London, United Kingdom
Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.
Obesity drug: New hope for weight loss?
“Diet and exercise” has been the weight-loss mantra for decades but a drug designed for diabetes patients could now offer hope to people who are obese, at a time when researchers are warning that half of the world’s population are expected to be overweight or obese by 2035. One of the first to have injections of Semaglutide in the UK was Jan, who has battled with her weight since childhood. Once the medication took effect she lost four stone and said her hunger disappeared. Professor Stephen...
How to cope with earthquake trauma
A month on from the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, we assess what kind of impact the disaster may have had on mental health. We hear from Professor Metin Basoglu, an expert in earthquake trauma and director of the Istanbul Centre for Behavioural Sciences. He explains how it is a unique kind of trauma rooted in fear and compounded by the uncontrollable nature of earthquakes and the thousands of aftershocks that come following the initial disaster. Prof Basoglu tells us about the...
Vaccines: A tale of the unexpected
We delve into the science of how some vaccines could have unexpected effects beyond their intended target. They are called “non-specific effects” and we are only just at the beginning of our understanding despite scientists documenting this curious biological phenomenon more than 100 years ago. One of the earliest vaccines to be studied was the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine for Tuberculosis, better known as the BCG. Professor Christine Stabell-Benn gives us a history lesson and brings us...
Supporting Ukrainian children
From human milk banks to babies born during conflict, this week we're all about the health of children and newborns. The most vulnerable premature babies benefit from human milk, but their mother's milk is often not available. We visit a human milk bank to explore how donors are making a difference. Dr Ann Robinson shares some surprising new research looking at a novel way of preventing short-sightedness. And one year on from the start of the war, Smitha Mundasad talks to a Ukrainian mother...
Biting back: The fight against snakebite
Venomous snakebites are responsible for up to 150,000 deaths a year around the world – and they also leave around half a million survivors with life-changing injuries, including amputations and disfigurement. In this week’s Health Check we investigate why snakebite still disproportionately affects poorer, more rural communities, and what is being done to tackle the problem. We’ll talk to a mother in Kenya whose little girl was bitten by a snake not once, but twice, and to a doctor about how...
Can heat affect mental health?
Can changes in the weather have an impact on our mental health? We go to Bangladesh in South Asia, a country on the front line of the impacts of climate change, where researchers have been exploring connections between incremental changes in heat and humidity, along with bigger impacts like flooding, and the levels of anxiety and depression in the population. They say their study has stark implications, not just for Bangladesh, but for many other countries too. Dr Belinda Fenty joins us...
Back from the brink
This week we’re dedicating the programme to a common medical emergency – one that can be deadly within minutes without the right help to hand. A cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body. We’ll hear from a doctor who battled for five hours to save a man 40,000ft up in the air; a student who’s teaching people not to be afraid to help in an emergency and we’ll hear a survivor’s story of life after cardiac arrest. Globally, there are tens of thousands of...
After the floods
Six months on from the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history, a medic in eastern Balochistan describes what he is seeing daily. Khalid Saleem, who works for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), says many people are still living in shelters at the side of the road and must walk miles if they need healthcare. There are high levels of malnutrition, malaria and skin conditions such as scabies. We also talk Professor Zainab Samad, from Aga Khan University in Islamabad,...
The ‘Endo-Monster inside me’
In this week’s episode we hear from two women who talk about what life is like with endometriosis, an incredibly common but debilitating condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places in the body. Katherine from Ghana and Dee from Wales describe their long journeys to diagnosis and how the “invisible illness” affects every aspect of their lives, from mental health to work and relationships. We also hear from a researcher in the US who is studying the condition...
Family’s gene therapy journey
In this week’s episode of Health Check, we meet the Poulin family who live in Thailand. They tell us about their long quest to have their little girl Rylae-Ann diagnosed with an incredibly rare disease. And that’s just the beginning of the story. Rylae-Ann was fortunate enough to have gene therapy on a clinical trial in Taiwan – and it has transformed her life – but it’s not a treatment that’s available to everyone. Joining presenter Smitha Mundasad in the studio is family doctor Graham...
