MidMeds Social – February 2017



MidMeds Social |February 2017




Links to articles featured throughout the MidMeds social media network in February 2017


Tuesday 28th February

The levy on sugary drinks will provide £415m for sports and healthy eating in England's schools, says Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Every school will be allocated funds to help with facilities for mental health as well as physical exercise.

But schools, which have been warning of cash shortages, will not be able to use the fizzy drink levy to pay for staff.

Ms Greening said that such "health and wellbeing benefits can last a lifetime".

The soft drinks industry levy, announced in last year's Budget, is going to provide £415m for schools in 2018-19 to promote healthier lifestyles.

Childhood obesity

The idea was to tackle childhood obesity by applying a levy that increased according to the amount of sugar in drinks - with the money being spent on improving health in schools.

The government forecast it would raise £520m in 2018-19 - and expected that it would be an incentive for the food and drinks industry to cut levels of sugar.

The levy provides capital funding to support facilities for sports, after-school activities and to encourage healthy eating - but it will not pay for PE teachers or other staff.

All state-funded primary and secondary schools and sixth forms will receive a slice of the sports levy, but there will also be a bidding process for funding for specific projects.

"Schools can really help our children get a healthy start in life from exercise and sport, and also from knowing what a healthy diet means," said Ms Greening.

"It's not only good for them while they're in education, but the health and wellbeing benefits can last a lifetime."

Read more: here (External link)


Thursday 23rd February

The researchers do not know if eating even more fruit and veg would have even greater health benefits as there is little evidence out there to review.

Dr Dagfinn Aune, one of the researchers, said: "Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system.

"This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold.

"For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduction in cancer risk."

However, many people struggle to even eat the five a day (400g) recommended by the World Health Organization.

In the UK, only about one in three people eats enough.

Dr Aune said the findings did not mean the five-a-day message needed to change.

He told the BBC: "There are many different considerations if changing policy, it's not just the health effects - is it feasible?

"But our findings are quite clear in that they do support five a day, but there are even some further benefits for higher intakes."

Read more: here (External link)


Wednesday 22nd February

"Men who drink more than a pint a day over several years are at greater risk of heart attack or stroke," The Sun reports.

A UK study found men who consistently drank more than the recommended limits had signs of stiffening of the arteries, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Researchers used data from more than 3,000 British civil servants to examine the link. Participants reported their alcohol intake over a 20-year period.

Stiffness of the arteries was also measured using a device that looks at how pressure waves move through an artery – the faster the pulse wave moves, the stiffer the arteries.

Men who were frequent heavy drinkers across the follow-up period had stiffer arteries compared with frequent moderate drinkers. There were no significant findings seen for women. The reasons for this are unclear.

While the study cannot prove cause and effect, and stiffening of the arteries can have a range of causes, it does highlight the fact alcohol-related harms can affect anyone.

Frequently drinking more than the recommended limits can damage your health.

Read more: here (External link)


Tuesday 21st February

Plans have been put forward to cut hospital services in two-thirds of England, a BBC analysis shows.

The proposals have been made by local NHS bosses as part of a national programme to transform the health service and save money.

They include everything from full closures of hospitals to cutting some specialist services such as accident and emergency and stroke care.

Ministers argue patients will receive better care in the community.

Alongside cuts to hospital care, the proposals also set out visions for better care outside of hospitals, including:

  • Bringing community services such as GP, council-run care and district nursing together into "super" hubs
  • Getting GPs working together in federations to improve access in evenings and weekends
  • Asking hospital specialists to work in community clinics to bring expert care closer to people's homes

But a review of the plans by the King's Fund think tank warned they were not always credible because there were not enough services outside of hospitals and there was a lack of money to invest in more.

It warned community services were already "feeling the strain" and could not currently cope with an increase in workload.

And the King's Fund said further reductions in the number of hospital beds could de-stabilise services that were already "stretched to their limits" following the difficult winter.

Read more: here (External link)


Wednesday 15th February

Repeated blows to the head during a footballer's professional career may be linked to long-term brain damage, according to tentative evidence from UK scientists.

The research, the first of its kind, follows anecdotal reports that players who head heavy balls may be more prone to developing dementia later in life.

The Football Association says it will look at this area more closely.

But experts said recreational players were unlikely to incur problems.

The small study is published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica.

'Complex combination'

Researchers from University College London and Cardiff University examined the brains of five people who had been professional footballers and one who had been a committed amateur throughout his life.

They had played football for an average of 26 years and all six went on to develop dementia in their 60s.

While performing post mortem examinations, scientists found signs of brain injury - called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in four cases.

CTE has been linked to memory loss, depression and dementia and has been seen in other contact sports.

Prof Huw Morris, of University College London, told the BBC: "When we examined their brains at autopsy we saw the sorts of changes that are seen in ex-boxers, the changes that are often associated with repeated brain injury which are known as CTE.

"So really for the first time in a series of players we have shown that there is evidence that head injury has occurred earlier in their life which presumably has some impact on them developing dementia."

