricacies of their emotions.

Some psychologists have theorised that we do this without even realising it, by subtly mimicking other peoples' expressions.

So what if you can't move your facial muscles because you've had botox injections for wrinkles? David Neal, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, tested this out on some Los Angeles residents who'd had botox.

And he told Claudia Hammond about the curious research that had inspired the study.

Mental first aid for aid workers, botox and reading emotions, poisonous snake bite advice

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Claudia Hammond revisits classic case studies that have advanced psychological research.

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DEVELOPING COUNTRIES TAKE ACTION AGAINST "LIFESTYLE" DISEASES

In September the UN held its first ever High Level Summit on Non-communicable diseases – or NCDs - covering the worldwide increase in conditions such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Nearly 80% of NCDs occur in developing countries.

Following the summit many of them are already starting to take action.

India has announced the world's largest NCD prevention programme and Fiji declared November to be Non-Communicable Disease Month.

In Botswana, which was once known for its epidemic of HIV, reporter Letlhogile Lucas explains that there is now a push to educate people to exercise and eat more healthily.

VITAMIN DEFICIENCY

Vitamin A deficiency at its worst can cause blindness and impair the immune system.

Efforts to increase the intake of Vitamin A in Mozambique have succeeded – using a brightly-coloured vegetable.

Orange sweet potatoes have a high vitamin content – unlike their white or yellow counterparts.

And new research in the British Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of them doubled the vitamin A intake among women and children.

REVISING FOR AN EXAM – WHILE YOU'RE ASLEEP?

Learning while you are fast asleep might sound like something from a science-fiction story.

But new research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology has revealed that some people may be unconsciously remembering while they snooze.

So revising the night before an important exam might be a better strategy than in the morning.

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As public protests spread, does a psychologist think that a crowd has a mind of its own?

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Brushing your teeth regularly prevents tooth decay – but can it also help prevent heart disease? For the first time researchers in Scotland have found that people who brush their teeth less than twice a day seem to be at higher risk of heart disease.

Claudia talks to Richard Watt, Professor of Dental Public Health at University College London

Chris Mcmanus, Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at University College London, explains why some data collected 50 years ago is revealing information about why the number of left handed people has changed in recent history.

In some people small stones of calcium, sometimes up to the size of a marble, can block the salivary ducts.

This causes pain and swelling.

An international team at Guy's and St Thomas’ hospital in London is pioneering a technique where they use a special basket to go down the saliva duct and grab the stone while the patient is awake.

Claudia observes the operation.

A team at the University of Colorado in the USA has just invented a measles vaccine which people can inhale through the mouth rather than it being injected.

This prevents the need for clean water to make the vaccine or needles to inject it.

Robert Sievers, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry explains why this could help in vaccination campaigns.

Teeth brushing and heart disease; left-handedness; salivary stones; inhalable vaccine.

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LATEST HEALTHCARE SITUATION IN LIBYA

As well as helping those injured in the fighting, hospitals in Libya are beginning to catch up with the backlog of patients, some of whom have been waiting months for medication for chronic serious conditions.

Medicins Sans Frontiers – or MSF - now has 14 international staff in Tripoli and medical supplies are finally getting through.

Mohamed Dalwai is one of MSF's emergency doctors and gives Health Check an update on the latest medical situation.

COMPASSION-FOCUSED THERAPY

Compassion for your fellow human beings is something that has long been taught by different faiths and traditions around the world.

But could it be used as a tool within therapy to improve mental health? There is a growing interest in compassion-focussed therapy where you learn to develop compassion and understanding for others, but crucially, also for yourself.

They are skills that can be learnt by anyone and the small studies that have been done so far show good results.

Claudia Hammond speaks to Jo, someone who has experienced this approach to therapy and Paul Gilbert, Director of the Mental Health Research Unit at Derbyshire Mental Health Trust in the UK.

ARM SQUEEZING TO PROTECT THE HEART

After a person has a heart attack, and the blocked artery has been treated with drugs or through an angioplasty, the patients' blood starts flowing back through the heart again.

Unfortunately though, sometimes the restoration of the blood flow can cause further damage to tissues in the heart.

Now it is hoped that a very simple method could prevent this.

If, following a heart attack, the patient's arm is squeezed using a blood pressure cuff to cut off the blood supply, it is believed that this prompts the body to release substances which trigger the heart to protect itself from damage.

It is a technique known as conditioning.

Dr Glen Rodrigo is a lecturer in Cardiovascular Sciences at Leicester University and has been studying this technique.

An emergency doctor in Tripoli tells Health Check about the latest medical situation.

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An emergency doctor in Tripoli tells Health Check about the latest medical situation.

A Comfort Blanket?2013050820130509 (WS)
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Why do people wear surgical face masks in Japan?

Japan Face Masks

Today about ten per cent of the Japanese population wears a surgical face mask in public and research suggests there are a variety of different reasons for this. Their use goes back to attempts to prevent transmission of Spanish flu back in 1919, followed more recently by fears about SARS, bird flu, swine flu and radiation from the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Dr Adam Burgess is a Reader in Social Risk Research at the University of Kent and along with a Japanese colleague he stopped 120 people on the street in Japan to find out more. His research is published in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness.

Mental health and Sleep Disorders

Many people with mental health problems have difficulty sleeping and can even end up sleeping in the daytime and staying wide awake all night. To study these links between mental health problems and sleep disorders, the first centre of its kind in the world has opened; the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford. Russell Foster is Professor of Circadian Neuroscience and Katharine Wulff is a senior research scientist.

Human immune in space

On the very last flight of the space shuttle Atlantis, scientists sent human cell samples up with it in order to study the effect of microgravity on astronauts. Nearly two years later, these cells have been analysed and the results are providing valuable insight into why astronauts in space have a compromised immune system. This new work has just been presented at the Experimental Biology 2013 Conference in Boston and one of the research team members is Dr Rasha Hammamieh. She is Deputy Director of Integrative Systems Biology at US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

(Image: Japanese girl wearing a face mask. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs2013071720130718 (WS)
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In a special programme, Health Check examines the work of Abraham Maslow, who in the mid-twentieth century developed a theory of human motivation that has been particularly influential in management.

In his 1954 book, Motivation and Personality, Maslow explained his hierarchy of needs theory. Only when basic physiological needs and those of safety and security are met, can humans aspire to be motivated by higher goals such as status and self-respect. He maintained that only a small number of exceptional people, citing Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt as examples, are capable of reaching the highest level of motivation and are driven by the desire to accomplish all they are capable of.

Maslow was a pioneer in his field - a response to the sharply opposing schools of psychoanalysis and behaviourism which dominated psychology at the time.

Claudia Hammond visits Brandeis University outside Boston, where Maslow was the founding Professor of Psychology. She speaks to people that knew him and hears from psychologists and management experts about how his influence persists. Contributors include: Margie Lachman, professor of Psychology at Brandeis University, Lawrence Fuchs, emeritus professor of American Civilization and Politics at Brandeis (who died earlier in the year), and Warren Bennis, professor of Management and Organization at the USC Marshall School of Business.

Picture credit: J. Finkelstein. Released under the terms of the GFDL

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Alzheimer’s Special2012122620121227 (WS)

The latest methods, high-tech and low, used to diagnose Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's Special

The latest Global Burden of Disease Study published in the Lancet, which took more than 5 years to complete and covers 50 countries, found that deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia have risen more than three-fold between 1990 and 2010. Those aged 65 have a one in 20 chance of developing Alzheimer’s, and those over 80 years old have a one in five chance of developing the disease. So as people in low income countries start to live longer the total numbers are set to rise.

Based in the Indian state of Kerala, Dr Jacob Roy is the Chair of Alzheimer’s Diseases International, and outlines how a diagnosis is generally made.

Alzheimer’s Disease involves the loss of significant numbers of brain cells and these changes in brain volume can be seen by comparing scans of the same person taken at different times. Using this technique Dr Maria Vittoria Spampinato, from the Medical University of South Carolina in the USA, has revealed something intriguing about the different ways that male and female brains respond to Alzheimer’s.

As Alzheimer’s begins to progress, memory loss and confusion are typical symptoms. Retired London dentist Dominic Batty and his wife Jill, who looks after him, tell Health Check what it is like to live with Alzheimer’s.

Many people do not know they have Alzheimer’s. Wherever you live in the world it remains undiagnosed in a high proportion of cases, particularly in the developing world, as Dr Jacob Roy explains.

One of the big mysteries with Alzheimer’s is why every year, only 10% of people with a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment go on to develop the disease, while others stay the same and some might even get better. At the Institute of Neurology in London, the work of Professor Nick Fox and others is trying to get to the bottom of this. They suggest that changes in the brain may occur many years before people notice any symptoms.

Ancient Atherosclerosis2013040320130404 (WS)
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The study that reveals hardening of the arteries may have been a problem for 4000 years.

Mummies’ arteries

Four years ago some heart specialists were in the Cairo Museum looking at the mummies when they read a plaque saying that one pharaoh had atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The American cardiologists then decided to scan the mummies and study whether this disease was present in ancient Egyptians. They found that many ancient Egyptian mummies did have the signs of disease that we would tend to associate with a modern lifestyle, but critiques said that this was only because these were mostly pharaohs who did not exercise much and ate fatty foods. So was it their unhealthy lifestyles causing their problems or was atherosclerosis a more democratic disease? Professor Randall Thompson, from Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in the USA, decided to examine mummies from three other parts of the world to check. The results were recently published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Tree foods

The lean period of the Sahel region is just starting, but some communities are faring substantially better than their neighbours, despite annual food crises and the resulting shortage of staple foods such as maize. The secret lies in the role of trees; specifically 'famine foods' including the Baobab, the Moringa and the Safou, all of which have far better nutritional profiles than staple crops, and are highly resistant to drought. The BBC’s Angela Robson reports from Burkina Faso.

The Universe Inside You

A new book “The Universe Inside You” by science writer Brian Clegg reveals that it is not just biology that deals with the human body and the experiences we have as humans. In fact there is much more physics involved than one might think. And some of the most exciting discoveries in science are being played out in the human body.

Picture: Special scan of the mummy Meresamun

Credit: Philips Healthcare and University of Chicago/PA Wire

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Anxiety2014042320140424 (WS)
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Around one in 14 people worldwide experiences anxiety at any one time. This condition can be mild, but at the other extreme, can prevent people from living normal lives. We look at the historical and cultural development of the condition and speak to people experiencing anxiety about what effect it has on them. We also speak with a clinical psychologist to go through the various treatment options.

(Photo: Planet of the Spiders, Doctor Who. Credit: Photograph Library, BBC)

How anxiety can take over our lives – and what can be done about it.

Around 1 in 14 people worldwide experiences anxiety at any one time. This condition can be mild, but at the other extreme prevent people from living normal lives. We look at the historical and cultural development of the condition, we speak to people experiencing anxiety about what effect it has on them and we also speak with a clinical psychologist to go through the various treatment options.

Picture credit: Planet of the Spiders, Doctor Who, Photograph Library, BBC

Anxiety2014072320140724 (WS)
20140727 (WS)

The historical and cultural development of anxiety as a condition and its treatment

Around one in 14 people worldwide experience anxiety at any one time. This condition can be mild, but at the other extreme prevent people from living normal lives. We investigate the historical and cultural development of the condition and speak to people experiencing anxiety about the effect it has on them. We also speak with a clinical psychologist to go through the various treatment options.

(Photo: Planet of the Spiders, Doctor Who. Credit: Photograph Library, BBC)

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Extreme heat and the body

Central Australia is currently experiencing record high temperatures. Bush fires are the most visible sign of the heat wave, but there are also risks to public health. Heat waves can be just as dangerous as cold snaps and can kill people much faster, sometimes within one or two days of the heat wave starting. Dr Graham Bickler, the lead on heat waves for the Health Protection Agency in the UK, tells Health Check exactly what hot temperatures do to the body and how we can best cope with them.

Family planning in South Sudan

Cut off from development by five decades of civil war, the world’s newest nation South Sudan is reported to have the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world. Many consider the option to use contraception to be a key factor if a country is to succeed in developing and now it is being introduced to many women in South Sudan for the first time. It is hoped that this will help the new generation’s survival. Hannah McNeish reports from the capital Juba.

