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Empowering women; Gender Equality and Healthcare

22 Aug, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Catrin Morgan

‘There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women’ – Kofi Annan

The leading cause of death worldwide for a young woman is HIV. (1) The literature shows that teenage girls and young women are twice as likely to be at risk of HIV infection than teenage boys and young men.  In some countries the prevalence of HIV in adolescent girls is up to seven times greater than that of adolescent boys. (2)

The utilisation of healthcare services is also important when it comes to gender inequality. Studies have shown that gender inequality can affect the use of maternal health care services especially in rural areas. Women who live in areas of rural Africa, where gender norms include tolerance to violence against women are less likely to attend antenatal care and use birthing facilities. (3)

In context

The case report ‘Pregnancy complicated by haemorrhagic ascites in a woman with newly diagnosed HIV’ tells the story of a Zambian woman of low socioeconomic status and the healthcare inequalities she faced. (4) This pregnant 24-year-old presented to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital having traveled on the public bus for over eight hours from a rural region of Zambia.  She was 15 weeks pregnant and presented with a gross ascites that she had noticed for over a month.  This was her third pregnancy and she had received no antenatal care. On routine testing she was found to be HIV positive and was unaware of this diagnosis.  This woman was unemployed, illiterate and could only speak her local dialect.  She then went on to have surgery where a giant haemangioma measuring 21cm was excised.

This woman’s story demonstrates the barriers to healthcare millions of women in developing countries face every day.  The combination of gender discrimination, lack of education and low socioeconomic status results in these women presenting at a later stage of illness, less likely to access routine healthcare and at a greater risk of contracting HIV infection.


Figure 1: An image showing the excised specimen taken from: Morgan C, Nicholls K, Gangat N, et al. Pregnancy complicated by haemorrhagic ascites in a woman with newly diagnosed HIV. BMJ Case Rep. 2016 Jul 29;2016:10.1136/bcr,2016-216346.

What can be done?

With the emergence of many powerful female leaders over the past few years, now is the time to empower young women and girls across the world and to put a stop to gender inequality, that our patient faced in this case report. This could have a huge impact on healthcare across the world with the reduction of infections such as HIV and ultimately putting an end to AIDS epidemic across Africa. 


  1. World Health Organisation. Women’s Health [Internet].
  2. Ramjee G, Daniels B. Women and HIV in sub-saharan africa. AIDS Res Ther [Internet]. 2013 Dec 13;10(1):30,6405-10-30.
  3. Adjiwanou V, LeGrand T. Gender inequality and the use of maternal healthcare services in rural sub-saharan africa. Health Place [Internet]. 2014 Sep;29:67-78.
  4. Morgan C, Nicholls K, Gangat N, Sansome S. Pregnancy complicated by haemorrhagic ascites in a woman with newly diagnosed HIV. BMJ Case Rep [Internet]. 2016 Jul 29;2016:10.1136/bcr,2016-216346.

World Humanitarian Day 2016

19 Aug, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

Events are to be held all over the world today as we mark World Humanitarian Day.

At BMJ Case Reports we look back at our Global Health case reports and thousands of clinical cases from across the globe that remind us of the place of Medicine in the alleviation of suffering, advocacy for human rights and rights to health for the world’s most vulnerable communities.


From mental health in Ethiopia to rural medicine in Trinidad, from appendicitis in Greenland to dementia in the Dominican Republic, we are reminded of the enormous investment of resources necessary to bring essential care to our patients. Sir Michael Marmot writes “most racial/ethnic inequalities in health can be attributed to social determinants of health, as can socioeconomic inequalities”and “given that the causes of disease and violence are likely to be the same wherever we find them, it follows that the remedies should be similar”. He lists the solutions: “early child development, education and lifelong learning, employment and working conditions, minimum income for healthy living, healthy and sustainable communities, and social determinants approach to prevention” [1]

BMJ Case Reports is a world renowned resource for the management of complex or challenging medical conditions but we are also documenting efforts to tackle the social determinants of health and assist communities in meeting their health needs. We celebrate the tireless work of our colleagues today as we focus our attention again on the plight of people in need of the most basic and compassionate care.

