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climate change

Nick Hopkinson: Air quality—what’s the point of warnings?

8 Dec, 16 | by BMJ


The Thames is wreathed in smog—the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, issues an air quality alert and announces a new system of air quality warnings. There will be road-side dot matrix message signs on the busiest main roads into London, with instructions to switch engines off when stationary to reduce emissions. Air quality messages will be displayed on countdown signs at bus stops and river pier signs across the city as well as electronic update signs in the entrances of all 270 London Underground stations. Down the line from the studio the breakfast TV interviewer asks “what’s the point of the warnings, what can anyone do?” We have no choice but to breathe the air that’s there, so on the face of it this is not an unreasonable question. In fact there are three important constituencies these warnings are addressed to. more…

Pauline Castres: A coal free future on the horizon—UK Government pledge to end coal use by 2025

9 Nov, 16 | by BMJ

pauline_castresWith the media abuzz with e-cigarettes and sugary drinks it is easy to overlook the health risks of coal plants. The black smoke from coal-fired power stations may not be as visible as it used to be but that does not mean that coal fumes’ impact on our health has disappeared.

Air pollution is responsible for killing 40,000 people each year in the UK and is the biggest public health risk after smoking. It does not only kill, but also severely reduces quality of life by exacerbating chronic long-term conditions, including cardiovascular disease, asthma, and chronic bronchitis.   more…

Jeph Mathias: The human face of inequality

6 Oct, 16 | by BMJ

Long ago an MSF (Doctors Without Borders) poster transfixed one junior doctor. Me.

msf_posterIt was black and white. Two figures, photographed from behind, dominate the foreground: a poor black child, desperately malnourished and in need (yet another African war?), being led by a white man (a doctor maybe?) to a makeshift clinic that is but a grass hut. In the background, a black man in sandals with x-rays in a plastic bag tries to talk his way past another black man at the clinic entrance. We know that with his guardian our little black child will get past the gatekeeper.

It’s all here: a dangerous place, a boy in need, more…

Canada’s new government: Climate change, “regulatory capture,” and “cathedral thinking”

6 Oct, 16 | by BMJ

Chris_simsIt’s a year this month since Justin Trudeau was elected as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister, ending a decade of conservative rule under Stephen Harper. By most accounts he has set a progressive and inclusive agenda at home, while internationally he has eschewed populist sentiments (seen in many countries)—welcoming instead 25 000 Syrian refugees, re-engaging with UN agencies, and endorsing free trade.

Despite this promising start, evidence suggests that he has paid inadequate attention to the influence of resource industries on public policy making more…

Nick Hopkinson: The burden of asthma—how to frame it and what needs to be done?

31 Aug, 16 | by BMJ

nick_hopkinsonA study this week from the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at the University of Edinburgh, widely reported in the media, estimates that asthma costs the UK £1.1 billion/year in direct healthcare and disability allowance payments. News reports focused on the scale of these costs and the suggestion that 1100 people are dying “needlessly” each year.

Some of these deaths do arise from poor care—the Royal College of Physicians report Why asthma still kills contains examples. Yet the finding that many deaths are preventable with optimal long term treatment, self-management, and emergency care does not mean that their prevention is straightforward more…

Farewell to DECC: What does its closure mean for the UK’s commitment to tackling climate change?

21 Jul, 16 | by BMJ

In among all the recent political developments, it may have been easy to miss that the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) became the latest fatality of the Cabinet reshuffle. DECC has been folded into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), to now become the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Removing “climate change” from the Department’s title sends out a foreboding message about the government’s commitment to combating global warming. Yet, we might also ask what is really in a name and does this actually mean a major setback for the fight against climate change? more…

Sarah Walpole: Collaborating across continents—what is the best that technology can offer?

4 Jul, 16 | by BMJ

sarah_walpole_2016The world may be getting smaller, but it’s not getting simpler. In the lead up to the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) annual conference 2016, we are working to prepare sessions fit for an international audience and our globalised world.

A symposium I was part of last year at AMEE on “Social accountability: medical students as leaders for sustainable healthcare” addressed a new and challenging topic from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Yet there was one major aspect of that symposium that we wish we’d done better: creating an environment for active participation, group work, and networking. more…

Sarah Walpole: Staying in the EU is better for health and the environment

23 Jun, 16 | by BMJ

The EU debate is a fantastic example of how statistics can tell you what you want to hear, with both sides appearing to use the same facts to come to opposing conclusions. Yet on environmental issues, the story is not so perplexing.

Environmental organisations, from the Wildlife Trust to the RSPB to Friends of the Earth, are firmly in the Remain camp. The EU guarantees a minimum level of environmental protection, because it defines the environment as a “shared competence” where there are minimum standards that member states must meet. The EU is also the right forum to create and monitor policy on international issues, for example fisheries, where reforms have allowed the protection of fish stocks. more…

Brexit: Bad for your health and bad for the environment

22 Jun, 16 | by BMJ

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, which brings together major health institutions including the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Physicians, Faculty of Public Health, and Royal College of Nursing, considers a vote for Britain to “remain” in the EU as important for the protection of our health, environment, and tackling climate change.

It is well know that the environment and public health are inexorably linked. We are unable to have healthy people in a sick planet. There are wide-ranging impacts from poor environmental health, for example air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. Polluted air and waters, flooding, and heat waves increase the burden on our health services through increased admittance, staff absence, and health infrastructure not being able withstand the impacts of extreme weather. Policies and targets from the EU have substantially improved the quality of our air, water, soil and beaches, and have provided a stronger response to climate change. Leaving the EU threatens to weaken environmental policies, damaging the health of our environment and citizens. more…

David McCoy: Antibiotic resistance is also a food and climate issue

17 Jun, 16 | by BMJ

david_mccoyWhen George Osborne spoke to the IMF in April about antibiotic resistance being a greater threat to mankind than cancer, one might assume that the current government had actually listened to some professional advice from the medical community. Sally Davies, the country’s Chief Medical Officer, has been raising the alarm that the growing emergence of antibiotic resistance is a ticking time bomb of potentially apocalyptic proportions.

This impending crisis has been in the making for decades during which time governments across the world have failed to implement the financing arrangements, laws and policies to ensure proper stewardship over the sale and use of antibiotics. Underlying this failure has been the broad trend towards the deregulation and marketization of health systems, and the effects of structural adjustment programmes and public budget cuts in many countries. more…

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