US gun violence

This week President Obama is laying out his plans for gun control after the shootings of 26 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December. Every single day an average of 85 people are shot dead in the U.S. and the President wants to see stronger background checks on people buying firearms and a ban on assault weapons. But any strengthening of gun control will face fierce opposition. So three doctors in the States are proposing a rather different approach that they hope would be more acceptable to the public. In the Journal of the American Medical Association they write that we should we treat gun violence as a public health issue, rather than focussing on gun ownership and criminality. Claudia talks to Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Harvard School of Public Health.

How the body copes with extremely high temperatures currently occurring in Australia

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Awake And Anaesthetised2013092520130926 (WS)
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A new survey looking at the number of people who are aware during general anaesthesia

Bacteriophages2013031320130316 (WS)
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This programme is not currently available. Instead we bring you news about the new Pope.

*** This programme is not currently available. Following the election of the new Pope, we have changed our schedules to bring you live coverage of events. ***

Bacteriophages in Georgia

The subject of antibiotic resistance has been in the news this week with a warning coming from Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, that the threat from microbes becoming resistant to antibiotics should be ranked alongside terrorism and climate change.

Phage therapy, where harmless viruses are used to kill the specific bacterium causing an infection, is a potential alternative. It is a treatment that has been used throughout the former USSR for the past 90 years and is becoming ever more popular, as the BBC’s Damien McGuinness reports from the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

The Potential of Phage Therapy

Research councils have begun putting more money into phage therapy and Dr Martha Clokie, Reader in Microbiology at Leicester University in the UK, is suddenly finding that scientific meetings on the subject are packed out. But critics say that so far the field has failed to deliver with very few trials having taken place, so could phage therapy really ever be a replacement for antibiotics?

Fukushima Mental Health

This week was the second anniversary of the tsunami, earthquake and disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Last year a survey of more than 200,000 people living in the area found that levels of extreme stress are three times the national average. Another survey this year is soon to be published, and will illustrate whether mental health has improved or deteriorated in that time. Meanwhile psychiatrists such as Yuriko Suzuki from the National Institute of Mental Health in Tokyo regularly visit the region. She tells us what help is being given.

Health Myth

Is it true that cheese gives you nightmares? Professor Matthew Walker is a neurologist at University College London.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Breast Milk, Ebola And Rehydration2014080620140807 (WS)
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Why breast milk may offer protection against HIV transmission, lessons from past outbreaks of Ebola and the invention of lifesaving rehydration treatment.

In this week’s programme Claudia Hammond looks at research suggesting breast milk may offer protection against HIV transmission from mother to Child. This despite the fact that breast feeding is seen as the main method of transmission of HIV between mother and child. Around 10% of infants with HIV infected mothers will contract HIV through breastfeeding. But why is the infection rate not higher? Factors identified in the milk are thought to convey anti-viral protection. Researchers are looking at ways of developing these into drugs to prevent HIV transmission to infants and possibly adults.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented, occurring on a large scale in an area previously free of the virus. Ebola was first identified in 1976 following a much smaller outbreak in the DRC, we look at the way that outbreak spread and the control measures put in place to prevent it spreading further. Key to this was how the dead were dealt with. The bodies of Ebola victims are highly infections, yet funeral practices often involve ritualised close contact, as a form of respect. We look at the difficulties of trying to encourage a change to these practices to prevent further deaths.

Oral rehydration salts have saved countless lives. This simple medicine for treating diarrhoea and dehydration was first trialled during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. Cholera spread rapidly through refugee camps. Rehydration salts proved effective in treating many and are still valuable today.

Image: A woman breastfeeding. Credit: Getty

Why breast milk may offer protection against HIV transmission.

Cancer In Pregnancy2014082720140828 (WS)
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A woman’s experience of a diagnosis of colon cancer nearly half way into her pregnancy

Why one woman chose to write a comic about her experience of surgery and chemotherapy after getting a diagnosis of colon cancer nearly half way through her pregnancy.

Also on the programme how football is improving the health of homeless people in Denmark; why if your mother had gestational diabetes you are at a much increased risk of developing diabetes in later life and will the stethoscope ever be replaced by high tech hand held scanning devices?

Picture credit: Copyright: Matilda Tristam

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Chikungunya Disease2014030520140306 (WS)
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Why the spread of the mosquito-borne virus to the Caribbean islands is causing concern

Chikungunya disease, which is carried by mosquitos, is endemic to Africa, South East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. But in November the first known cases in the Americas were identified in the French Caribbean. Since then it has spread to almost half the Caribbean islands and to French Guiana in South America. This week there has also been an unconfirmed report of a case in Mexico. Professor Johan Giesecke, chief scientist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, explains the severity of the situation.

Attacks on Doctors in China

Last month a doctor at a hospital in central China had his throat slashed by an angry patient. The day before, in the country’s north-east, another doctor was beaten to death by a patient wielding a pipe and now a nurse in Nanjing has been left paralysed following an attack on her. But these are not, it seems, isolated cases. Chinese patient-doctor disputes are reported to be rising rapidly and, state media reports, a typical hospital now suffers one violent attack every two weeks. So what is going on? The BBC’s John Sudworth examines one recent case in the eastern city of Wenling.

Ethiopia Maternal Health

High mortality rates for pregnant women and newborns continue to be a major health concern in Africa, with Ethiopia being one of the most affected countries. The Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership is a three-year pilot programme which has been using community based methods to address this issue; the results of which have just been published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. Lead author Dr Lynn Sibley, from Emory University in the US, tells Health Check about the innovative approaches the project has tried and tested, including a mobile video van which tours the main market towns screening a telenovella about “good” and “bad” husbands.

(Picture: A female mosquito begins to bite the photographer's hand at Everglades National Park, Flamingo, Florida. Credit: Tom Ervin / Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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When Hafizah Ismail's young nephew died suddenly in 2011, the family looked for bereavement support based on their Islamic faith, but were unable to find anything. So Hafizah, who is an educational consultant in the UK, decided to set up the Children of Jannah bereavement support group, which launched officially last month. The name stems from the Islamic belief that after the death of a child who has not reached puberty, including miscarriages and stillborn babies, the child is sent to heaven and is looked after by the Prophet Abraham. This idea has led to some common misunderstandings about how Muslims should grieve which Children of Jannah are working to clarify.

Hepatitis C in Egypt

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting mainly the liver, caused by a contagious virus that is transmitted through contaminated blood. Egypt is the country worst affected by Hepatitis C in the world, with around 12% of the population affected. BBC Arabic's Claire Read has been in Cairo finding out why infection rates have remained persistently high for a number of decades.

Health Myth

Should we feed a cold and starve a fever? Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre in the UK, tells Health Check whether there is any truth in this old saying.

Musical Training and Senses

New findings on the way trained musicians integrate sound with their sense of touch, could be used to develop rehabilitation techniques for patients who have lost one of their senses. For example if this has happened as a result of a stroke or degenerative disease. The research came about because Julie Roy, a postgraduate student in the Audiology Department at the University of Montreal, Canada, was wondering how her musical training as a pianist affected the way she used her senses. She presented her results last week at the annual meeting of the Society for NeuroScience conference in the United States.

(Image: Mourners weep for nine children who died in a house fire, New York, 2007. Courtesy: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The UK charity providing specialist bereavement support for Muslims

Chocolate Locust Anyone?2013051520130516 (WS)
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The UN urges the world to eat more insects

Eating More Insects

More than two billion people around the world eat insects; everything from beetles, locusts and crickets to bees and even wasps. Now a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN is urging us to eat and farm more insects to help combat hunger and improve global food security. Eva Muller is co-director of the Forestry Department at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN.

Breast Cancer Screening in Saudia Arabia

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in both the developed and developing world. If caught early, the chances of survival are high. But in some countries, like in Saudi Arabia, the disease is neglected which means the cancer is often caught too late. Now for the first time, the health ministry has introduced a new nationwide early detection programme to make breast cancer screenings more readily available. It includes the first ever use of mobile mammography units. The BBC’s Mohammad Taha went to visit one of them at the Ganadria Cultural Festival.

Sweaty Babies

A study of one year old babies has found an intriguing connection between their physiological symptoms when they are confronted with a frightening situation, and their levels of aggression two years later. Professor Stephanie Van Goozen from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology in Wales conducted this new research. It was published online this week in the journal Psychological Science.

Picture: Chocolate Locusts. Credit: FAO, Rome, Italy

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Crying Therapists2013050120130502 (WS)
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An in-depth survey of clinical psychologists and trainees found that almost three quarters of them had cried at some point during therapy and some cried several times a week. The results have recently been published in the journal Psychotherapy and Amy Blume-Marcovici, a clinical psychologist at Alliant International University in the United States, is the lead author.

New Leprosy Test

Leprosy is one of the classic scourges of ancient times. But far from being consigned to history, over 200,000 new cases are reported each year. Although it is easily treated with antibiotics, people living in remote communities often go undiagnosed and are left with permanent damage. Now a new cheap test developed in Brazil and the United States could help doctors stop the disease in its tracks. From Rio de Janeiro, Julia Carneiro reports.

Underground Dust Particles

Could dust in underground railway stations be harmful to our health? New research published in Environmental Science and Technology has found that microscopic dust particles in the air, in underground railways, are quite different to the ordinary everyday dust and that very fine particles - which can get into the lungs - contain surprisingly high levels of metal. Matt Loxham medical biologist and PhD student at Southampton University, analyses samples taken from underground railways.

(Photo: Woman crying. Credit: Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Deworming And Vitamin A Supplementation In India2013032020130321 (WS)
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A leading epidemiologist talks exclusively to HC about the largest clinical trial ever

Vitamin A and deworming study

The long-awaited results of the biggest clinical trial that has ever been carried out have just been published in the medical journal Lancet. One million young children from 10,000 Indian villages took part and the idea was to trial two health interventions, deworming and Vitamin A supplementation, which are often thought of as magic bullets. Sir Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, speaks exclusively to Health Check about the results.

Cigarette advertising

A long-running legal battle between the US government and tobacco companies may be close to an end. A federal judge has ordered tobacco firms to pay for a public advertising campaign about the effects of smoking and admitting they lied about the dangers of cigarettes. Ben Wright reports from Washington.

Access to Nutrition Index

The Access to Nutrition Index has just been launched and it rates the leading 25 global food and drink manufacturers on their policies, marketing and products relating both to obesity and under nutrition. Between them these affect two billion people. They have also created mini-indices for Mexico, India and South Africa in the hope of seeing changes at a local level. Inge Kauer is the Executive Director of the Access to Nutrition Index.

Picture: Vitamin A capsule being administered to a child.

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Drug Shortages In Iran2013012320130124 (WS)
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Iran faces rising prices and shortages of medicine. Are US and EU sanctions to blame?

In Iran, thousands of people are having difficulty finding or paying for the drugs they need. Some attribute this to EU and US sanctions, which have resulted in serious economic problems and the undesired effect of making it difficult for suppliers to transfer money out of Iran, in order to import drugs. But other analysts say that the culprit the shortage of medicines is due to mismanagement by the Iranian government. Fariba Sahraei from BBC’s Persian service has been investigating the situation.

Philippines brain drain

The Philippines, like many countries, suffers from brain drain; the brightest and best leave to seek more lucrative jobs abroad. There are plenty of medical courses but despite this, there is a serious shortage of qualified doctors, especially in rural areas. But one Philippine university has adopted a novel approach. Its medical students are chosen and funded by their own communities, and all through the course, they keep going back there to try out their new skills. Most choose to stay in their community for the rest of their career. Kate McGeown reports from the University of the Philippines School of Health Sciences, on the remote island of Leyte.

Morphine increasing pain

The painkiller morphine has become a mainstay of medical care, often used after surgery as well for people with chronic pain and patients with cancer. For some types of pain it is the only drug that works. But for more than a hundred years doctors have noticed something strange; that in some patients morphine actually makes the pain worse rather than better. Dr Mike Salter, senior scientist at the hospital for sick children in Toronto, explains why it happens.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Ebola € Who’s To Blame?2014081320140814 (WS)
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Could more have been done in response to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak?

Who’s to blame for Ebola?

The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has called into question the effectiveness of both national and international responses to health emergencies. It is clear that the health systems of the countries involved did not have the means to cope with a virus completely new to them. But what about the international response? Could there have been better preparation, where is the global virus response strategy?

For years epidemiologists have warned of the potential for new viral pandemics. Statistically viral outbreaks affecting large groups of people happen every 20 to 50 years. As this cycle seemed to be broken had the international health community become complacent?