BMJ Case Reports is launching a call for Global Health Associate Editors. We are looking for medical students and junior doctors in their internship years to join our Editorial Team. For more information, see our website or get in touch:


[1]  Michael G. Marmot.  Empowering Communities. American Journal of Public Health: February 2016, Vol. 106, No. 2, pp. 230-231. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302991

The 2015 Student Elective Competition: And the winners are…

16 Aug, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Hemali Bedi

It is with great pleasure that we announce the winners of the 2015 BMJ Case Reports Student Elective Competition! Each entry has been carefully reviewed and judged by our expert Editorial Team. It was a difficult task to judge all of our excellent entries, and the Editorial Team thoroughly enjoyed reading each case.

The winners are:

1st Place:
Social Determinants of Health: Poverty, National Infrastructure and Investment

F1.large (11)

Our grand prize winner will receive a £500 travel bursary to be used toward the cost of attending a global health conference or event of their choice. In addition, all of our winners will be featured in our special BMJ Case Reports 2016 print edition.

Congratulations to all our winners. We want to say a big thank you to everyone who participated in our competition and helped make it a success.

Student Elective Competition 2016: A call for entries

We are now launching thCapture3e 2016 competition for students and interns. Write up your experiences as a global health case report and you could be the winner of a position as a Global Health Associate Editor for BMJ Case Reports. Your case report will also be included in the 2017 special edition print journal.

All authors must be students or interns at the time of submission. Your entry will undergo the same treatment that all our journal submissions do, including the peer review process, so be sure to check out our Instructions for Authors for guidance before you start writing. If you’ve never written a global health case report before, you may find our template useful to help you get started.

Winners will be selected for interview to become a Global Health Associate Editor. We welcome submissions from all over the world. Patients may be anyone seen on the ward or at home, in medical school or on elective. Winners will be announced in September 2017.

If you’re interested in writing a global health case report, we’re here to help. Seema Biswas, Editor in Chief of BMJ Case Reports, guides you through the writing process in a recent article featured in The Student BMJ. You can also visit the BMJ Case Reports website for examples of previously published global health case reports and look at the annotated example.

Read our guidance, join our global health blog and get writing! We look forward to receiving many interesting global health case reports.

Urban violence in Honduras: a global health challenge

5 Aug, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Hemali Bedi

Honduras has had one of the highest rates of urban violence in the world since 2010. [1] With an average of one violent death per hour in 2013, rates of lethal violence exceed those in many war-affected countries. [2] As well as having humanitarian implications, the violence in Honduras also presents a critical public health problem.

Seema Biswas, Editor in Chief of BMJ Case Reports, discusses her experience of being deployed as a British Red Cross surgeon working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Honduras in a new article published in the Guardian.

Seema Biswas comments: “Local doctors and nurses keep working. They are well organised, well informed, resourceful and committed to dealing with the continuous emergency of an overburdened health service. They are not silent, but they are considerate in their thoughts and measured in their comments. They explain the situation to me: there are complex problems here. The most vulnerable are the poor. To address their health, communities need to be safe and they need access to education and employment that pays a regular salary sufficient to feed their families.” [3]

Many factors are thought to contribute to the growing violence in Honduras, including political instability, corruption, inequality, organised crime and gang related activity. [2] Universal strategies to reduce violence in Latin  America are featured in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [4]. The top 10 recommendations to improve safety in Latin America are: [4]

1. Align national efforts to reduce crime and violence, based on existing experiences and lessons learned.
2. Prevent crime and violence, promoting inclusive, fair and equitable.
3. Reduce impunity by strengthening security and justice institutions while respecting human rights.
4. Generate public policies oriented to protect the people most affected by violence and crime.
5. Promote the active participation of society, especially in local communities, to build citizen security.
6. Increase real opportunities of human development for young people.
7. Comprehensively address and prevent gender violence within the home and in public environments.
8. Actively safeguard the rights of victims.
9. Regulate and reduce “triggers” of crime such as alcohol, drugs and firearms, from a comprehensive, public health perspective.
10. Strengthen mechanisms of coordination and assessment of international cooperation.

What are your thoughts?  For more information about global health and the social determinants of health, browse through our global health case reports, which focus the causes of ill health and access to healthcare services in all parts of the world.



[1] OSAC. Honduras 2016 Crime & Safety Report., published online March 2013
[2] B-Lajoie M, et al. The need for data in the world’s most violent country Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2014;92:698. doi:
[3] Biswas S. Field post: ‘Honduras has one of the world’s highest rates of urban violence’., published online 27 July 2016
[4] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2013) Citizen security with a human face: evidence and proposals for Latin America. Human development report for Latin America. UNDP, New York., published 2013

Why should students write a global health case report?