Claudia Hammond explores the psychology of regret with an audience at the Cheltenham Science Festival. What role do rueful thoughts on "what might have been" play in our lives? Is regret a wasted emotion or does it have some hidden benefits? Joining Claudia on stage : Teresa McCormack - Professor of Cognitive Development at the School of Psychology, Queen's University Belfast who researches how regret in childhood can shape our decisions; novelist and essayist Sophie White - whose latest...
Can you knit away your worries?
Many people say that knitting or crochet helped ease their anxiety during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Claire Anketell set up free Yarn for Mental Health courses in Northern Ireland last year and Gemma McAdam says crochet helped to reduce her stress levels and she's now making blankets. Esther Rutter's book This Golden Fleece: A Journey through Britain's Knitted History aims to unpick what textiles mean to us - including how they became part of the treatment for mental health problems. Learning a...
Biggest health stories of the year
It’s been another busy year on the BBC’s Health Check, where we’ve brought you the health and science stories that matter to you from around the globe, week in, week out. In this episode, Claudia Hammond is joined by Dr Ann Robinson to pick out some of the biggest breakthroughs of the year, from major advancements in gene therapy for two debilitating blood conditions, to a huge leap forward on treatment for dementia, and what looks like the conclusion of a long-running medical mystery....
Liver drug could be repurposed for Covid
We’ve grown used to hearing about potential new treatments for Covid-19 – well here’s another. Researchers in Britain have, by chance, discovered that a tablet used to treat liver disease for decades could be repurposed to stop Covid-19 in its tracks. The drug appears to shut a crucial ‘doorway’ the virus uses to get into our cells – and scientists are excited about its potential to tackle different variants and provide a low-cost weapon in the pandemic. We hear how researchers used a...
How words can save lives
Claudia meets Professor Elizabeth Stokoe author of 'Crisis Talk' whose research shows when preventing a suicide, that words really do matter and can save lives during a crisis. Through analysing real time recordings of actual conversations between people in crisis and police negotiators, new findings highlight what can work and what doesn't. (Picture: Vector illustration of two profiles of women with speech bubbles inside their heads. Photo credit: JakeOlimb/Getty Images.) Presenter: Claudia...
'Historic' turning point for Alzheimer's
After years of setbacks, the announcement of the first drug to slow the brain's decline in Alzheimer's is being hailed as "momentous". What makes this breakthrough different? To study the effect of the environment on our health, scientists sometimes have to look to the past. We hear from the author of a study which has uncovered how the worst recession in US history may leave an indelible mark on how well people age. Claudia Hammond’s guest this week James Gallagher, the BBC's health and...
How to make surgery safer
Ask 40,000 surgeons from around the world what they would pick to scientifically investigate and what do they choose? They voted for a new trial to establish whether changing to new surgical gloves and clean instruments just before abdominal wounds are closed up during surgery, would reduce infection. Thirteen thousand operations in seven countries later (in Benin, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa) the answer to the most common complication of surgery is in, and the...
Genetic disorders and US abortion bans
Ayoka from Atlanta, Georgia in the US is desperate to have a baby and her family is helping to pay for her IVF treatment. But Ayoka knows that she carries a serious genetic condition, Fragile X, which she does not want to pass on to her children. She tells Claudia Hammond what it means to know that she would be prevented from having an abortion, even if pre-natal testing revealed her unborn baby had the inherited condition. That is because the state of Georgia, up until yesterday when the...
Psychological nudges for HIV treatment
South Africa's anti-retroviral programme to treat HIV infection is the largest in the world with 5.5 million people in treatment. It’s transformed this disease from an automatic death sentence, to something that can be managed as a chronic illness and the government is determined to expand the programme and get more people with HIV in treatment. It’s an ambitious plan and Claudia Hammond hears how psychological tools called "nudges", drawn from behavioural economics, are being used and...
Livers that live longer than we do
Claudia Hammond discovers that some livers have the potential for extraordinary longevity and after a long life in a transplant donor, can survive for many more years in a transplant recipient. Livers over one hundred years old, called centurian livers by researchers, have been identified and many are still going strong. The new study has important implications for the future of liver transplants because donated organs from some older-age people were also found to last longer than those from...