We’ve seen what appears to be the successful application of a novel, expensive cure for the disease, why wasn’t this made available earlier and to far more of those affected by the virus? Does this thrown into question the way in which drugs for dangerous diseases are developed?

In Health Check this week Claudia Hammond invite eminent virologists, epidemiologists and international health strategists to discuss these issues.

Photo: Getty Images: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Ebola's Impact2014082020140821 (WS)
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How the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is affecting health services throughout the region

Experts are already warning of a potential humanitarian crisis as health systems struggling to deal with seasonal cholera and malaria outbreaks are stretched further by Ebola. How is the Ebola outbreak in West Africa affecting health services throughout the region?

Through reports from correspondents, experts and eyewitness accounts from countries on the periphery of the outbreak we look at the preparations for coping with the potential spread of the virus.

Presenter Graham Easton

Picture: Staff of the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse putting on protective gear in the ELWA hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia, Credit: Zoom Dosso/AFP/Getty Images

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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In this week’s programme Richard Mabey, the man described as "Britain's greatest living nature writer", talks to Claudia Hammond about "the lost years" of his depressive illness. The author of Food for Free, Flora Britannica and Nature Cure admits that a symptom of his clinical depression was that he lost his connection with the natural world.

Also, mental health professionals join Andy McGeeney in ancient woodland at Thorndon Park in Essex, to learn about eco-therapy - the idea of empathising with the environment to treat mental illness – and Lisa on horticultural therapy. After many years of illness, Lisa, a former mental health nurse, tells Claudia about the part making a garden played in her recovery.

And we look at the evidence for "Green Therapy". Dr Rachel Bragg from the Green Care Research Team at the University of Essex describes the evidence behind nature-based therapies and argues they should be part of a "toolkit" of care for patients.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Falling Diabetes Mortality2013062620130627 (WS)

Why fewer people have been dying from diabetes in the UK and Canada in the last 15 years

Flavourless2013042420130428 (WS)

What happens when you lose the ability to smell and taste?

Losing taste and smell

Stephane Razatovo is a Health Check listener in Madagascar. He has not experienced food tastes and smells properly for more than a decade. His loss of taste and smell started after he had malaria in the 1980s. The problem was not too bad, initially, but it gradually got worse. It was exacerbated even further after a stroke in 2007. To find out more about Stephane's condition, presenter Claudia Hammond speaks to Prof Barry Smith, founding Director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London.

Mental health Indonesia

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country. In 2011 the government launched a campaign to eliminate the the cruel practice of locking down and shackling mental health patients. Doctors say the practice, known locally as 'pasung', and banned in 1979, still exists, especially in rural parts of the country. The BBC has found that at least one government funded institution still uses the practice. Doctors say Indonesia does not have enough trained psychiatrists or facilities to deal with the rising numbers of people suffering from mental disorders. From Jakarta, the BBC’s Indonesia correspondent Karishma Viswani reports.

Beer taste exciting brain

New research published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology has found that the flavour of beer alone, rather than the alcohol itself is enough to boost the brain chemical dopamine; which might make us desire it more. For the first time, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine have seen and measured the brain’s response to a few sips of a favourite beer, giving us evidence of this dopamine response to drug cues alone. David Kareken, the lead author, is Prof of Neuropsychology in the Department of Neurology and Deputy Director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Global Polio Eradication Campaign2013010920130110 (WS)
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How has polio eradication been affected by the killing of polio vaccinators in Pakistan?

Polio Eradication

Polio is a disease that attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis within hours of infection. It has been wiped out in many countries, but recent killings in Pakistan of humanitarian workers, many of whom were polio vaccinators, have impacted progress.

Set up in 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has just missed the deadline of the end of 2012 to halt transmission of the disease. There are just three countries remaining where polio is still endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but how will this latest setback affect the campaign? Bruce Aylward is Assistant Director General for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration at the World Health Organisation.

Parkinson’s Nurse Training in Tanzania

As the population ages in Sub Saharan Africa, more people are developing illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease. It is a degenerative disease of the brain which affects the nerve cells involved in movement; leading to disability.

Studies in Tanzania have revealed a huge lack of information as well as misconceptions about the cause of the disease. Professor Richard Walker, who chairs the International Movement Disorder Society's African Task Force from the UK, conducted the research. Recently he held the very first African specialist nurse training course for Parkinson’s in Moshi, Tanzania. Health Check’s reporter Michael Kaloki attended.

Wrinkly Fingers and Toes

If we sit in the bath too long, our fingers and toes go wrinkly. This is caused by the blood vessels just below the skin of the finger tips constricting, which reduces the volume of the finger tip, causing the skin to fold up. But the big question is why does this happen? One theory is that it allows us to grip objects even when our hands are wet. Led by Dr Tom Smulders, this idea has now been tested for the first time by scientists from Newcastle University. The results have just been published in the journal Biology Letters.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Grapefruit And Drugs, Crystal Meth, Birdsong2012112820121129 (WS)
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GRAPEFRUIT-MEDICATION INTERACTIONS

Grapefruits contain a substance which can amplify the effects of certain medications. A review of research just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal states that in the last four years, the number of Canadian medications with the potential to interact with grapefruit and cause serious adverse effects has increased from 14 to 43.

We all have an enzyme in the small intestine which protects us from poisonous plants, but it also means that as much as 90% of some medication is not absorbed. This is taken into account when drugs are developed so that we take the right dose. However if you eat grapefruit, a substance in it inactivates the enzyme, and a lot more of certain drugs end up being absorbed.

The man who first discovered this grapefruit-medicine interaction more than 20 years ago was Dr David Bailey, now Emeritus Professor at the Lawson Health Research Institute in Canada.

CRYSTAL METH IN GERMANY

According to a recent report published by the EU drugs agency, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, synthetic stimulants like crystal meth, a type of methamphetamine, are a fast-growing trend. Already widespread in the US, it is said there are roughly 26 million addicts worldwide and it is now sweeping across Europe.

In Germany, the number of first time users of crystal meth has nearly tripled in the last year, particularly in the south of the country, in the region of Bavaria. The BBC’s Abby d'Arcy reports.

BIRDSONG AND WELL-BEING

There is something about the sound of birdsong that can make us feel good about ourselves. Ellie Ratcliffe who is studying for a PhD in Environmental Psychology at Surrey University noticed this and is trying to find out whether there is something special about birdsong which affects our well-being. And whether it could even affect our thinking.

(Image: Grapefruit. Credit: Press Association/Andy Butterton)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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The challenges facing health care in Haiti three years on from its devastating earthquake

Three years on from Haiti’s devastating earthquake, there is still much to be done according to medical researchers. A study carried out by doctors at the Henry Ford Hospital says better co-ordinated health care is needed to overcome the cultural and physical barriers to effective treatments for Haitians. Reliance on traditional healers who can wrongly diagnose illnesses and fragmented chaotic work of aid groups means people are going without effective treatment or in some cases being given the same vaccine repeatedly by different health workers. Samia Arshad, lead author of the study, tells us what they hope to achieve with the findings.

Healthy and Obese

A new study has examined how some obese people are just as healthy as their slim counterparts. The study in Finland examined 16 pairs of twins with a significant weight difference. They found that for some obese people their metabolic health, including factors like blood pressure, was just as good as for someone who was notably thinner. The findings have just been published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. Dr Jussi Naukkarinen, is the lead author and tells us why the results have important implications.

Vaccinations in Ukraine

Ukraine has the lowest vaccination rate in Europe and there are concerns it could lead to a proliferation of fatal illnesses that are transmitted abroad. Last year it had the highest outbreak of measles in Europe with over 12,000 cases. There are mixed reasons for people’s failure to vaccinate including concerns over the health effects of the vaccinations and easy access to them. The BBC’s David Stern hears from one reluctant mother and speaks to the WHO’s head in Ukraine.

(Picture: A woman grimaces as a doctor administers a vaccination provided by the World Health Organization at Delmas 33 camp, Port-au-Prince. Credit: UN Photo/Sophia Paris)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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The Centres for Disease control in the United States recently forecast that the number of Ebola cases could reach 1.4 million people by January 2015. How are estimates like this reached and are they accurate or useful? Claudia talks to Jimmy Whitworth from the Wellcome Trust in London and Adam Kurchaski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine.

Can health messages delivered by mass media help improve health of a country? The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from villages around Burkina Faso about a radio campaign that is helping to reduce their child mortality rate.

Also, how much does drinking alcohol affect a man’s fertility? Claudia Hammond talks to expert, Allan Pacey from Sheffield University about the latest research in healthy young men – and why the right kind of underwear is important to keep sperm at optimum health.

(Photo: Presenting team at Radio Djiawoampo in Bogandé)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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What is the link between how tall someone is and the risk of getting cancer?

According to the results of a vast American study examining the link between height and cancer risk, shorter women are less likely than taller women to develop 19 different sorts of cancer. The research looked at almost 21,000 women and has just been published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology. Dr Geoffrey Kabat, a cancer epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, is the lead author.

Anonymous Birth in Germany

Two babies were recently abandoned in a Dusseldorf cemetery in Germany. Up to 35 babies are killed or abandoned each year, and the numbers are not going down, even though there are 100 baby hatches across Germany where parents can leave their unwanted newborns. Mothers can also give birth anonymously in hospital and leave their babies there. But a recent report concluded that the practice contravened children's basic rights and that it put immense physical and mental stress on mother and baby. In response, the German government now has plans to phase out anonymous birth. The BBC’s Abby d'Arcy reports from Berlin.

Hikikomori

Hikikomori is a condition where young people withdraw from life and in Japan there are thought to be as many as a million cases of it. It is also recognised as a phenomenon in other countries including South Korea, Taiwan and Italy. In response to a BBC article on Hikikomori, hundreds of people from nearly 30 countries wrote in about their experiences of this disorder. Health Check shares a selection of them.

Picture credit: BBC. A woman looking out to the River Ore and Chantry Marshes in Orford, Suffolk

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Researchers in Japan have been gathering data about weekend mortality and hospitals involving 55 million patients from 72 different studies conducted around the world. They now have further evidence that a person’s chances of survival are 20% lower if they are admitted at the weekend. Professor Toshiya Shiga is an anaesthetist at Kaken Hospital and at the International University of Health and Welfare in Chiba, Japan. He presented the results this week at the Euroanaesthesia congress in Stockholm, Sweden.

Dengue Fever Brazil

If you are lucky enough to be heading to Brazil for this year's World Cup, you are recommended to have a Yellow Fever vaccination, and for some venues, consider taking malaria pills. But there is another disease carried by mosquitoes in many parts of Brazil for which there is currently no vaccine - dengue fever. Fortunately for visiting fans, most of Brazil's cities will be low-risk for this disease during the World Cup, but some experts say host cities in the north-east of Brazil could present a genuine risk of infection. One of the likeliest to be high-risk is Natal, from where the BBC’s Ben Tavener reports.

Sports-related Concussion

The numbers of athletes suffering from concussion is increasing. Last week in the United States the White House convened a summit on how to prevent concussion amongst young people. And all over the world sports federations are having to address the issue of concussion, whether in football, ice hockey, karate or boxing. Recommendations vary, but generally players who have suffered a concussion are required to rest for seven to ten days.

However doctors are beginning to question whether the brain really can heal that fast. Former boxing champion Dr Sanna Neselius is an orthopaedic surgeon researching concussion at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden. She has found that recovery from concussion takes much longer than previously thought.

(Photo: A doctor listens to a mans heart lying in a hospital bed)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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News of a child seemingly cured of HIV and the Fukushima health consequences two years on.

HIV baby cured?

Kevin Fong talks to Dr John Frater, an HIV researcher about the news from the USA that a baby has seemingly been cured of HIV. The story has sparked huge global interest amongst researchers and the public alike, but what does this case mean in terms of our understanding of how the virus operates, and the possibility of a cure?

Mobile Kunji in Bihar

Felicity Finch reports from the Northern Indian state of Bihar on a new device known as a Mobile Kunji, that is helping health care workers in this poor area to improve maternal and child health.

Fukushima two years on

A new report on the predicted health risks from the Japanese disaster.

