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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.


London, United Kingdom




Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.




First days of India’s Covid vaccination programme

After the first few days of India’s Covid mass vaccination programme rollout, Claudia talks to medical ethicist and health policy expert Anant Bhan about the issues arising from the lack of efficacy data for one of the two vaccines. Will they undermine confidence in this gargantuan public health exercise? Cindy Sui reports from Taiwan about a recent increase in the number of suicides among students there. Claudia talks to Zi-Jun Liu about the obese miniature pigs that he is using to study...


WHO warns against vaccine rollout unfairness

BBC global health correspondent Naomi Grimley joins Claudia Hammond for a round-up of the latest developments in Covid vaccines and their rollouts – including the World Health Organisation’s Director General who has admonished richer countries and pharma companies for undermining the chances of access to vaccines for all countries. Plus a controversial vaccine rollout in India and the Iranian leader wants to ban US and UK vaccines. Claudia’s guest of the week is family doctor Ann Robinson...


The first year of the pandemic

Claudia Hammond talks to Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley exactly one year after she and Claudia first talked on Health Check about a mysterious respiratory disease that had appeared in Wuhan in China – with 59 cases reported at that point. What have been the highs and lows of the world’s response to the coronavirus so far? Alison van Diggelen reports from the USA on research which has found that on average the mental wellbeing of older people has held up better during the pandemic than...


How children think about maths and time

Claudia Hammond explores how children think with two psychologists; Dr Victoria Simms from Ulster University who researches how children’s understanding of maths develops and Professor Teresa McCormack from Queens University Belfast who researches how children understand time. The discussion was recorded in front of an audience at the Northern Ireland Science Festival in February 2020. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Caroline Steel (Picture: A group of preschool students sitting on the...


Ambiguous loss: a different kind of grief

Have you lost a loved one who is still a part of your life in some way? Did it leave you feeling confused or frozen about how to continue with life? Claudia Hammond examines the distressing phenomenon known as ambiguous loss – the enormous challenge of dealing with a loss when you aren’t sure what has happened, leaving you searching for answers, unable to move on. What has the pandemic done to our memories? Anecdotally many people report that they keep forgetting things which they are sure...


In Iran, one in five infected by coronavirus

Iran was one of the first countries to be hit hard by the coronavirus. In the first population wide survey of infection rates in a Middle Eastern country, Iranian medical researchers now estimate that about one in five people on average were infected during its first wave in 18 cities in the country. But the rate varies enormously from city to city. In the city of Rasht, they estimate more than 70% of the population caught the virus. Claudia Hammond talks to Iranian infectious disease...


Gene therapy for sickle cell disease

Are genetic therapies for sickle cell disease beginning to come of age? Claudia Hammond talks to David Williams and Erica Esrick of Boston Children’s Hospital about their promising results with a gene therapy for the disease in a pilot trial involving six young patients. Their report appears in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine alongside encouraging results of a CRISPR gene editing therapy for sickle cell disease. Both approaches target the same gene – the result of...


Milestone in HIV prevention for women

In the week of World AIDS Day, Health Check looks at what's being described as a milestone in the prevention of HIV infection in women. It is a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - an injection every 8 weeks of a drug called cabotegravir. A clinical trial has been comparing it to a daily PrEP pill which is already known to be effective at preventing HIV infection. The injection regimen was about 90% more effective at shielding women from the virus than the daily tablet. The trial...


Another week, another Covid-19 vaccine success

Oxford University and Astrazeneca announced interim results from the phase 3 trial of their coronavirus vaccine. The results are promising with efficacy scores ranging from 70% to possibly 90%, depending on the dose of the first of the two inoculations. This vaccine also remains viable when stored at refrigerator temperatures – a logistical advantage compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Claudia consults Charlie Wheeler, head of vaccines at the Wellcome Trust, about how this vaccine...


Measles outbreak threat due to Covid

Global measles deaths were already at a 23 year high in 2019 after several years of inadequate immunisation levels in a number of countries around the world. The coronavirus pandemic looks set to make matters worse. The World Health Organisation is worried that disruptions to measles vaccination programmes this year in Africa have substantially raised the risk of large outbreaks in many countries. Immunisation coverage needs to be maintained at 95% or more to keep measles suppressed. Too...


