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BBC World Service - Health Check

Health Check

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Health Check

  • World’s First Baby Born After Deceased Womb Transplant
    A 32 year old woman, who was born without a womb, has given birth to a healthy baby girl following a womb transplant from a dead woman. The 10-hour transplant operation, and later fertility treatment, took place in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2016. Previously there have been 39 womb transplants using a live donor, including mothers donating their womb to their daughter, resulting in 11 babies. But the 10 previous transplants from a dead donor have failed or resulted in miscarriage. The BBC’s James Gallagher reports. New research suggests that a baby kicking in the womb may not just be due to the foetus stretching or getting comfortable, but could also be helping its brain get a map of where its body is in space. Although we do not think about it consciously, we all need to know where our arms or legs are in order to grasp objects or make sure we do not walk into things. Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi is an MRC Senior Research Fellow at University College London, and has been monitoring the brainwaves of premature and newborn babies when they kick during active sleep. The results have just been published in the journal Scientific Reports. Each year, some 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes, and around half of them are venomous according to the World Health Organisation, who acknowledge that this could be a vast underestimate because of a lack of data for a condition that mainly affects poor people in rural areas. But in sub-Saharan Africa, a lack of anti-venom means that only 2.5 per cent of snakebite victims are getting effective treatment, or even seeking it. Without the anti-venom a snake bite can be fatal or lead to amputations, leaving people disabled and sometimes financially destitute. A small snake farm in a tourist town in Kenya’s Kilifi Country, where visitors can learn about snakes and handle the harmless ones, has been changing people's fortunes. In the past 14 years it has saved every snakebite victim who has come in, called their hotline or arrived a local clinic and they are hoping that the same model could save lives across the country and the continent. Hannah McNeish reports from Watamu. In places where there is an imbalance of power between men and women, women can find they have few choices over family planning, and are often pressured into having more children or to start childbearing as soon as they are married. But new research conducted using in-depth interviews and focus groups with women and men in Uganda, Ethiopia and Nigeria has found that women are finding their own ways of empowering themselves and commonly resorting to covert use of contraception to have full control over their reproductive lives. The study was led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Lead investigator in Uganda, Simon Peter Kibira from Makerere University School of Public Health, tells Health Check what the key findings were. (Photo caption: Medical team hold the first baby born via uterus transplant from a deceased donor at the hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil – credit: Reuters) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Health and Science correspondent, James Gallagher.

  • A Tribal Study Shedding Light on Blood Pressure
    Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health were interested in learning more about what makes blood pressure tend to rise as we get older, and whether this still happens on a diet with very little salt. So they decided to study two remote tribes in Venezuela, one of which has Western influences on their diet because of the presence of an air strip near it. For the first time they also measured the children's blood pressure. Epidemiologist Noel Mueller is one of the epidemiologists who did the research, which has just been published in the journal JAMA Cardiology. Exposed to elements and with no steady source of income, refugees and internally displaced people in Iraq are in a constant fight for survival. Many of those living in the camps have no access to basic forms of healthcare and with little or no money, they cannot afford trips to hospitals or private clinics. Left untreated, common health complaints can lead to chronic and debilitating health issues. In Northern Iraq, a new mobile health clinic is reaching out to five different refugee and IDP camps, offering free consultations and medical treatment. As Hugo Goodridge reports, it has quickly become an invaluable source of healthcare, crucial to their survival. In the past two decades the people of Sri Lanka have endured many traumatic events; civil war, the tsunami of 2004 and outbreaks of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. After all this you might expect high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, but new research has found the opposite. The other main finding is that if Sri Lankans grew up experiencing adversity in childhood, this seems to increase their chances of having PTSD following a trauma in later life. Published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Dr Sarah Dorrington, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, is the lead author. (Photo caption: A Yanomami native man eats next to his wife - credit: AFP/Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from the Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley.

  • The Health Impact of Smoke from Californian Wildfires
    As well as the immediate danger from the Californian wildfire flames, areas close by have been shrouded in smoke, with air pollution as much as ten times higher than even on the most polluted days when there are no fires. John Balmes, Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, has conducted research in Malawi looking at the effect this smoke could have on people's health in the long-term. He speaks to Health Check about this long-term damage, and the short-term health problems residents have been experiencing. One way to reduce stress in Japan is to take part in an activity known as Shrinrin-yoku, which means “forest bathing”. It works to slow one down, activating all of one’s senses, to notice what is around you. And the theory is that by spending time out in nature, you start to feel a little more relaxed. This type of forest therapy is becoming popular globally and there are now forest guides working in more than forty countries, with the aim of improving people’s well-being. Reporter Sian Griffiths heads into the woods near Ottawa, Canada, to meet a forest therapist. Female genital mutilation, where the clitoris and labia of a girl are cut or removed, can often lead to lifelong health complications, serious problems during childbirth and painful, unsatisfying sex. But at last some good news; new research in the British Medical Journal suggests that between 1990 and 2017, the prevalence of FGM among girls up to the age of 14 fell sharply in most regions of Africa. Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Northumbria in the UK and the lead author of the study. (Photo caption: Hospital workers and first responders evacuate patients from the Feather River Hospital as the Camp Fire moves through the area - credit: Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Health and Science correspondent, James Gallagher.

  • London Knife Crime
    London is on course for the highest number of killings in a decade after the total this year surpassed the figure for the whole of 2017. Most of the victims are teenage boys or young men living in deprived areas, stabbed by other teenage boys or young men. The Royal London Hospital specialises in this kind of injury and one of their surgeons, Paul Vulliamy believes that we need to approach knife crime as a public health issue. He has been examining a decade’s worth of data to try to ascertain where and when these stabbings are taking place. He spoke to Claudia Hammond about the findings. Last week on Health Check, we were talking about the form of skin cancer melanoma and how mortality rates have been rising in every one of 33 countries studied (European countries plus Australia and New Zealand), apart from one – the Czech Republic. The researchers were not sure why this might be, so we asked Dr Monika Arenbergerova, a dermatologist from the Department of Dermatology at Charles University in Prague. Our attitudes towards money start being shaped early on and by the time we are adults some of us are good with our money. Some of us are not so good. So how much of that is down to personality? New research has looked at agreeableness - the tendency to be nice, and it has found that agreeable people might be worse at managing their money. Sandra Matz from Columbia Business School explains why this might be. (Photo caption: Police forensic officers working after a woman was killed during a knife attack in London – credit: AFP/Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Health and Science correspondent, James Gallagher.