Picture credit: BBC Graphics

News of a child seemingly cured of HIV and the Fukushima health consequences 2 years on

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In this week's programme we hear about a long running project to recycle implantable defibrillators, devices needed by some patients to help control heart rhythm. These devices are generally used just once, but for several years a group of physicians have been taking the devices from patients in the US, some of whom will have died, and transplanting them into patients in India. We hear about the practical and moral aspects of this treatment. This recycling would be illegal in the US, but for the recipients in India such devices are keeping them alive.

Now that the US presidential race is won we look at the prospects for people in the US with mental health problems and ask whether President Obama's Affordable Care Act will improve treatments for mental health.

We visit northern India, home to one of the world's largest annual festivals – the Kumbh Mela. This religious event involves millions of people coming together for up to a month and living in quite basic conditions. Such a large gathering would be considered a health risk, but we look at new research into the positive aspects of the event.

(Hindu devotees take a bath on the banks of river Ganges during the Kumbh Mela. Credit: PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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How medical students in Canada are training to provide appropriate health care

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INSULIN

90 years after the first ever insulin injection was given to a diabetic to help control their faulty sugar levels, a campaign has been launched to improve access to the life-saving medication. In countries like Mali insulin costs are as high as 40% of annual income. David Beran, who’s an Adviser to the International Insulin Foundation, is behind the 100 Campaign which aims to stop children with diabetes dying from a lack of insulin.

WATER

How much water do you drink every day? A couple of glasses? Or do you follow advice that eight glasses is healthier? And is it possible to drink too much water?

Health Check exposes the facts behind myths concerning the body and water, with help from Professor Ray Playford, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Barts and the Royal London Hospital.

RUBELLA

Babies can be born deaf or blind if their mothers are exposed to the common childhood illness rubella during the early stages of pregnancy. This is known as congenital rubella syndrome. In the past it was thought that around 80% of the population would need to be vaccinated to reduce this risk. But Jess Metcalf, who’s a Research Fellow at Oxford University, has just conducted research in South Africa which suggests that the figure might be more like 60%.

CAMEROON CHOLERA

This year more than 100 people have died of cholera in Cameroon. The government is raising awareness about correct hygiene – but is this enough? Francis Ugwa Niba has been to one of the worst affected areas, Douala to gauge local opinion.

(Image: A mother injects her daughter with insulin, Credit: Science Photo Library)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Drinking guidelines vary hugely, so how do we know how much alcohol is safe to drink?

Alcohol guidelines

How do we know how much alcohol is safe to drink? The answer depends on where you live. Because excessive alcohol can be harmful to health many governments issue guidelines on how much is safe to drink. But a new comparison of guidelines, covering 57 countries from Brazil to Austria and Singapore to Western Samoa, finds there is huge international variation. Published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, Richard de Visser, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Sussex University, is one of its authors.

Russian Alcohol Crackdown

According to WHO each Russian drinks around 15 litres of pure alcohol each year. There are countries that drink more - Moldova, Czech Republic and Hungary top the table - but Russian doctors believe that a third of the population drinks too much. And recent studies have shown that for every ten deaths in working-age men, between four and six are caused by heavy or hazardous drinking. So in recent years the authorities have been introducing various bans and restrictions on the sale and advertising of drinks. But has this worked? The BBC’s Oleg Boldyrev reports from Moscow.

Medical Myth

Is it true that eating lots of sugar gives you gas? Ray Playford is a consultant gastroenterologist at Barts Hospital in the UK.

New plan on killer diseases

Diarrhoea and pneumonia still account for a third of all deaths in children globally, killing far more children than HIV, measles and malaria put together; particularly in South Asia and sub Saharan Africa. To tackle this, the World Health Organisation and Unicef have a new joined up action plan, with the ambitious aim of eliminating all child deaths from diarrhoea and pneumonia by 2035. It has just been launched with a series of papers in the Lancet, outlining the measures that need to be taken. Yael Velleman, senior policy analyst at WaterAid explains how it will work in practice.

(Image: Champagne being poured into a glass, Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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What lessons can be learnt from the international medical help effort in Philippines?

More than 30 countries and organisations sent medical teams and supplies to help the Philippines following the devastating Typhoon Haiyan. Steve Mannion, a British orthopaedic surgeon, talks about his experience in Tacloban, and the lessons learnt to improve the international emergency medical response the next time there’s a disaster.

Adolescents with HIV

Thanks to anti-retroviral therapy children with HIV are surviving into adolescence. But these teenagers are growing up with chronic illness, disability and social stigma. Dr Rashida Ferrand, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine works with this lost generation in Zimbabwe and is raising awareness of the plight of these young people in an article in The Lancet.

Cancer Computer Game

Researchers are far better at collecting vast amounts of scientific data than they are at actually analysing them. To combat this problem, the charity Cancer Research UK has just launched a mobile phone game, 'Genes In Space', that farms statistical analysis out to the public. Under the guise of flying a spaceship through a meteor storm, game players actually navigate their way through genetic sequence data from breast cancer patients. The information on the virtual path they take is automatically uploaded to the database and fed back into the scientific process. Reporter Tim Cockerill tries out the game.

(Photo: Residents wait for their turn to get relief supplies in Tacloban Hospital, Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. Credit: Jeoffrey Maitem, Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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people in Germany now have legal recognition. We look at why it’s not possible to accurately determine the sex of one in 2000 newborn babies. Campaigners say a decision on determining the sex of a child should be delayed until the child is older. They welcome the German ruling as giving rights to people who do not readily fit the two genders of male and female.

Rwanda Healthcare

Rwanda’s healthcare system has been heralded as a great success. We speak to health minister Agnes Binagwaho about the system widely seen as a model for others - both in the developing and industrialised world. Life expectancy has increased markedly in the last 20 years and the majority of the population is now covered by health insurance.

Eradicating Rabies

And eradicating rabies in Latin America. In recent years there have been very few cases of rabies transmission from dogs to humans. An effective dog vaccination campaign has reduced cases to a handful. Now medics are hopeful that human cases will disappear completely. The disease is still endemic in wild animal populations, but they say an effective continual vaccination campaign will prevent its spread.

Picture: One in 2000 people can not be easily categorised as male or female. Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Germany gives legal rights for people who do not fit the two genders of male or female

Intersex people in Germany now have legal recognition. We look at why it’s not possible to accurately determine the sex of one in 2000 newborn babies. Campaigners say a decision on determining the sex of a child should be delayed until the child is older. They welcome the German ruling as giving rights to people who do not readily fit the two genders of male and female.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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How psychologist James Pennebaker showed writing about your emotions can improve health

A ground-breaking experiment by American social psychologist James Pennebaker, published in 1986, showed that simply writing about one's emotions can significantly improve one's health. His work on expressive writing revolutionised how emotions are viewed within psychology.

Claudia Hammond travelled to the American Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual gathering, in New Orleans, to speak to James Pennebaker who was there to receive a Distinguished Scholar Award and to take up the society's presidency.

She also met others who have worked with him and taken his work on expressive writing forward in various directions. These include Annette Stanton, professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA; Laura King, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia; Kent Harber, associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University; Sam Gosling, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin; Adriel Boals, associate professor of psychology at the University of North Texas and John Weinman, professor of psychology as applied to medicine at King's College.

(Image: James Pennebaker. Credit: Department of Psychology, University of Texas)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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When, as a psychology student, Claudia Hammond read about Locus of Control in Julian Rotter's Social Learning Theory she assumed its author, like most great Mind Changers, was no longer alive. Twenty years later she met him in his home near the University of Connecticut. He was happy to reflect on his career.

In 1966 Rotter published his famous IE scale. This measured whether the subject had an Internal Locus of Control - believing that they could affect the course of their life, that their choices would have an impact on what happened to them - or an External Locus of Control, in which case their life was guided by luck or fate and they themselves had little power to change things. The test has been developed in many ways since then, but it is still widely used today and the notion of Locus of Control has been particularly influential in healthcare.

Julian Rotter himself was one of the first clinical psychologists ever to be trained in the United States and was to be extremely influential in training those who followed. He was proponent of the scientist-practitioner model and he worked hard to ensure that clinical psychology became a research-based discipline. He was largely responsible for bringing personality theory into the clinical arena.

Is your life down to dumb luck? Or do you make your own luck?

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Health Check broadcasts a special four part series examining the life cycle of an athlete from cradle to grave.

Health Check broadcasts a special four part series examining the life cycle of an athle.

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Health Check broadcasts a special four part series examining the life cycle of an athle.

Health Check broadcasts a special four part series examining the life cycle of an athlete from cradle to grave.

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Health Check broadcasts a special four part series examining the life cycle of an athle.

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The career of elite athletes is generally fairly short, and in this final programme of the series, Claudia Hammond looks at life after competition.

She investigates life away from the headlines for the star performers when they finally give up their gruelling training schedules, and, assesses the long term physical and psychological impact of competing at the very top of their sport.

At the Centre for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina in the USA, she meets researchers tracking the long term health of former American footballers, and some of their findings are disturbing.

There are links between multiple concussions and depression and links between concussions and dementia.

Former Washington Redskins star, Ken Huff, describes the injuries and the physical toll of playing such a hard contact sport, but concludes he wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Retired Kenyan 10,000 metre former world champion, Moses Tanui, advises retiring athletes to keep active, take care of their money and take up golf, while Jamaican Olympic runner, Vilma Charlton, admits how hard it is to adapt to life out of the headlines.

(Image: Moses Tanui of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the men's division of the 1998 Boston Marathon. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

How elite athletes cope, physically and mentally, when they retire from their sport.

Health Check broadcasts a special four part series examining the life cycle of an athle.

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are the most widely used insecticides in the world in agriculture, and in industry they are used as lubricants, plasticizers and flame-retardants. Despite their usefulness in food production and disease prevention, the risks of acute poisoning are accepted as it has been known for some time that they can damage the brain and the nervous system.

What is more controversial is whether there is a risk from low-level exposure to organophosphates. Safety regulations vary considerably and there is particular concern about increasing use of them in low income countries. Dr Sarah Mackenzie Ross, a neuropsychologist at University College London, is lead author for the world’s first review or meta-analysis of studies on this topic between 1960 and 2012. It has just been published in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology.

Chagas Disease

Chagas disease is the most common parasitic killer in the Americas and claims more lives every year than malaria, yet many people have never even heard of it. Not only do countries suffer from a lack of understanding about the disease, but also an apparent lack of political will to address it. In Mexico, a group of health workers and NGOs have set up the country's first association for people affected with Chagas disease. If it works, it could become a blueprint for other parts of Latin America. The BBC’s Will Grant reports from Mexico.

Wellcome Trust Book Prize Winner

Today we know that it is the heart that pumps blood around the body, but before the 17th century it was thought that every organ in the body was both independent and intelligent and could draw in the blood they needed to sustain them. Then an English anatomist called William Harvey came up with a revolutionary idea. He is the subject of the new book Circulation by Thomas Wright, who has just won the lucrative Wellcome Trust Book Prize.

(Image: A farm worker sprays crops with insecticide, Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Viruses are no respecter of economic barriers, dealing death in rich and poor countries

EBOLA AND HANTAVIRUS

Two virus outbreaks are currently affecting two very different parts of the world, Hantavirus in the US, and Ebola in the democratic Republic of Congo.

Both can kill.

Ebola may be the more deadly, but Hantavirus is less predictable as it is so often confused with milder diseases.

We hear from internationally renowned transmissible disease expert Peter Piot on the differences and similarities between these two outbreaks and the global nature of disease.

MOSQUITOES

Mosquitoes are perhaps the best known disease vectors, carrying malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus and a range of other diseases.

We look at how Climate change and global trade have helped them take their deadly cargo around the world.

RINDERPEST

And we hear of a disease eradication success story.

Rinderpest, a disease of cattle, with a huge economic impact on the livelihoods of pastoral people was officially declared eradicated last year.

We hear from one of the veterinarians responsible for this life changing event.

(Image: Ebola virus. Credit: Laguna Design/Science Photo Library)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Many people extol the virtues of a Palaeolithic diet - eating more like our ancestors did: so no dairy, no processed foods and - in some versions of the diet - not even lentils or beans are allowed. The idea is that we are biologically much better suited to the kind of hunter-gatherer diet eaten by humans between 10,000 and 250 million years ago; before there was any agriculture. It is true that a diet without processed foods is healthier, but Marlene Zuk, who is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, writes in her new book Paleofantasy that we are not biologically identical to Stone Age humans and that diet has been an important part of our recent evolution. Thus it does not make sense to emulate the diets of cavemen.

