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BBC World Service - Health Check

Health Check

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Health Check

  • A tale of recovery from a former footballer
    When ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle went missing in 2017 his wife Carrie thought the worst: he had severe depression and had already attempted to take his own life. Found safely after appeals on social media, he then spent weeks in a psychiatric hospital and 18 months in therapy. Clarke’s whole sense of identity was tied up with football and the buzz it gave him. He recalls how a knee injury at 21 made him feel like a failure, pushing him towards destructive behaviours with alcohol and marathon computer game sessions. Carrie responds to the question sometimes asked by well-meaning people: How could he put you through this? “Clarke didn’t put me through anything. This illness [severe depression] invades and puts all of you through it collectively.” The Carlisles share their tips for recovery: asking for professional help; talking openly to their children about feelings; their daily marks-out-of-ten check-in; how much the Pixar film Inside Out teaches them and their family about emotional resilience. (Photo caption: Former footballer and broadcaster Clarke Carlisle and his wife Carrie Carlisle – credit: BBC) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond Producer: Paula McGrath

  • When social media harms teen mental health
    A new study finds that social media use in itself does not harm the mental health of young people. But if its frequent use erodes sleep, prevents physical activity and exposes teenage girls to cyberbullies, there is a significant risk of poor mental wellbeing. Psychiatrist Dr Dasha Nicholls of Imperial College School of Medicine explains the findings. Nada Tawfik reports on the problems that disabled people face in getting good dental care in the United States. Many dentists refuse to have them on the books. A new centre at New York University of Dentistry provides special facilities to care for this group of patients and trains dental students not to fear and reject disabled clients. Why has dengue fever exploded this year in SE Asia and caused Philippines to declare national epidemic? We talk to Dr Sophie Yacoub, Head of the Dengue Research Group at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam and Dr Gundo Weiler at the WHO in the Philippines. BBC News correspondent James Gallagher joins Claudia in the studio to talk about Ebola now being regarded as a curable disease, an experimental vaccine against chlamydia, and why young men have trouble with eating enough fruit and vegetables. (Photo caption: Girl reading her mobile phone under bedcovers – credit: Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

  • Postponing the menopause?
    A UK fertility company is now offering this procedure to women up to the age of 40. Professor Simon Fishel explains how it would work. Dr Melanie Davies, a consultant gynaecologist at University College Hospital London argues against this approach to ‘treating’ the menopause. Indian authorities are enacting rules to limit the weight of children’s school bags after a campaign highlighting the dangers of heavy school bags. Children have developed of back pain, skeletal and nerve damage because of the weight of the textbooks they have been expected to carry. Chhavi Sachdev talks to overburdened children, parents, doctors and school teachers. Doctors at the Washington University report they have developed a simple blood test that reveals people’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease up to 20 years before symptoms appear. Dr Randall Bateman explains the basis of the new test and Claudia discusses its usefulness with Alzheimer’s researcher Tara Spires-Jones of the University of Edinburgh. Claudia’s studio guest is Professor Matthew Fox, an epidemiologist at Boston University. He talks about the success or otherwise of the ‘test and treat’ approach to reducing HIV rates in subSaharan Africa and influenza vaccines for pregnant women. (Photo caption: Women power walking together - credit: Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

  • Autism: the problems of fitting in
    Many people with autistic spectrum disorder learn techniques to overcome their difficulties interacting with others. The first study that has looked at the consequences of these compensatory strategies reveals some benefits but also significant downsides. The consequences can be stress, low self-esteem, mental illness and misdiagnosis. Claudia talks to lead researcher Professor Francesca Happé from King’s College London and Eloise Stark, a woman with autism. A new research programme at Imperial College London is investigating the link between obesity and infertility in men. Madeleine Finlay explores why weight gain and other factors of modern life might be influencing men’s sperm health. Tick-borne Lyme disease is on the rise in the northern hemisphere. Lyme disease can develop into a serious illness. It is hard to diagnosis early and delayed diagnosis means lengthy treatment and recovery. Dr Mollie Jewett at the University of Central Florida is working on a much faster means of diagnosis, and a more effective treatment. Deborah Cohen meets Dr Jewett and her ticks. Graham Easton is in the Health Check studio to talk about links between hearing loss and dementia, and the worrying spread of bacteria resistant to carbapenems, one of the most important kinds of antibiotic drugs. (Photo caption: A young woman standing in the middle of a crowded street – credit: Getty Images) Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from Dr Graham Easton. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

  • Lighting the brain after birth
    Claudia Hammond visits the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Every year a minority of births goes wrong and the baby is deprived of oxygen, which can lead to long-term brain damage and conditions such as cerebral palsy. Early treatment can reduce the likelihood of permanent disability or even death, so a team at University College London have now developed a new portable device which uses harmless infra-red to detect signs of brain injury in newborn babies, minutes after birth. It is called Cyril and consultant neurologist Subhabrata Mitra and Dr Ilias Tachtsidis, Reader in Biomedical Engineering, demonstrate it to Claudia. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a well-known problem, with one insidious thriving place being medical implants, where they form impenetrable biofilms. But there could be a solution from scientists at Nottingham University. Kim Hardie, a molecular microbiologist, is part of a team that has developed special slippery coatings for biomedical devices, such as catheters, that stop bacteria attaching and sticking in the first place. It is hoped these super biomaterials will help in the fight against super bugs, which has huge implications for infection rates in hospitals globally. It is estimated that one in nine people experience some form of breathlessness, which is most common in conditions such as heart failure, lung disease, panic disorder and Parkinson’s. But there are also significant numbers of people who suffer from breathlessness which cannot be explained. A team at Oxford University hypothesise this might be driven by networks in the brain. So using brain scans and computational modelling, Breathe Oxford has examined breathlessness in athletes, healthy people and those with chronic lung disease, seeking clues as to why some individuals become disabled by their breathlessness, while others with the same lung function live normal healthy lives. Claudia discusses this relationship between breathlessness and brain perception with lead researcher and anaesthetist Professor Kyle Pattinson and research scientist Sarah Finnegan. They also, using a ‘Steppatron’, demonstrate what it is like to live with a chronic lung condition. Mirror-touch synaesthesia is a rare type of synaesthesia where people can actually feel something that they can see being done to someone else. For example they might seem to feel a brush on their hand whilst watching someone else having their hand stroked. Dr Natalie Bowling from the University of Sussex researches this condition. It is estimated that 30% of the population could experience some form of synaesthesia and Claudia also meets Kaitlyn Hova, a violinist with visual-auditory synaesthesia. She demonstrates her violin, which lights up with different colours according to how she sees the notes. (Photo caption: Members of the MetaboLight team working together to develop novel light technologies to assess brain injury severity in newborns within hours after birth - credit: MetaboLight) Producer: Helena Selby