The report's authors make it clear they were not analysing the risks of heading by children.

Read more: here (External link)


Wednesday 8th February

Sweden is known for its commitment to keeping citizens happy, but a recent experiment shows boosting happiness can come at a high cost.

As part of a government study, a select group of retirement-home workers in Gothenburg, Sweden have been working just 30 hours each week for the past two years.

The results of that study, unveiled last week, were about what you'd expect — people claimed they were happier, less stressed, and enjoyed the work more.

The only downside: The schedule was a bit pricey.

The city council of Gothenburg pushed for the experiment in 2015, but Daniel Bernmar, a local politician, recently told Bloomberg that "it's far too expensive to carry out a general shortening of working hours within a reasonable time frame."

To give the roughly 80 workers at the Svartedalen old folks' home more time off, the city government had to hire 17 additional people to cover the shifts. The new hires put a $738,000-sized dent in the payroll — an increase of about 22%. (Although, as Bernmar told the New York Times, lower unemployment costs offset that increase by about 10%.)

A couple other experiments in shorter work weeks are also underway in Sweden, with final results still to come.

Sub-40-hour workweeks are common in other parts of Europe — in France, workweeks are 35 hours — but that's hardly the norm worldwide. In the US, the average full-time worker commits 47 hours to their job. In certain Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan, the numbers are even higher.

A few large American companies have also started experimenting with shorter workweeks to see whether employees can maintain the same level of output with the added time off.

Amazon, for instance, recently began giving part-time workers (those logging only 30 hours a week) full benefits at 75% pay. And the sales and marketing company SteelHouse kicked off 2017 by announcing there will be at least one three-day weekend every month. SteelHouse CEO Mark Douglas told Business Insider in December that the next logical step will be to test out a four-day workweek.

Sweden's experiment  may throw a bit of cold water on the idea that fewer working hours are a good thing in the long run.

But Bernmar told Bloomberg that the government might be too short-sighted in its judgment about costs. A long-term benefit of shortening the workweek could be that people wouldn't get as fatigued over the course of their careers.

Bernmar also mentioned that the experiment poses an important existential question about how a government views work. If a city government or business prizes lower expenses over increased well-being for workers, as he says Gothenburg will likely do, that sends an entirely different message than if it were the reverse.

Read more: here (External link)


Monday 6th February

The number of patients on hospital wards in England has been at unsafe levels at nine in 10 NHS trusts this winter, BBC analysis shows.

To minimise the risk of infections and delays in getting treatment, hospitals are meant to have no more than 85% of beds occupied.

But the analysis showed 137 out of 152 hospital trusts have been above that level since the start of December.

NHS bosses said hospitals had major problems discharging frail patients.

They said a lack of care in the community meant they were having to keep patients on wards.

A poll by Ipsos MORI for the BBC has suggested three-quarters of those surveyed in the UK want to see charges increased for people coming from abroad as a way of raising more money for the NHS.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that from April this year, foreign patients could be refused operations unless they cover their costs in advance in England.

Hospitals will be expected to check upfront whether an individual is eligible for free non-urgent care by asking for ID.

Read more: here (External link)


Friday 3rd February

Spending a weekend out camping resets the clock inside our bodies that influences sleeping habits, scientists at a US university have discovered.

The team argue that time in the great outdoors could help those struggling to get up in the morning and boost health.

The researchers said swapping bricks and mortar for canvas was not a long-term solution.

But exposing ourselves to more bright light in the day (and less at night) could help.

Our body has a daily "circadian" rhythm that anticipates day and night to co-ordinate how our body works.

It alters alertness, mood, physical strength, when we need to sleep and even the risk of a heart attack as part of a 24-hour cycle.

Body Clock: What is happening in your body right now?

'Arrogance' of ignoring need for sleep

Light helps the clock keep time, but modern life with artificial light, alarm clocks and smartphones has altered our sleeping habits.

The report is published in Current Biology and Dr Kenneth Wright, from the University of Colorado Boulder, told the BBC: "We're waking up at a time when our circadian clock says we should still be asleep."

He says this is damaging to health with studies suggesting links with mood disorders, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

And it also simply makes us really groggy and sleepy when we try to get up in the morning.

Read more: here (External link)


Thursday 2nd February

An estimated 620,000 people in the UK have a faulty gene that puts them at risk of developing coronary heart disease or sudden death, and most are unaware, a charity has warned.

The British Heart Foundation said the figure was 100,000 more than had been thought and could be even higher.

It said there was now a better grasp of the prevalence of inherited conditions.

A child of someone with an inherited heart condition can have a 50% chance of inheriting it themselves.

The charity warned that the overall figure for those with the faulty gene could be much higher because of as yet undiscovered faulty genes and under-diagnoses.

Each week in the UK, around 12 seemingly healthy people aged 35 or under are victims of sudden cardiac death with no explanation, largely due to undiagnosed heart conditions.

Read more: here (External link)