Microencapsulated malaria insecticides

Mosquito nets on beds have played a crucial role in the fight against malaria. Nets treated with insecticides that kill mosquitoes are even more effective, but they wear off quickly, leaving people vulnerable to getting bitten once again. Now scientists are taking tips from the perfume industry to make insecticides last longer. They are trying it out in Tanzania, where a recent survey found that overall 18 per cent of children have malaria parasites; with rates in rural areas triple those in the cities. The BBC’s reporter in Tanzania Tulanana Bohela has been to see the latest experiments using this new technique.

Echolocation

Bats famously use echolocation to avoid flying into things, working out where objects are by emitting sounds and then detecting the echo that comes back. Now new research provides conclusive evidence that blind and sighted people are also able to use these techniques. Dr Daniel Rowan, lecturer in Audiology at the University of Southampton tells Health Check about his findings.

Hunter-gatherers in Africa.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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What do chemicals like mustard gas and nerve agents do to the body?

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

More allegations that the Syrian government have been using chemical weapons surfaced last week. Various videos have been shown to the BBC’s correspondent Ian Pannell which cannot be verified but appear to feature people with suspicious symptoms. But how do you tell whether someone has been exposed to a chemical weapon? Alistair Hay, Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Epidemiology at Leeds University gives Health Check a guide to the different types of chemical weapons and what they do.

Mosquito Manipulation

Each year, more than two hundred million people around the world catch malaria from a mosquito bite. Ninety per cent of the deaths occur in Africa. Although the distribution of bed nets to stop mosquitoes biting and anti-malarials to treat symptoms has improved over the years, infections still persist at high levels.

One team of researchers have found that once a mosquito is infected with malaria, it becomes even better at using its sense of smell to hunt out a human to bite. The BBC’s Meera Senthilingam finds out how this discovery might lead to new ways of tackling the disease.

Alligator Teeth

It turns out there is something very special about alligator teeth which could eventually help the rest of us. Whilst humans only have baby teeth and then the final set, alligators are able to grow entirely new sets of teeth, up to fifty times. Led by Professor of Pathology Cheng-Ming Chuong, researchers from the University of Southern California have just discovered how alligators are able to do this.

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A suspected outbreak in Syria where vaccination rates have been slashed

There have been reports of a suspected polio outbreak in Syria, but chaotic conditions have made it difficult for health workers to confirm the reports. It is estimated that the civil war has caused vaccination rates to almost halve from 95% to 40%. Our health reporter, Smitha Mundasad, joins us in the studio to tell us more about attempts to look into this.

Eating Disorders

Scientists have identified two genes which appear to increase the risk of eating disorders. The study has been published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. But why do eating disorders appear more prevalent in some societies compared to others – and is that even true? Professor Christopher Szabo carried out a study looking at eating disorders amongst Zulu-speaking women in South Africa. He tells Health Check the illnesses aren’t specific to race, culture or location and are, instead, connected to modernising communities.

Roma Health in Serbia

Serbia’s Roma community remains one of the most vulnerable in the country. Despite access to healthcare facilities, many feel they don’t have the right to go to them or just don’t know about them. The consequences have been grave with mortality rates – particularly for young children – that are almost double those of the general population. Now a new campaign is attempting to change attitudes by training specific ‘mediators’ who can integrate the communities with mainstream healthcare provision. The BBC’s Belgrade correspondent Guy De Launey reports.

Cultural Issues for Women’s Health in Bolivia

Rosmery Mollo has spent a large proportion of her life battling cultural barriers and attitudes that can endanger women’s health in Bolivia. She found that basic knowledge about the male and female body remained scarce amongst indigenous populations and that it was leading to practices and misconceptions that were particularly harmful to women. Her organisation, Warmi, was set up in 2004 to educate Bolivia’s indigenous women to understand more about their health and how they could preserve it. BBC Mundo’s health reporter, Gabriella Torres, has met Rosmery. She told Health Check that Rosmery’s work has gone beyond health and has empowered women and men to better understand themselves and their relationships with each other.

Picture: Rebel fighter in Deir Ezzor, Syria. Credit: Abo Shuja/AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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A simple strategy to reduce repeat suicide attempts and psychiatric admissions

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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With advances in digital technology, some patients are starting to record their medical consultations, despite opposition from many doctors. Often this is done covertly. In the UK and in some states in the US it is legal for patients to do so, but in many places the law is unclear and it is generally a very controversial area of medical practice. Glyn Elwyn, professor and senior scientist at Dartmouth College in the US, studies the doctor-patient relationship and will be discussing this issue at the 2014 Summer Institute for Informed Patient Choice in Hanover, USA. He explains the key issues at stake.

Polio Aunties

In 2006 India still accounted for half of all global cases of polio, but earlier this year it recorded three years without a new reported case. This achievement allowed the World Health Organization to finally declare its entire South East Asia region polio-free. This success is partly down to an army of women who, one step at a time, have criss-crossed the country on foot to give the under-fives polio vaccines. BBC Monitoring's Vikas Pandey went to the northern Indian city of Allahabad to meet some of the ‘polio aunties’, as they are affectionately known.

Medical Risk

Imagine that your doctor has just told you a test you have had is positive. What is the risk that you actually have that disease? Most tests are not 100% accurate, but how well do we understand health statistics? In a new book called Risk Savvy, Dr Gerd Gigerenzer, director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany, says that many doctors do not even understand risk properly, but could easily do so with simple training.

(Photo: GP Consultation. BBC copyright)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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What will the US health reforms of universal health insurance mean for Americans?

The United States spends more on health than any other industrialised country and yet 45 million people have no health insurance. It is thought that as many as 1800 people a year die prematurely from inadequate health care through lack of health insurance. A major part of President Barack Obama’s election pledge was to reform the health system in the US. This week sees the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ‘Obamacare’. We look at what this legislation means for Americans who currently don’t have medical insurance, and how the US medical system differs from those in other countries.

Making Artificial Spider Venom

A particular family of spiders is known for the uniquely nasty way they can harm humans – by injecting their venom which creates sores and lesions, killing off the human skin. Without urgent medical aid, death by organ failure occurs rapidly. Until now, making anti-venom to treat the spider bites has been a long process involving the deaths of huge numbers of spiders and horses. We hear from Brazil where a breakthrough in anti-venom technology might result in fewer animal deaths.

Millennium Development Goals

In 2000 the UN introduced the Millennium Development Goals – a set of eight targets – to increase living standards for the world's poorest and to eradicate different areas of human suffering by 2015. With the end date less than two years away, we ask how successful they’ve been and if and what they should be replaced with.

Sibling Rivalry

How big a problem is bullying between siblings? New research says it occurs more frequently than we might think and is just as problematic as traditional forms of bullying. Dr Robin Kowalski who conducted the research tells us why she was particularly shocked by some of the results it revealed.

(Picture: President Barack Obama on a podium speaking on ‘Obamacare’. Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Remembering Sir Patrick Manson, The ‘father Of Tropical Disease’|healt20100913

Sir Patrick Manson became known as the ‘Father of Tropical Medicine’ after discovering, back in the 19th century, that mosquitoes could spread disease from one person to another.

It was 150 years ago this week that Sir Patrick Manson began studying medicine at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and the university is hosting two events this week to celebrate his life and work.

Claudia Hammond talks to Mike Barrett, Professor of Biochemical Parasitology at Glasgow University, about Manson’s contribution to medicine.

Can creating art help people recover from brain injury? Artist Shaun Caton firmly believes in its therapeutic power – he’s been running workshops in the neurological rehabilitation unit of London’s Homerton Hospital for 15 years.

A new exhibition of patients’ work at Hackney Museum in east London shows that the work is not just therapeutic, but high quality in itself.

The world’s first Masters course in International Health to focus on non-communicable diseases is about to start.

As people in poorer countries become more likely to survive into adulthood, chronic, non-communicable conditions like cancer, diabetes and mental illness look set to increase.

Ruth McQuillan, organiser of the distance learning course at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, explains why she thinks training in this area is so crucial.

How fast children develop skills like walking or picking things up not only shows the state of their health, but in the long term has been calculated to affect countries’ economic success.

There are standard tests which chart the milestones a child reaches during the first few years of life, but it isn’t as easy as you’d think to translate these tests into different countries and cultures.

Vivienne Parry reports from the recent International Paediatric Association congress in Johannesburg.

Remembering Sir Patrick Manson, the ‘Father of Tropical Disease’.

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How effective has the government of India's Total Sanitation Campaign been?

In India, increased latrine coverage is generally believed to be effective for reducing exposure to faecal pathogens and preventing disease. Claudia Hammond talks to Thomas Classen who has been looking at the effectiveness of a rural sanitation intervention, within the context of the Government of India's Total Sanitation Campaign, to prevent diarrhoea, and child malnutrition. Whist assumed to be effective, the results on the ground suggest some major reassessment is needed.

Malcolm Brabant reports on a Danish paediatrician who claims his pilot project has made a significant breakthrough in the battle against childhood obesity. The scheme, in the town of Holbaek, has treated 1,900 cases and helped 70 per cent of them to maintain normal weight by adjusting twenty elements of patients’ lifestyles.

And Claudia talks to neuro clinician Srivas Chennu whose team in Cambridge have found hidden brain signatures of consciousness in vegetative state patients. The newly discovered network of robust brain cells means that doctors could now have a diagnostic tool to improve clinical assessment and help identify patients who might be covertly aware despite being unable to communicate.

Photo credit: India's sanitation crisis. Copyright: AFP.

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Without a few unusual people, human behaviour would have remained a mystery - ordinary people whose extraordinary circumstances provided researchers with the exceptions that proved behavioural rules.

Claudia Hammond re-visits the classic case studies that have advanced psychological research.

Claudia Hammond re-visits the case of Sidney Bradford, born in 1906, who lost his sight when he was 10 months old.

When it was finally restored with corneal grafts at the age of 52, a lecturer in Experimental Psychology at Cambridge, Richard Gregory, began a series of tests on SB - a study that would launch Gregory's career as a world-renowned expert in visual perception.

For this programme, in his last broadcast interview before his death in May this year, Richard Gregory, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at Bristol University, accompanied Claudia Hammond to the London sites he'd visited with Sidney 50 years earlier.

At the Science Museum SB was captivated by the Maudsley screw-cutting lathe from 1800; he enjoyed the flurry of pigeons in Trafalgar Square, and laughed at the giraffes at London Zoo.

But in general SB found the visual world a disappointing place.

He died less than two years after his sight was restored.

His reaction differed greatly from that of Mike May, an American who lost his sight aged 3 and recovered it when he was 43.

What's become apparent from such cases is that humans have to 'learn' to see; without accumulating visual experience from which the brain can make sense of what the eyes see, vision is of little use.

Claudia Hammond hears from consultant ophthalmologist, William Ayliffe about the other historical cases of recovered sight, and visits Dr Steven Dakin in the Department of Visual Neuroscience at University College London.

Claudia Hammond tells the story of SB, who transformed the field of visual perception.

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More countries need to prepare for influx of people with sickle cell disease

Global migration spreads the genes linked to serious genetic disorders. These conditions can put pressure on health services. A team of scientists, lead by Dr Fred Piel at Oxford University, has been tracking the recent movements of the sickle cell gene across the globe to raise awareness of the disease in countries not used to dealing with the condition.

Dr Graham Easton found out more about the disease at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust from consultant haematologist Dr Mark Layton, and patient Bertrand, who had just been admitted to the ward with a sickle cell crisis.

Smelling Illness

We have known since ancient times that certain diseases have particular smells - for instance diabetes can produce a fruity, sweet smell. But what if we were all able to detect much more subtle smells – before someone was even ill? Professor Mats Olsson from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden devised a neat experiment to test this theory. There were smelly T-shirts involved – but the first step was to trigger an immune response in some volunteers.

ECT to Wipe Distressing Memories

Imagine if you could erase your worst memories - as in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – where a couple use a procedure to wipe each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour. That is Hollywood fantasy. But according to scientists in the Netherlands, writing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, it may actually be possible to 'cleanse' parts of the brain using electroconvulsive therapy – or ECT. BBC Hague Correspondent Anna Holligan gets exclusive access to the lab in Rijnstate Hospital in the Dutch city of Arnhem.

(Photo: Blood sample is collected from a pricked finger. Credit: Stephane de Sakutin/ AFP / Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Could exposure to colder temperatures help with weight loss?