11 Jul, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Manasi Jiwrajka

Recently we published a paper on the reasons for medical students to write a Global Health  case report. We don’t often hear about a Global Health case report, and usually it is about something weird and wonderful that we have read in a Pathology text book.

Medical students find Global Health overarching

We, as students, often think that Global Health is a phenomenon that exists only in low-income countries. It also seems that our ‘I-am-just-a-med-student’ attitude stops us from realising that we may actually have an effect on how patients live and their determinants of health.


Perhaps this perception is because there is no universally accepted definition of Global Health and two, worldwide, there remain profound differences in Global Health education.


How can we define Global Health?

“We propose that the ‘global’ in Global Health does not refer so much to ‘overseas’ or ‘over there’, as it refers to ‘over here;’ the real definition of ‘global’ in Global Health is ‘health everywhere’. ‘Global’ also refers to ‘all’ aspects of health i.e. a holistic approach, essential to exploring and taking on the real causes of disease, the social determinants of health. This focuses our attention on the patient in front of us and what we need to do to prevent them from becoming ill again.” [1]

Why are Global Health case reports useful? Why should medical students write a Global Health case report?

  1. To look at the root causes of the illness
  2. To learn about society, economics, politics, cultures, and how they affect our patients
  3. Importance in every field
  4. Learn Global Health
  5. Publish and share these cases
  6. Create an evidence base
  7. Create change


[1] Jiwrajka M, Biswas S. Why should students write a global health case report? AMSJ 2016, Vol. 7(1)

World Blood Donor Day 2016

14 Jun, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Hemali Bedi

World Blood Donor Day is celebrated by countries around the world on 14th June each year. [1] This day serves to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations and thank blood donors for their invaluable contributions. [1] The theme of this year’s campaign is “Blood connects us all”. [1] Through this campaign, WHO aim to highlight the necessity of community parCaptureticipation in ensuring a sustainable supply of blood donations worldwide. [1]

Each year, millions of lives are saved with the help of blood transfusions, but demand for safe blood is often exceeded by the supply. [1] According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately half of the 108 million units of blood donated globally each year are collected in high-income countries, which contain less than 20% of the world’s population. [2]

Blood transfusions play a vital role in treating life-threatening conditions, disaster care, surgical procedures and maternity/childcare services. [1] Currently, only 62 countries receive almost 100% of their national blood supplies from voluntary unpaid blood donors, while 40 countries still depend on contributions from family and paid donors. [1] WHO are calling on ministries of health to voice their gratitude to donors and strengthen blood transfusion services by committing to the collection of 100% voluntary and unpaid blood donations. [1]

BMJ Case Reports is the world’s largest repository of case reports. You can read about the life-saving effects of blood and blood product transfusion by following the links below.

Severe folate-deficiency pancytopenia
Viktoriya Clarke, Simon Weston-Smith
BMJ Case Reports 2010:published online 21 October 2010, doi:10.1136/bcr.03.2010.2851

Recombinant activated factor VII as treatment for uncontrolled mucosal haemorrhage
J Gracia, I Prieto
BMJ Case Reports 2011:published online 30 June 2011, doi:10.1136/bcr.09.2009.2306

Myasthenia gravis and pure red cell aplasia: a rare association
Riya Balikar, Neelam Narendra Redkar, Meenakshi Amit Patil, Sunil Pawar
BMJ Case Reports 2013:published online 14 February 2013, doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-008224

Intractable intraoperative bleeding requiring platelet transfusion during emergent cholecystectomy in a patient with dual antiplatelet therapy after drug-eluting coronary stent implantation (with video)
Takahisa Fujikawa, Tomohiro Noda, Seiichiro Tada, Akira Tanaka
BMJ Case Reports 2013:published online 26 March 2013, doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-008948

To encourage new and returning blood donors, WHO have created a series of videos that showcase the personal stories of people whose lives have been saved by blood donations. [1] Achieving universal health equity and ensuring access to essential health care of good quality is a global healthy priority. Our global health case reports focus the causes of ill health and access to healthcare services in all parts of the world. For more information about global health, the determinants of health and medical anthropology, see our global health toolkit.


