US highlights – 3 September 2010

Fiona GodleeAfter months of preparation, has just moved to a new technical platform. The website looks different and has many new and improved features. However, a few features and functions are not yet working as intended, so please do not be disappointed if things look unfamiliar or seem frustrating. We are working hard to rectify any problems, and we hope you will like the new Below is a selection of what you can find there this week.

Best wishes
Fiona Godlee
editor in chief, BMJ

Latest research
10-fold rise in obesity surgery since 2000
As a result of increased demand from obese patients, the use of bariatric or weight loss surgery has increased 10-fold in hospitals in England since 2000, according to this study. The researchers explain this increase in demand with the fact that obese patients are becoming more aware of surgery as a viable treatment option.

Read this research article and others at

Latest from the BMJ
Oil, health, and health care

Public health consultant Angela Raffle reflects on the April 2010 oil leak in the Mexican Gulf, which “illustrates the risks being taken to extract oil from inaccessible fields.” The reason why such damaging extraction methods are pursued, and why Lloyd’s are telling us in a recent report that we face a “new energy paradigm” rather than normal market volatility, is that oil discoveries peaked 40 years ago, and oil supply is probably at its maximum, with decline soon to follow, with substantial implications for transport, food, jobs, health, and health care. Yet many people still haven’t heard of “peak oil,” few are discussing it, and many have been dismissing it as a “crackpot theory promulgated by doom merchants who hate progress,” writes Angela. Among the cities in the United Kingdom that are aware of peak oil implications is Bristol, whose leaders in 2009 commissioned a report on the subject. The healthcare conclusions of the report may be among the first steps towards changing attitudes, and towards understanding that future health and prosperity require that we prepare for life without cheap oil, she says.

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Quick links—a selection of recent stories

Latest poll
This week’s poll asks: “Should people with dementia be allowed to vote?”

Submit your vote here

Latest podcast
Sean R Tunis, executive director at the Center for Medical Technology Policy in Baltimore, talks to the BMJ about the future of comparative effectiveness research in the USA, and how the new institute created to champion it will differ from the UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence. And in a second podcast interview, Claudia Cooper, a senior lecturer in old age psychiatry, talks about research that could support carers in the decisions they have to make for dementia sufferers.

Listen to this podcast and others at

Latest blogs
Dhaka based blogger Tracey Koehlmoos attends a meeting on Lake Como to plan the 25 year anniversary update of the global health classic Good Health at Low Cost, which will include five new countries. The original, she says, “is unique in that it evaluates inputs from both health systems and other systems inputs and their influence on health improvements in the poorest countries of the world … Over and over again, the countries noted that “political commitment” or political will was an important contributor … ‘Political will’ is a vague statement. The challenge is how to break it down into the individuals, institutions, policies, and contextual factors that create the right environment for continued improvement in the health sector. How do you create political will if it does not exist—and are there examples of countries that have political will for health improvement but have not been successful in improving health outcomes? Of course, there is no neat solution—and the writing and synthesis will go on for the next several months. We hope that the book will be launched globally before mid-2011 so that the lessons of creating health improvements with limited financial resources can be shared.”

Read this blog and others, and leave your own comments, at