How warm do you have your house in winter? Could your central heating be making you fat? Researchers in the Netherlands had some brave volunteers spend six hours every day for ten days indoors in temperatures of just 15 to 16 degrees Celsius whilst wearing t-shirts and shorts. They not only became accustomed to the cold, but their metabolism sped up, leading them to expend more energy. In longer experiments in Japan this has led to weight loss. So could turning the thermostat down be the secret to slimming down? Dr Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt is a biologist at Maastricht University Medical Center.

African Cancer Institute

The diseases well known to affect the continent of Africa tend to be infectious or communicable such as HIV, Malaria and sleeping sickness. Recent years have seen a rise in non-communicable conditions such as stroke, diabetes, and obesity which have all received increasing attention, but of these non-communicable diseases one remains somewhat neglected by health services - cancer. It is often overlooked as symptoms can be assumed to be due to an infection. The BBC’s Meera Senthilingam has been out at the site of a new institute that is planning to change that.

Childhood Amnesia

For a long time psychologists thought that for the first three or four years of life children simply could not form autobiographical memories. But now new research suggests that it is not that we never form those memories, but that at around the age of seven we forget them. Patricia Bauer is a psychologist at Emory University in the United States and has conducted the first study looking at what children forget, so-called childhood amnesia, and at what ages. Her results have just been published in the journal Memory.

(Picture: Adjusting a thermostatic radiator valve. Credit: Science Photo Library)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Syrian Refugees Mental Health

Half a million people have fled Syria since the start of the civil war. Many are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, having witnessed appalling scenes of violence, but they can be reluctant to seek psychological help due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

To get a picture of what is happening on the ground, Claudia Hammond hears the testimony of Dr Mohammed, who works with Syrian refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp on Jordan's northern border, and Dr Omar, a Syrian psychologist who now lives in Jordan and helps refugees with counselling in their home.

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin condition where patches of skin lose their pigment and go white, usually symmetrically and on the backs of the hands, around the mouth or eyes. These patches can also appear on the knees and elbow areas. Occurring in around 0.5% of the population, it affects people of all races equally, but it is most problematic in those with darkly pigmented skin. It is a condition which attracts some strange myths, including the idea that cooking fish in milk can cause it. But as consultant dermatologist Tony Bewley told Health Check, there is no truth in this idea at all.

Vitiligo and Skin Cancer Protection

New research published in the British Journal of Dermatology has found that people with vitiligo are less likely than everyone else to get skin cancer. Professor David Gawkrodger is a Consultant Dermatologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and he says this is the best piece of work to date on skin cancers in people with vitiligo.

(Credit: Dale Gavlak)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Is medicine in tablet form better for children to take instead of liquid medicine?

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The advantages of longhand note-taking over using laptops in lectures

Note-Taking in Lectures

Increasingly students use laptops in lectures to take notes, but new research published in the journal Psychological Science has found that writing by hand might make better for long-term comprehension. Pam Mueller is a psychologist at Princeton University and is lead author of the study.

Illegible Indian Prescriptions

A doctor's prescription in India can quite often literally mean different things to different people. It is not uncommon for prescriptions to be written in an illegible handwriting, and not contain adequate information on dosage and strength of medicines. This can sometimes lead to the wrong drugs being dispensed to patients. The situation was so bad that the federal government and the Medical Council of India had to step in - and they have come out with one simple remedy - all prescriptions will have to be written in capital letters. BBC Urdu's Suhail Haleem has been finding out more.

Health Myth

Is it true that if you lose a night’s sleep you need an extra night’s worth of sleep to catch up? Professor Matthew Walker from University College London Hospital’s Sleep Clinic gives Health Check the answer.

The Effects of Noise on Health

As well as causing hearing loss, noise can have a profound impact on other aspects of our health. For example sleep disturbance, raising the incidence of cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment in children. Dr Mathias Basner, from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, is back on Health Check to explain more about his recent paper in the Lancet.

(Photo: Students sit in a lecture. Courtesy of Tungsten)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Talking About The €battle’ Against Cancer2014050720140508 (WS)
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‘Fight’ metaphors are commonly used to describe people’s experiences with cancer, but increasingly evidence suggests that this approach is not helpful for many patients. Kate Granger is a doctor and terminally ill cancer patient from the north of England and she gives Health Check her perspective.

Elena Semino, Professor of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University in the UK has been studying the language used in end of life care and has analysed data from patients, health professionals and carers. Her results, which she is presenting at a conference at the Work Foundation in London, suggest that it is altogether a more nuanced picture, and that using ‘fight’ metaphors can be useful for some.

Lake Victoria deaths

Each year, a staggering 5,000 people die in the waters of East Africa’s Lake Victoria; one of the highest fatality rates through drowning in the world. The lake is shared between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The challenges of ensuring water safety in Uganda made the headlines last month when at least 109 people drowned on Lake Albert in the west of the country. The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga visited one organisation taking a new approach to saving lives on the lakes of Uganda.

Delayed cord clamping

When a baby has just been born a third of their blood is still in the placenta, so if you delay clamping and cutting the cord for just a minute or two after birth, some of that blood will flow into the baby and help prevent an iron deficiency. But many obstetricians do not do this because the recommended method involves holding the baby down at the level of the vagina rather than handing it straight over to the mother. The thinking has been that gravity plays an important part in helping the blood flow.

But now new research has found that gravity does not have an impact and just as much blood will flow to the baby if it is given to the mother with the cord still attached. The author of this new research, which has just been published in the Lancet, is Professor Nestor Vain from the Buenos Aires School of Medicine and Foundation for Maternal and Child Health in Argentina.

Picture credit: Leatherneck advance, 1945, Keystone/Getty Images (to illustrate fight with the enemy/cancer)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

The Case Of Henry Molaison2013082820130829 (WS)
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HM, or Henry Gustave Molaison, is the world's most famous neurological patient. A well-known case study in any neuroscience or psychology text book, he had amnesia caused by an operation in 1953 to cure his serious epilepsy. His seizures were cured but the removal of a part of his brain left him unable to form new memories. For the next 50 years until his death in 2008, he was studied and researched, his condition revolutionising what we now know about memory. Suzanne Corkin, Emerita Professor of Neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, and author of a new book, Permanent Present Tense, studied him for almost four decades. She talks to Claudia about Henry the man, and Henry’s contribution to science.

Child car deaths in the UAE

Every year a number of children die locked in cars during hot weather. In the United States, for example, 28 children have been accidentally killed in this way this year. If temperatures are very high, a child can die in a hot car in just ten minutes. Now a new campaign in the United Arab Emirates is trying to warn parents of the problem. For Health Check, Malak Harb has been investigating why it happens.

Surgical Safety Checklist

The Surgical Safety Checklist is a checklist that surgical staff go through at the start of an operation. The idea is that it can be used anywhere and that it will cut down on the number of mistakes made in surgery, saving many lives. It is now used in 1800 institutions around the world, and although the list seems simple, a new study conducted in two hospitals in Britain and one in sub-Saharan Africa found that it is not always straightforward to implement. Dr Emma-Louise Aveling from the Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, is the lead author of the study. (Co-authors were Prof Mary Dixon-Woods, University of Leicester and Peter McCulloch, University of Oxford.)

Picture: Neurons firing in the neural network within the brain. Science Photo Library

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

The Cocktail Party Effect2013010220130103 (WS)
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Why do we hear our own name above everything else in a crowded noisy room?

When the psychologist, Donald Broadbent died in 1993 he left a legacy which still influences our understanding of how we process the complex information in the world around us. Broadbent launched the cognitive revolution in psychology in Britain. His belief was that psychology should be applied to practical problems, such as optimising human performance by the design of aircraft cockpits or nuclear reactor control rooms.

With his innovative dichotic listening experiments, Broadbent explained the 'cocktail party effect', where significant information, such as our own name, intrudes on our consciousness, even when it's embedded in noise we're not apparently attending to.

Claudia Hammond talks to psychologists who studied and worked with Broadbent - Professor Susan Gathercole of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Professors Alan Baddeley of York University and Dylan Jones and Andy Smith of Cardiff University and builds a picture of the man and his ground-breaking work, learning that noise has a far greater impact on our efficiency at work than we realise.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

The Effect Of Noise On Hearing2014051420140515 (WS)
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How exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss

One in 20 people in the world have a disabling hearing loss. Sometimes it is caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises, perhaps at work or listening to music on headphones, or a single loud noise such as a gunshot can cause permanent damage to the inner ear. The good news is that there are drugs to treat noise-induced hearing loss on the horizon, but for now, prevention is key. Health Check speaks to Dr Mathias Basner from the University Of Pennsylvania Perelman School Of Medicine, whose recent paper in the Lancet reviewed the effects of noise on health.

Silencing Hospital Alarms

Alarms are put into hospital equipment to monitor patients’ conditions and make sure they are kept safe, but research has shown that the sheer number of them has meant that staff are developing 'alarm fatigue’ and it is actually putting patients at risk. One hospital in Boston, USA, has found a way to drastically reduce the number of alarms. The BBC’s Ashley Semler reports.

Higher Risk Organ Transplants

With a global shortage of organs for donation, doctors are looking for ways to increase the numbers of people who can donate. Usually most people who have died from infectious diseases or cancer are considered too high risk and there is also a tendency to avoid organs from older donors too. In the UK new advice has been published recommending that a wider variety of donors are considered. And new research just published in the British Journal of Surgery has looked at what happens when organs are taken from older patients and from those with cancer. The latter study found that some donors with cancer defined as an unacceptable or high risk can be used safely. Senior author James Neuberger is professor of medicine at Birmingham University and the associate medical director of NHS Blood and Transplant in the UK.

(Picture: Children protecting their ears from noise in Hong Kong. Credit: Mike Clarke, AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

The Human Race20120229

Health Check launches the Human Race season with a live programme on the athlete's body with four-time World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington and GB sprinter James Ellington.

Claudia Hammond is joined by a variety of expert guests in the courtyard, including a doctor, physiologist and sports psychologist, who will be exploring just what makes an elite athlete so special.

(Image: Usain Bolt of Jamaica crosses the line on his way to winning the Men's 100m Final at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Credit: ALLSPORT/Getty Images)

Claudia Hammond will be finding out what makes elite athletes so special.

The Human Race: Lifecycle Of An Athlete20120316

Claudia Hammond reports from the sprint capital of the world, Jamaica, for the second of four special Health Check programmes on the lifecycle of an athlete.

In "From Promise to the Podium", she investigates how this tiny island, of fewer than three million people, so consistently turns out world class track athletes.

At the first race meet of the season, at the National Stadium in Kingston, she watches hundreds of school children from the country's high schools competing at the Camperdown Classic, and then holds her breath with the rest of the crowd, as the world's youngest-ever 100m World Champion, Yohan Blake, runs a personal best in the 400 metres.

Jamaican sprint training has come home, and most of the elite athletes now choose to stay on the island with the top coaches at Racers and MVP clubs, instead of moving abroad.

At an early morning training session at MVP at Utech in Kingston, the man who set up MVP - Maximising Velocity and Power - eleven years ago, Stephen Francis discusses his determination to keep Jamaican athletes on home turf.

And he admits he picked the incredible former world 100 metre champion Asafa Powell, because he wasn't performing well, and the Americans wouldn't want him!

Asafa himself, training hard for the upcoming London Olympics, talks to Claudia about staying in Jamaica to train, but also acknowledges the sacrifices of the modern athlete when they're running for gold. Losing girlfriends, he says, is one of the downsides…

Just how Jamaica converts, so successfully, raw talent into Olympic medallists is the million dollar question, and Claudia investigates some of the more whacky theories on the circuit, one of them being that the island's success is down to the yam!

(Image: Usain Bolt celebrates winning the Mens 100m Final at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Credit: Associated Press)

"From Promise to Podium", Claudia Hammond reports from Jamaica, the world's sprint capital.

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"From Promise to Podium", Claudia Hammond reports from Jamaica, the world's sprint capital.

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Claudia visits Berlin, home to some of the world's most sophisticated sports technology.

When athletes have reached their peak, how can the latest scientific research give them that extra edge over their competition?

In this week’s programme, Health Check looks at how athletes and engineers are working together in the quest for gold, by monitoring every movement of the human body.

Some of the most cutting edge research is done behind the walls of the Institute for Research and Development for Sports Equipment, known as the FES.