[1] World Blood Donor Day 2016: Blood connects us all. WHO., accessed 6 June 2016

[2] 10 facts on blood transfusion. WHO., reviewed June 2015

Global health perspective for an unfortunate injection through a BMJ Case Report

5 May, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

by Amy Price

Finding the Balance

Finding the balance between the global health perspective and the individual patient is a challenge worth pursuing1. My first experience in writing from both worlds in one research paper was in our report of “An Unfortunate Injection.2 Working together on this report showed us as a team the struggle between population health and meeting the needs of an individual patient who trusts in our care.

The job of the human being [in the digital age] is to become skilled at locating relevant valid data for their needs. In the sphere of medicine, the required skill is to be able to relate the knowledge generated by the study of groups of patients or populations to that lonely and anxious individual who has come to seek help” (Sir Muir Gray, 2001) 3

Solving the Global Health Problem

This is how we did it. First we unpacked the problem with the patient’s help and with the support of Tabula Rasa a volunteer online network consisting of health professionals, patients and social workers5. We brainstormed for the best solution for this patient and then considered how it could be used for others.

The aim of population-based healthcare is to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals through population based systems accountable to the patient”, (Sir Muir Grey, 2001) 3

The case was about a grave but common error that can come from a simple intramuscular injection to relieve pain. In this case the sciatic nerve in the patient was injured causing irreversible damage, leaving the patient with limited mobility, unremitting pain, the inability to return to work and the need for an orthotic. The indiscriminate use of intramuscular injections for treating common illnesses is frequent and injections are often administered by unlicensed or undertrained practitioners. The only care available to many in low resource countries is through those who do not have adequate training. The simple solution is to train the unlicensed to give the injections. When given incorrectly bad practice accounts for 20% of nerve trauma injury. We found that those responsible for the injection errors did not associate the patient’s trouble with how they gave the injection and in our case report the patient was injured twice. This is malpractice and a serious breach of trust. It is these errors that increase morbidity, destroy public trust and strain existing medical resources.

Keeping it Simple

We produced a simple diagram of how not to give the injection along with what to do instead and a warning of what can happen when the injection is incorrectly given. The next step shows how to find this area easily. The diagrams are superimposed on a human figure seen below so that nothing is lost visually in the translation and the process can be followed even by those with limited literacy. When all can see the relationship between technique and injury in a simple diagram this sets up an internal accountability. The patient can see a large poster of the diagram in the same area where the injection is administered. The patients are also given a brochure with the same diagrams prior to giving their consent for the procedure 2.

Figure-1 Adapted and used by Permission: Shah BS, Yarbrough C, Price A, et al. An unfortunate injection. BMJ Case Rep 2016: bcr2015211127. doi:10.1136/bcr-2015-211127 (accessed April 15, 2016)

Picture1-injection Injection2 (1)

Making it Global

We identified the issue in our individual patient and then we noticed how common this mistake was. We thought about how to help other patients and we devised a plan to train others to carry out the correct procedure safely.

We shared health inequalities that those in India and the world face and we considered how we could narrow the gap to knowledge with the least amount of resources and outside skills. This involved filtering out things that were important to us as a country and culture and sharing the solution to work other places as well. The BMJ Case Report editors and reviewers helped us to negotiate that balance. Our report can be found in the journal BMJ Case Reports or for those without access the lead author has written a blog on the article.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction,”(EF Schumacher 1973)

Meeting the Challenges

The challenge came in translating the solution so it could be simply used by the world and shared with dignity. We needed to do this without allowing shame, poverty, cultural differences, or health sensationalism to steal the focus and we worked to distil population learning into a local solution that could be used for the world as it is. The world for us all is where the untrained will continue to learn on the job, with minimal oversight because conditions demand it.