Covid vaccine ‘90% effective’

Health Check examines the excitement around the preliminary announcement of 90% effectiveness of BioNTech and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in its phase 3 clinical trial. Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Gregory Poland, head of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic in the United States about what we do and don’t know about the vaccine at this stage, and how the vaccine may be approved and deployed in the coming months. She consults Kalipso Chalkidou, Professor of Global Health Practice at...


Covid-19 vaccines: Unknowns and dilemmas

Some of the first large scale trials of Covid-19 vaccines may report results to regulators in the next few weeks. These first results will reveal how effective these vaccines are at preventing mild Covid illness but they’re unlikely to tell us how good they are at preventing serious disease and death. Should governments permit wide scale vaccination of populations based on that level of data when this may compromise learning more about their efficacy? And might widespread deployment of first...


Covid-19 plasma therapy trial results ‘disappointing’

For months now, many people hospitalised with Covid-19 have been given convalescent plasma – donated blood serum from people who’ve already had the illness. The hope has been that transfusing donated antibodies against the coronavirus will help to prevent deaths and serious illness. Convalescent plasma therapy received a high profile boost in the USA in August when the Trump administration announced emergency use authorisation for the treatment, despite the lack of robust evidence for its...


Do the Covid-19 drugs work?

What’s the evidence behind the drugs used to treat President Trump? The results of a World Health Organisation trial following patient outcomes in 204 countries are in. Remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine fail to reduce mortality over a 28 day period. Interferon and lopinavir are also shown to be ineffective. Is this the end of the road for using these drugs to treat Covid-19? Some good news from another global health survey. Before the pandemic, our track record on treating other infectious...


Have you ever hugged your doctor?

This week Claudia Hammond looks at the role of touch in health care, revealing some of the results of the Touch Test, an online study commissioned by Wellcome Collection in collaboration with the BBC. Doctors often need to physically examine patients – but many consultations are now online. Family doctors Margaret McCartney and Ann Robinson explain how important touch is in the consulting room. One of the experts behind the Touch Test, Greenwich University’s Dr Natalie Bowling explains how...


Touch Test results

In these days of Covid-19 and social distancing, one thing that many of us are missing is being able to touch other human beings. Claudia Hammond reveals the results of the world's largest study on the topic of touch - the Touch Test. 40,000 people from a hundred and twelve countries took part. Professor Michael Banissy of Goldsmiths, University of London, led the analysis of the Touch Test and he explains the findings on who likes touch and who doesn't, and who feels they don't get enough...


How long should Covid quarantine last?

This week Belgium is shortening the quarantine period for people who’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for Covid-19 to a week – to see if it helps everyone stick to the rules. Fourteen days is recommended by the World Health Organization but Professor Steven van Gucht who is head virologist at the National Institute of Public Health in Belgium says the risk of missing a few positive cases is relatively low. Evidence indicates that if a test is done after a week, 88% of...


The latest on global Coronavirus cases

This week as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise in the Americas and Europe we have some better news about how countries are signing up to help vaccinate everyone in the world once a vaccine is found to be safe and effective. Covid-19 is a respiratory virus – which seemed to chiefly damage the lungs of the worst-affected patients. We hear how doctors treating them were astonished at how sticky their blood became, sometimes creating blood clots all over their bodies. Treating them with...


Have we reached the peak of Wellness?

Claudia Hammond continues her look at Wellness with its complex relationship with the medical profession. It can be hard to tell if scientific-sounding claims about supplements or mindfulness classes are supported by evidence. So the Berkeley Wellness Letter – aimed at helping to prevent disease and promote health since Dale Ogar and colleagues started back in 1984 – sifts through some of those claims. Doctors like paediatrician Paul Offit say adopting some of the 'touchy-feely' elements of...


What is Wellness and does it make you healthy?

The idea of Wellness – of being 'better than well' - fuels tens of millions of Instagram posts, supporting the careers of Influencers in a $4 trillion industry. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word Wellness back to the 1650s and it was included in the World Health Organization’s mission statement. But who’s really benefitting from the increasing appetite for spa days and turmeric lattes? In 1979 the CBS Sixty Minutes television programme featured the benefits claimed by visitors to...