Funded by the government, it opened 50 years ago, and is now probably the world's largest hub of technical innovation in high performance sport, housing a unique range of sports engineering projects.

As well as developing and constructing sports equipment in consultation with coaches and athletes, they also design and develop measurement tools to monitor an athlete's performance.

Claudia Hammond also visits the British city of Sheffield to see a video system which GB boxers believe is giving them a 25% advantage, and the $100 dollar computer game that sports scientists hope could lead to Olympic gold.

(Image: James DeGale with his Gold medal for the Mens Middleweight Final at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Credit: ALLSPORT/Getty Images).

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At least 60% of adults over the age of 65 in industrialised countries are taking medication to lower their high blood pressure. The idea is to protect them against heart attacks and stroke, but for the average elderly person, new research has found that taking these pills increases your risk of having a serious fall. Although the benefits of low blood pressure outweigh the risks of a fall if people are otherwise healthy, it has been discovered that for those with other diseases, blood pressure pills do not actually reduce the risk of having a cardiovascular event. Mary Tinetti, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Yale Medical School is the author of this new research, which has just been published in the American journal Internal Medicine and PLOS ONE.

Mobile Phone Autopsies

As many as two thirds of deaths that occur in the world go unrecorded. In Malawi, there is no official record of deaths that occur outside a medical facility, making it difficult to plan and budget for health services. But a new system of using mobile phones to conduct what are known as 'verbal autopsies' is going to create the country’s first database of deaths and causes. The BBC’s Anne Soy reports from the district of Mchinji in central Malawi.

Systematic Mammography

In most high income countries, women between 50-70 years old are invited to go for screening for breast cancer every two to three years. Over the years, eight large randomised controlled trials have reviewed the data and tried to work out how many lives this screening saves. The Swiss Medical Board has just reviewed these trials and is recommending that no new screening programmes be set up in Switzerland. And a large Canadian study has recently been published in the British Medical Journal and finds that mammography makes little difference to breast cancer mortality.

But Professor Stephen Duffy, from Queen Mary University of London, has published his own review of the reviews - and along with other reviews of the trials they come to a rather different conclusion. So what are women to think? Is it worth going for breast screening? Health Check brought together Professor Duffy with Dr Christian Weber, one of the authors of the Swiss Medical Board’s report.

(Photo: Elderly couple. Credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

The Link Between Eating Protein And Blood Pressure2014111220141116 (WS)

For many years people have been advised to eat a low fat, high fibre diet and to avoid eating large quantities of meat and too many eggs. But a study which followed more than 5,000 people for 30 years has found that people who ate more protein - whether from eggs, meat, fish or nuts - had lower blood pressure than others who ate less protein. Lynne Moore, associate professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine explains what she found.

Recovery Letters

When someone is experiencing depression they find it hard to believe that they will ever feel better. Occasionally the despair becomes so great that people feel suicidal. To try and help combat this, a new British website has been set up where people who used to feel desperate write open letters to anyone who might be currently feeling that way. It is called Recovery letters and was set up by James Withey. He spent his career working in suicide prevention before finding himself very depressed himself.

WW1 Dysentery

A soldier from World War One has contributed to modern science in a way he can never have imagined. In the trenches, Private Ernest Cable contracted bacillary dysentery, a disease which today still kills hundreds of thousands of people in low income countries. A sample from the soldier, which has been stored since 1915, has now led scientists to make an extraordinary discovery; that the bacteria were resistant to the antibiotic penicillin, even though antibiotics were not discovered for another 13 years. Kate Barker and Alison Mather, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK, conducted the research which has just been published in the Lancet.

(Photo: Eggs, white fish fillet and chicken breast. Credit: Getty Images)

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From the emotional stimuli of music to how the brain identifies musical patterns

The latest neuroscientific research on the musical brain - from how we notice patterns in music to why the beat can be so powerful. We are not born with musical ability, but our brain is an efficient machine that lets us learn the rules. But what about those people that cannot understand music? And how can our emotional responses to music be used therapeutically?

The brain’s reaction to music is highly complex, but new research suggests that understanding how and why it responds in the way it does could lead to exciting new medical treatments.

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Is it really true that spread of disease is inevitable or that dead bodies pose a risk?

According to the United Nation as many as 11 million people in the Philippines have been affected by the typhoon, some of whom are still waiting for help to reach them. There has been discussion about the need to bury dead bodies and the fear of disease spreading, but the risks are actually not quite as one might expect. A lot of myths exist in this field, so to work out exactly what is what, Health Check speaks to Dr Richard Brennan, the WHO’s Director of Emergency Risk and Humanitarian Response.

Remote counselling

Chad and Canada may be thousands of kilometres apart, but a unique mental health project is connecting the two countries. A Canadian psychologist Neda Faregh, who spent some time in Chad in her childhood, has started offering psychotherapy sessions to clients in Chad; linking up via the internet over Skype. In a country with only one psychiatrist, and where mental health issues are often not recognised as illnesses, what difference is the project making? The BBC’s Celeste Hicks went to find out.

Bilingualism and dementia

In the past, research from Canada and the US has found that speaking more than one language provides a protective effect against dementia. Following on from this work, a new large Indian study confirms this finding and that it can delay the onset of dementia for five years; even for people without education and who are illiterate. Dr Suvarna Alladi from Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India, is lead author of the research.

Picture credit: Dead bodies on Leyte, Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan. Philippe Lopez / AFP / Getty Images.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Why oily fish are good to eat, but not so great if you inhale their microscopic particles

Over the last decade, Dr Anna Dahlman-Hoglund, an occupational hygienist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, and her colleagues have increasingly seen workers in the fish processing industry develop allergies and respiratory problems. To work out what is causing this, they visited some herring-processing factories and set up a study to evaluate the exposure of workers to airborne herring particles and other environmental factors. The results have just been published in the journal The Annals of Occupational Hygiene.

Baby Boxes

What do William and Kate have in common with every new parent In Finland, other than the fact that they have just had a new baby? They have all received a 'baby box'; a gift from the Finnish government containing everything they might need to get them started. This Finnish tradition has been going on for 75 years and it is still considered by many to be an essential part of Finnish parenthood. Ilpo Salonen reports from Helsinki.

Counting Sheep to Sleep

Is it true that counting sheep is the answer if you find yourself unable to get to sleep at night? Professor Matthew Walker is a neurologist at the University College London Hospitals’ sleep clinic.

Breastfeeding and AMD

The health benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby are well-documented. But now there is yet another advantage, suggested for the first time by a vast study conducted in Norway. Published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the research concluded that the more months a woman had spent breast-feeding in her lifetime, the less likely she was to develop age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, later in life. AMD is the most common cause of visual impairment and blindness in older people. Dr Maya Errke is from the Department of Ophthalmology and Neurosurgery at the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromso.

(Picture credit: Herring catch at Utsira, Norway by Atle Grimsby)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

The Physiological Challenges Facing World Cup Football Players2014052820140529 (WS)
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How will teams be affected by the heat and humidity in Brazil?

In some of the World Cup locations in Brazil, temperatures will reach 30 degrees Celsius with very high levels of humidity. To find out what sort of physiological challenges this is going to present for the players, consultant anaesthetist Kevin Fong took part in an experiment in an environmental chamber which replicated conditions in Brazil. As part of this he was required to run for half an hour at 30 degrees in 80% humidity. Kevin, who is the author of Extremes: Life, Death and Limits of the Human Body, joins Claudia in the Health Check studio to tell her how he got on.

Dignity therapy

What would you remember about your life if you got a diagnosis of a terminal illness? What words of advice and messages would you want to leave for loved ones? These are some of the questions dying patients are being asked in something called Dignity Therapy. It was developed in Canada by Professor Harvey Chochinov, but it is being used around the world, and this week more therapists are being trained at a workshop in Manitoba. Karen Pauls from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation finds out more about how the therapy works.

Helping friends

When people have mental health issues, friends and relatives around them often find themselves at a loss to know how they can help or what they should say. To discuss how best to help friends who you know or suspect may be having problems with their mental health, Health Check is joined by clinical psychologist Linda Blair. Listeners who have experienced mental health difficulties also tell Claudia what they found helped them the most.

(Picture: Brazillian team training for the World Cup 2014. Credit:Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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How mental exhaustion may affect your sporting performance

New research published in the Journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise has found that the chemical by-products of being mentally exhausted can stop you from pushing your body to its physical limits. The good news is that you might be able to train yourself to resist the overwhelming effects of cognitive exhaustion, something the British Ministry of Defence is looking into with the help of Professor Samuele Marcora, from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Kent.

Moral Distress

Have you ever been in a situation where you know what the right thing to do is morally, but something is preventing you from doing it? It is a situation that nurses can sometimes find themselves in and the concept is known as moral distress. If it builds up it can lead to some nurses burning out altogether. Ann Gallagher, who is the editor of the Journal Nursing Ethics and a reader at Surrey University tells Health Check more about it.

Distraction

Some people find their minds wander more than others, but until the last decade, this attention to our own thoughts was not studied much. Now new research led by Sophie Forster, a lecturer in psychology at Sussex University in the UK, has found that those people whose minds wander the most are also the most easily distracted by other things going on around them. They are also less happy than other people. Her research has been published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Dance and Cognition

Learning complicated dance steps can be challenging, as the celebrities on the popular BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing discover every week. But one technique used by dancers, known as marking, can improve performance. As illustrated in a new study conducted by professor Margaret Wilson, a psychologist at University of California Santa Cruz. Claudia Hammond discusses this and challenges her two left feet with British Strictly Come Dancing star Robin Windsor.

(Picture: Exhausted British troops in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Credit: Marco Di Lauro, Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

To Floss Or Not2013022020130221 (WS)
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Dentists tell us we should floss our teeth but what is the evidence that it really works?

Flossing

Flossing is widely recommended, but for those of us who do not floss, we might take comfort from an increasing number of dentists who believe it is not the best way to prevent tooth decay or gum disease. Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in the mouth digest sugar, producing acid which eats away at the teeth. Gum disease on the other hand, is caused by a film of bacteria on the teeth known as plaque which irritates the gums. So does flossing make any difference? Dr Nigel Carter is chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation and Dr Ellie Phillips is a dentist in the US and author of Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye.

Secrets

New research from Canada has found that lesbians, gays and bisexuals see health benefits when they are open about their sexuality. Published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the team found that if lesbians, gays and bisexuals came out of the closet they had lower levels of psychiatric symptoms and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the mornings. Andreas Wismeijer, Associate Professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, tells Health Check what he makes of the study and about his own extensive research on secrets.

Health myth

Is it true that if you shave the hair grows back thicker and more stubbly? Trichology Consultant Dr John Gray provides a very firm answer.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Twenty-five Years Of Neuroscience2014010120140102 (WS)
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Developments in neuroscience and how our understanding of the brain has changed

Claudia Hammond looks at how our understanding of the brain has changed.

In 1988, scientists predicted that new techniques for scanning the brain would lead to treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Researchers were enthusiastic about the possibilities for seeing what went on in the brain and many had high hopes that they would start to understand how and why mental health problems develop. But how much progress has been made?

Professor Irene Tracey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, and Professor Sophie Scott, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College, London, discuss with Claudia the major advances in this fast-growing field. They also take a sceptical look and ask whether, with its highly ambitious big brain studies, the science is still promising more than it can deliver.

Picture credit: Doctor examines a brain scan, City Hospital in Belfast. Press Association Archive

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UAE proposed Child Rights Law could make breastfeeding mandatory

The United Arab Emirates may be passing a mandatory breastfeeding clause as part of their new Child Rights Law. The clause is not completely clear, but it initially appears that mothers would have to breastfeed a child for the first two years of their life. Could wives be sued by their husbands if they do not follow this law, or have to find alternative provision such as a wet nurse? Marie-Claire Bakker, a representative of La Leche League International in Abu Dhabi, takes us through the story and its impact locally in UAE. Dr Catarina Casinovas from the WHO reviews how countries around the world are getting on with helping mothers to meet the WHO recommendation of exclusive breast feeding for six months.

Identical Twins Feel Pain Differently

Researchers have found that identical twins feel pain differently. These twins are generally genetically identical, and so it seems likely that environmental factors are causing their different perceptions of pain. And in fact, it seems that the different environmental conditions that the twins have been exposed to have, in turn, caused differences in the way the twins’ identical genes are working - a system called our epigenome. Marnie Chester speaks to study author professor Tim Spector from Kings College London to find out more. Could the way we live affect the pain we feel?

