9 episodes

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Health Check BBC

    • Health & Fitness
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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

    Cancer deaths rise predicted after Covid-19

    Cancer deaths rise predicted after Covid-19

    The fear of spreading Covid-19 infections has led many countries to enforce lockdowns – restricting people’s movement. Medical appointments and screening clinics to detect any early signs of cancer have been cancelled. New British research suggests that between 7,000 and 35,000 extra cancer deaths could result from the lack of diagnosis and treatment which patients would normally receive. Professor Richard Sullivan from Kings College London has been monitoring the global impact of lockdown on cancer services.

    In Canada the Army were drafted in to support staff in care homes for elderly people – where 80% of the country’s deaths from Covid have occurred. Operation Laser is now winding down but reports published by the military have revealed poor care and low-paid staff too frightened to insist on using protective equipment to reduce their risk of catching Covid-19.

    The brains of people who like to stay up late differ from those who get up early. Data from thousands of brain scans has revealed that late-night “owls” are likely to have a higher volume of grey matter in the precuneus - an area of the brain associated with social behaviour. But Brunel University’s Dr Ray Norbury says it’s not necessarily good news for the owls.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond
    Producer: Paula McGrath

    (Picture: Portrait of a contemplative senior woman with cancer. Photo credit: FatCamera/Getty Images.)

    • 27 min
    Double threat of Covid-19 and flu

    Double threat of Covid-19 and flu

    There’s some progress of trials for potential Covid-19 vaccines – but doctors in the United States are also keen to avoid citizens getting infected with another virus: influenza. Manufacturers have been asked to make 10% more vaccines than last year because of a fear that a surge in coronavirus during the flu season could overwhelm hospitals. Dr Litjen Tan from the Immunization Action Coalition hopes that everyone will get the jab.

    Many thousands of people have lost loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic. Talking about dying is never easy and people sometimes regret what they didn’t say. We hear from Janie Brown, a former nurse who now offers counselling to families affected by cancer, and has written a book Radical Acts of Love: how we find hope at the end of life, and from writer Audrey Nieswandt who looked after her mother when she was dying.

    Do you mind if people know if you’re online or not? Quite a few apps now indicate whether you’re online or even if you’ve seen a message. Is it rude not to reply straight away? Camille Cobb from Carnegie Mellon University wonders whether people realise just how much information they are giving away about us.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond
    Producer: Paula McGrath

    (Picture: A nurse in Los Angeles with boxes of flu vaccine. (Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images.)

    • 34 min
    Faster cheaper Covid testing in Rwanda

    Faster cheaper Covid testing in Rwanda

    In lower income countries, shortages and costs of Covid-19 testing kits undermine the efforts to keep the virus under control. But Rwanda is now implementing a new form of pooled testing which can identify all infected individuals in a population without testing everyone, and it does so at tiny fraction of the cost. It was devised by Prof Wilfred Ndifon and Prof Leon Mutesa in Kigali.

    Taiwan has been one of the countries that has most effectively kept its population safe from the spread of Covid-19. Cindy Sui visits one of Taipei’s main hospitals to see the super-rigorous regime in place to protect its nurses from infection and prevent the spread of the virus from the hospital to the community.

    For the BBC’s Rethink season, sleep researcher Matthew Walker muses on how lockdowns have changed the sleep habits of many people.

    Boston University epidemiologist Matthew Fox is Claudia’s studio guest. They discuss why US public health researchers support both lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter protests, why meat-processing factories are the sites of notable Covid outbreaks, and new research which finds that women who suffer with migraines with aura have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond
    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    (Picture: A health worker collects a sample from a man in Kenya during the Covid-19 crisis. Photo credit: Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images.)

    • 27 min
    Covid-19: Steroid drug reduces deaths

    Covid-19: Steroid drug reduces deaths

    Some good news at last – A widely available drug can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus. It cuts the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. Claudia Hammond discusses the results with Clare Wilson from the New Scientist.

    In the hunt for a treatment for Covid-19, health workers will take chloroquine as part of a large trial that is about to start. Claudia talks to Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, director of research at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

    The surge of Covid-19 cases in huge cities like Mumbai has brought attention to a long-standing problem – the lack of sanitation and access to toilets. Health Check reporter Chhavi Sachdev reports.

    What effect does immobility have on our brains? A new study offers a detailed insight from 12 fit astronauts subjected to a battery of tests in a microgravity simulator. Ivana Rosenzweig, head of the Sleep and Brain Plasticity Centre at Kings College London explains how her work has important implications for understanding astronaut behaviour.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond
    Producer: Caroline Steel

    (Photo: A female researcher testing a potential vaccine in a laboratory. Credit: Sam Thomas/Getty Images.)

    • 27 min
    The retired doctor who’d want to die at home if he got Covid-19

    The retired doctor who’d want to die at home if he got Covid-19

    We hear from a retired doctor in the UK who says he wouldn’t want to take up an intensive care bed if he got seriously ill with Covid-19. Breathing problems can result from the infection – especially in the elderly – so respirators are in demand. 69 year old Dr Lyn Jenkins is in good health – but wants critical care beds to be prioritised for young people and palliative care to be provided for anyone who wants to die at home.

    Studio guest Professor Matthew Fox from Boston University explains how Massachusetts is stepping up its contact tracing to try and limit further infections.

    More than three billion people around the world are now living under lockdown. In the UK many homeless people have been housed in hotels – but have limited access to healthcare and the medication which helps them to stay off street drugs. We hear how volunteers are bringing vital supplies to these vulnerable people.

    And we mark the long and productive life of the 108 year old “Father of Allergy” Dr William Frankland – who helped to popularise the pollen count, worked with the man who discovered penicillin Alexander Fleming and had his own brushes with death because of allergies.

    (Image: Nurse holding elderly woman's hands. Credit: Ocskaymark/Getty Images)

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond
    Producer: Paula McGrath

    • 26 min
    Tracking diseases like Covid-19 that leap from animals into humans

    Tracking diseases like Covid-19 that leap from animals into humans

    In this discussion recorded in 2017 on a farm in Dong Thap in the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City’s Factory Contemporary Arts Centre we hear how Vietnam’s agricultural economy makes it easy for diseases to spread to humans.

    Claudia Hammond and Ha Mi hear from the farmers affected by the 2004 outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Things have improved but only a third of those involved in slaughtering animals have any protective equipment – so many are at risk of breathing in virus particles and becoming infected.

    Scientists test animals looking out for any new diseases which could spread to humans in the way that Ebola, Zika and HIV have – a process called zoonosis. But rice-field rats eaten by 90% of the locals do not pose a serious threat to human health.

    At the gallery we hear about paintings of abattoirs, painted with cows’ blood – highlighting Vietnam’s changing relationship with food and death.

    We hear about the Wellcome Trust’s Major Overseas Programme at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit – including the story of a diseased duck that died, was buried and dug up by the farmer’s daughter, exposing her to H5N1 bird flu which killed her and her father.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond
    Producer: Paula McGrath

    (Image: Ducks in a row in Vietnam. Photo credit: AntGutz/Getty Images.)

    • 26 min

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