Dr Abrahaham Verghese framed this issue in medicine well when he shared “We are all fixing what is broken and it is the task of a lifetime4



1. Price AI, Djulbegovic B, Biswas R, et al. Evidence-based medicine meets person centred care: a collaborative perspective on the relationship. J Eval Clin Pract 2015;:n/a – n/a. doi:10.1111/jep.12434

2. Shah BS, Yarbrough C, Price A, et al. An unfortunate injection. BMJ Case Rep 2016;:bcr2015211127. doi:10.1136/bcr-2015-211127

3. Gray M. The Resourceful Patient. London UK: : eRosetta Press 2001.

4. Verghese A. Cutting for stone : a novel. New York: : Alfred A. Knopf 2009.

5. Purkayastha S, Price A, Biswas R, et al. From Dyadic Ties to Information Infrastructures: Care-Coordination between Patients, Providers, Students and Researchers. IMIA Yearb 2015;10:68–74. doi:10.15265/IY-2015-008

World Immunisation Week 2016

26 Apr, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Hemali Bedi

“The two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world’s healtposter-largeh are clean water and vaccines.” – The World Health Organization [1]

World Immunisation week takes place each year during last week of April (24-30). Last year, over 180 countries took part in the campaign, which is coordinated by The World Health Organization (WHO). [2] During this time, WHO encourage the uptake of vaccines and highlight need to improve equitable access to immunisations worldwide. [2]

Immunisation prevents between 2 to 3 million deaths each year. [2] The theme of this year’s World Immunisation Week is “Close the immunisation gap”. [2] This is because, despite promising advances in vaccine coverage so far, WHO estimate that 18.7 million infants worldwide (approximately 1 in 5) still do not receive immunisations for preventable diseases, such as diphtheria and tetanus. [2] Furthermore, over 60% of children who do not receive vaccinations live in just 10 countries, including the India, Iraq, the Philippines and South Africa. [2]

Barriers to vaccine uptake include social, political and economical factors [3]. Inequitable access to health care services, a lack of information about vaccines, insufficient political support, and in some areas, an improper supply of vaccines, all contribute [3]. Cost is also an issue, with new vaccines being more expensive. [2] But what can be done to address these challenges? We want to know just that. Leave a comment below, and let us know what you think.

Our global health case reports highlight important global health issues including the lack of access to health services in all parts of the world. With the resurgence of polio and measles in areas of conflict and disaster, we want to hear from you about vulnerable patients and populations.

For more information about global health, the determinants of health and medical anthropology, see our global health toolkit


[1] Public Health England. Information for immunisation practitioners and other health professional, updated 1 April 2016

[2] World Immunization Week 2016: Immunization game-changers should be the norm worldwide. WHO., published 21 April 2016

[3] World Immunization Week 2016: Close the immunization gap. WHO., accessed 25 April 2016

Ottawa 2016 and ANZAHPE Conference

31 Mar, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Manasi Jiwrajka

The beautiful city of Perth on the Western Coast of Australia hosted the Ottawa 2016 and ANZAHPE conference this year. Delegates from the US, Canada, the UK, Netherlands, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, South Africa, Australia and many other countries attended this conference. I downloaded the mobile app for this conference prior to my flight from Brisbane to Perth, and got a minute by minute update on the conferedited_IMG_20160322_144637ence.

There were several important medical education themes addressed during this conference from simulation in the context of medical education, OSCEs, peer tutoring, medical scientist, rural health program, global health, and empathy. My poster was titled ‘Why Should Students Write a Global Health Case Report?’, and I presented it to an eclectic audience that thanked me for my enthusiasm! Several educators approached me after the presentation for more information regarding their students writing case reports for the BMJ, and I reminded them of the elective competition that is due on April 30th.

Some of my favourite parts of the conference included (i) a talk on cultural competency, and including patients culture to provide individualised healthcare, (ii) the concept of ‘phenomics’, suggesting that a patient’s environment can affect their health prognosis, (iii) all the focus on feedback for students, (iv) how empathy levels can be altered following a reflection exercise, and is dependent on coping styles, (v) and acquiring loads of free pens!

I am looking forward to the next ANZAHPE conference in Adelaide next year.

Behaviour change: A bitter pill to swallow

29 Mar, 16 | by Hemali Bedi

By Kristian Dye

The case reported by Dunton et al comes from a very particular cultural context, and yet it demonstrates things that all practitioners see in almost all healthcare settings.

The patient reported is a 60 year old man with type 2 diabetes, who despite taking his medications, is unable to make the diabetes-592006_1920behaviour change that could impact the course of his disease.

The report looks at the complex nature of this phenomenon, that it is not as simplistic as ‘not wanting to change’, but that there are cultural and sociological issues at play.

The real question for clinicians across the globe for many long-term conditions is no longer how to treat them, but how to support patients to manage their own conditions.

What skills are most important for clinicians to facilitate the self-care that long-term conditions rely upon?

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