Effects of Overpraising Children

Praising children with low self-esteem may seem like a good way to boost their confidence, but a study by psychologist Eddie Brummelman of Utrecht University suggests that this can backfire and make them less likely to take on new challenges.

(Picture credit: A mother breastfeeding her baby. Joel Nito, AFP/Getty Images)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Unemployment As A Health Issue2013103020131031 (WS)
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WHO launches a campaign to address the link between health and unemployment

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a new campaign to try and encourage European governments to focus on health rather than economic indicators. They say youth unemployment has great consequences for the health of those affected, leading to depression and even suicide. In a wide ranging report linking health to economic factors they say attention needs to be paid to education in childhood and addressing the needs of socially vulnerable people.

Portuguese Doctors in Mozambique

The economic downturn in Portugal is even affecting doctors – with competition for jobs. However many are finding gainful employment in Mozambique. This has created resentment from Mozambique’s doctors – who are usually paid less than their Portuguese counterparts. The Mozambique works ministry is now trying to implement measures to limit the number of foreign doctors able to work there. However, for the medical authorities this presents something of a dilemma. They say the Portuguese doctors are often better qualified than locals, meaning they bring valuable skills and training, hence the pay discrepancy. Currently applications for work in Mozambique from Portuguese doctors are on the rise.

Fizzy Drinks in Mexico

Mexico is planning to introduce a 10% tax on soft drinks. Local research suggests Mexico has the largest consumption of soft drinks per head of population in the world. The consumption of high sugar drinks is associated with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Mexico considers the medical threat of these so great that it plans to tax soft drinks and - in a related measure - junk food.

Picture: Unemployment queue, UK. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Vaccine Confidence Project2013052920130530 (WS)
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The Vaccine Confidence Project scans the web for new mentions of vaccines in the media or in blogs, whether positive or negative. It then follows up negative rumours on the ground with non-governmental organisations and health ministries to work out exactly what is happening and what can be done to address people’s concerns. Their first findings have just been published in the Lancet and in one year they found that 69% of mentions were positive and 31% were negative. The project is run by Dr Heidi Larson, anthropologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Avatar therapy

Hearing voices is one of the most well-known symptoms of the mental health problem schizophrenia. In some cases medication can get rid of them, but a quarter of patients find these voices do not go away. They can not only be distracting and confusing but bullying and unkind, telling patients to harm themselves or others. But research published this week in the British Journal of Psychiatry reports a new therapy using avatars can help to reduce, or even remove, the voices. The BBC’s Lorna Stewart has been to see the project in action.

Big brain projects

When it comes to our understanding of how the mind and the brain work, there are high hopes for several new brain projects which map the brain in more detail than ever before. In the US scientists are working out the details of President Obama's $100 million BRAIN initiative, and the EU is funding the billion euro Human Brain project. But what will these expensive projects tell us, and are we even asking the right questions? Mind Hacks blogger Vaughan Bell, from Kings College London, analyses the debate.

Picture credit: AFP/Getty Images

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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Anti-cervical cancer vaccine for girls where there is no screening or radiotherapy

Women in Laos are among the first in the developing world to receive a new vaccine against the virus that causes cervical cancer. The vaccine prevents the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus which causes 70% of cervical cancer cases. Laos is one of nearly a dozen countries to benefit from a programme to ensure that poorer countries also receive the latest vaccines. The project is being organised with the support of Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisation. The BBC’s Fergus Walsh has just returned from Laos and tells us more about the scheme.

How Many Children go Unvaccinated for Common Diseases?

A new report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the UK suggests that 20% of children globally miss out on basic vaccines that are available. The report estimates that 2 million deaths a year could be averted if vaccines reached more children. Professor Steve Allen leads the international health programme for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. He tells us that more imaginative and innovative ways are needed to overcome the practical and cultural barriers to vaccinating more children.

Breast vs Formula Milk in Venezuela

A row has broken out in Venezuela over the promotion of formula feeds for babies. A new employment law last year gave women the right to take breaks in the day for breast feeding but the number of women who breastfeed still remains low in the country. Twenty-seven percent of children are exclusively breastfed in Venezuela compared to the international average of almost 40%. The government blames the relatively low levels on the free milk products given out by formula milk companies in health centres and wants to legislate against them. The BBC’s Irene Caselli reports.

Picture credit: Girls in Laos receive a new vaccine that could help prevent cervical cancer. Photographer: Fergus Walsh

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Vitamin D - A Panacea?2014041620140417 (WS)
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In recent years, vitamin D has been billed as the latest miracle pill with articles in newspapers saying it can improve your immune system, reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and make you live longer. These are in addition to the long-known benefits for bone health. But get two doctors in a room and you will get two different views on the benefits of vitamin D and whether we should be taking supplements. So what is the evidence from trials? Should we be taking supplements or not? The British Medical Journal has just published two reviews of all the recent trials and Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow has been examining this evidence.

Beer Work Project in Amsterdam

Many cities around the world have wrestled with the issue of people with alcohol problems living on the street, drinking, making a mess and even getting into fights. But in the Netherlands the city council of Amsterdam East has decided to take radical action. It has asked the Rainbow Foundation - a non-governmental organisation committed to people with social problems, the homeless, drug-users and those with psychiatric problems - to give jobs cleaning the streets and parks to a small group of these people. The result is that the roads are clean and the participants are given a new purpose. But controversially the people are paid in beer as well as cash. Thijs Westerbeek reports.

Diet Clinics in Turkey

A doctor in Turkey has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison after a 19 year old woman died at the diet camp he ran. According to local newspaper reports, when architecture student Dila Kurt attended Dr Muzaffer Kushan’s ‘International clinic’ in a village just outside Istanbul, she died suddenly after losing more than 13kg in just six weeks. With a growing problem of obesity in Turkey and increased attention on body image, the diet industry is booming, but now some doctors are calling for better regulation of it. Dr Reci Meseri is Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Ege University in Turkey.

Picture credit: Vitamin supplements, Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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How using eye-tracking software is helping to detect Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve in the back of the eye and is the world’s most common form of irreversible blindness. If it is diagnosed early it is fairly easily and successfully treated with medication or surgery, but around half of cases go undetected and some of those people will eventually go blind. Researchers at City University London are experimenting with a new way of detecting glaucoma by using eye-trackers to monitor patients whilst they watch TV. Professor David Crabb is the lead author of the study, which has just been published in the journal Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience.

HIV Community Groups

Mozambique is one of the countries with the highest HIV prevalences in the world with at least 1.6 million people living with the infection. But only half a million of these patients are on life-saving antiretroviral therapy due to drugs not being available and the cumbersome process of accessing them, especially in rural areas. In a bid to tackle this, Medicins Sans Frontieres started community groups that enabled patients to collect medicine on behalf of their other group members. As the BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza reports from Maputo, the programme is reaping huge benefits seven years after it began.

Walking ‘Happy’

Years ago researchers found that when people were instructed to open their mouth in a smile, their mood improved, even though they did not know they were smiling. When we feel happy we smile and the brain gets so used to this connection that it seems to occur the other way round as well. Johannes Michalak, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Witten Herdecke University in Germany, has been looking at the association between body movements and mood. He found that if people walk in a more ‘happy’ style, their memories are more positive.

(Photo: Eye-tracking software being used to detect Glaucoma. Credit: City University, London)

What Doctors Feel2013073120130801 (WS)
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How emotions affect physicians and the practice of medicine

When you go to the doctor you are probably more worried about how you are feeling than how they are, but a new book called “What Doctors Feel” reveals that your doctors’ emotions can have more of an impact than you might think. Dr Danielle Ofri, associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, is the author and has been caring for patients for more than 20 years at New York’s Bellevue Hospital.

Advances in reproductive technology

It is 35 years since the world’s first test tube baby was born in the UK. Since that breakthrough, fertility treatments have been used to help millions of people around the world have children. As well as helping women to improve their chances of conceiving by overcoming infertility, some clinics are offering women a chance to control their fertility; by harvesting their eggs to use later, when the time is right for them. The BBC’s Jon Stewart reports on how things have changed, from a lab in California which offers some of the latest IVF treatments.

Fertility treatment is famously very expensive, but a few weeks ago results of a new, much cheaper form of IVF were presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Conference in London. Claudia discusses this new technique, developed by the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Belgium, with studio guest Dr Graham Easton.

Flavour perception

Experimental psychologist Professor Charles Spence and his team at the University of Oxford have been experimenting with different kinds of cutlery and how it can change the way we think our food tastes. Their research suggests that size, weight, shape and colour all have an effect on flavour.

Picture: Doctor helping patient in Germany. Credit: Getty Images

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Window Into The Brain2013081420130815 (WS)
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Why looking at the condition of blood vessels in the retina can help predict strokes

For centuries doctors have been diagnosing disease by looking inside the body, but how about using a window into the brain? By looking at blood vessels in the retina of a group of people with high blood pressure - one of the main factors in the development of a stroke - doctors in Singapore have found they might be able to predict which people are most likely to have a stroke. The research was done by Dr Mohammed Kamran Ikram from the Singapore Eye Research Institute and has just been published in the journal Hypertension.

Learning Disabilities in Sri Lanka

Disabled people in Sri Lanka have long found it difficult to live dignified lives and traditionally many have been subjected to confinement or in some of the worst cases left to die. In this mainly Buddhist and Hindu country, many believe disability is a punishment for wrong-doing in a former life. But in one of the island’s poorest districts, called Nuwara Eliya, there is a place founded by a British-Sri Lankan couple which aims to give disabled people a better deal by extending comprehensive day care. The BBC’s correspondent Charles Haviland went to the Sri Lankan hill country to find out more.

Cognitive Performance Variability

Have you noticed that some days you are a bit sharper, while on other days you keep forgetting things? This complaint is particularly common amongst older people, but a new study shows most cognitive performance fluctuations occur within a shorter period of time than a whole day. And there is also some good news if you are older. Although on average people do worse at memory tests as they age, it turns out that older people perform more consistently than younger people. The research was conducted by Florian Schmiedek, Professor of Methods of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the German Institute for Educational Research.

Picture: Examples of varying degrees of damage to retinal blood vessels, Credit: Dr Mohammed Kamran Ikram

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Would You Want To Find Out About An Inherited Genetic Condition?2014021220140213 (WS)
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The impossibly difficult decisions after discovering a family history of genetic disorder

In this week’s programme we look into living with genetic disorders. Speaking to contributors to the book The Story Within, Claudia discusses the impossibly difficult decisions that arise - whether, when and how to intervene and whether and how best to involve family members – and how life can be irrevocably changed by the discovery of a family history of genetic mutation.

To guide Claudia through the issues raised and examine the extraordinary advances being made in genetics, she is joined by Sir John Burn. He is

professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University and a world authority on genetics.

(Picture: DNA autoradiogram: Autoradiograms are used for finding the base sequence of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Credit: Science Photo library)

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Would You Want To Find Out About An Inherited Genetic Condition?2014073020140731 (WS)
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The impossibly difficult decisions after discovering a family history of genetic disorder

We investigate what life is like living with genetic disorders. Speaking to contributors to the book The Story Within, Claudia discusses the impossibly difficult decisions that arise - whether, when and how to intervene and whether and how best to involve family members - and how life can be irrevocably changed by the discovery of a family history of genetic mutation.

To guide Claudia through the issues raised and examine the extraordinary advances being made in genetics, she is joined in the studio by Sir John Burn. He is Professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University and a world authority on genetics.

(Photo: DNA autoradiogram: Autoradiograms are used for finding the base sequence of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Credit: Science Photo library)

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In this week’s programme we look at the popularity of an ineffective way of dealing with mosquitos, using ultrasound signals from mobile phone apps and radio broadcasts. Malaria researchers are concerned people may believe such devices can protect them from being bitten by mosquitos. A radio advertisement promoting the insect repelling benefits of ultrasound recently won an award. However – there is no scientific evidence to support this, research shows the opposite, that ultrasound does not deter insects.

We follow an MSF campaign in Congo Brazzaville to treat remote communities who suffer from the syphilis-like disease YAWS. Eradicated from much of the world by the use of simple antibiotics, the disease persists in remote places where access to medical treatment is scarce.

And we ask why feeling guilt might be a good quality for leaders. According to new research people who feel guilt are not only more likely to emerge as leaders, but also be better managers.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.