The Great Debate UK

How cities can help protect citizens from air pollution


–Julian Hunt is former Director-General at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology. Amy Stidworthy is Principal Consultant at Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants. The opinions expressed are their own.–

The Saharan dust in London last week affected the atmosphere, and caused irritation to the many people who suffer from breathing difficulties. Just as in the smog of the 1950s and of Dickens’s day, which was caused by soot from coal burning, the cloud of dust particles was dense enough that less sunlight made it through to ground level.

When this happens, polluting gases and particles of all kinds are not dispersed upwards, and are concentrated in layers below the tops of the tallest buildings. When finally the sun broke through last week, the dust was dispersed and for those suffering from the effect of the dust there was some relief.

But London is fortunate because such meteorological events are very unlikely to occur in the height of summer when it may coincide with a heat wave. Other countries, in southern Europe for example, may not be so fortunate. In large Asian cities, huge sandstorms, dust from coal combustion and industrial sources, and emissions from motor vehicles can lead to health effects so severe that an 8-year old girl living near a crossroads was reported to have died from particle-related lung cancer.

Using treatment to prevent HIV


–Jessica Wapner writes on biomedical issues on her PLOS (The Public Library of Science) blog, Work in Progress. The opinions expressed are her own.–

Despite widespread knowledge of how the AIDS-causing virus HIV is transmitted, and how to prevent it, the disease is still spreading. An estimated 34 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS in 2010, according to the World Health Organization. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worldwide epicenter, with 22.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS, but epidemics and areas of high concentration abound elsewhere, including in Western Europe and the southern United States. Now, an emerging concept known as treatment as prevention – where patients are given medication for the primary purpose of stopping new infections – is gaining favor as a way to decrease the spread of HIV, if not end it altogether.

A modest proposal for solving the obesity problem


It was bound to happen. You could see it waddling into view from a long way off. We are now being told by the medics that we should seriously consider a tax on fatty foods, in order to combat the scourge of obesity. How appropriate that, according to The Independent, the Deputy PM is planning to recruit 65,000 “State Nannies”!

One wonders how the new tax will be computed. Will it be a higher rate of tax on higher fat-content foods? Will chicken breast be taxed at a lower rate than chicken legs? Will omega-3 fats be taxed at a lower rate than omega-6? Either way, we can look forward to a tabloid feeding frenzy which will make pastygate look like a Cornish picnic.

Alzheimer’s Disease: A Global Epidemic


-William Thies, Ph.D. is Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association. The opinions expressed are his own.-

This week, more than 5,600 of the world’s leading scientists gathered in Paris to report and study the latest advances in Alzheimer’s research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2011 (AAIC).

Saving children’s lives – the GAVI Alliance pledging conference for immunisation


What: Live Webcast of Press Conference after the GAVI Alliance pledging conference for immunisation

Date: 13th June, 2011

Time: 1.30pm to 2.00pm BST

Run Time: Approx 30 mins

Join us for a live press conference following the “Saving children’s lives – the GAVI Alliance pledging conference for immunisation” event, with Bill Gates, Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell and senior Ministers from Norway (Tore Godal), Sweden (Gunilla Carlsson), United States, Canada, the European Union and Rwanda.

from Global News Journal:

Quadriplegic in an age of austerity

Every time I write a story on European countries cutting public spending, I feel a frisson of panic. I can't help but fear my health, lifestyle and liberty could be a casualty of the "age of austerity".peter

On assignment covering the Sri Lankan civil war for Reuters four years ago, I broke my neck in a minibus smash. It left me quadriplegic, almost entirely paralysed from the shoulders down and totally dependent on 24 hour care. I was 25.

from The Great Debate:

Business must change to earn back the public’s trust

-- Jeff Kindler is the chairman and CEO of Pfizer. He has agreed to reply to readers' responses about this opinion piece. The views expressed are his own. --

While it’s encouraging that slightly more people say they trust business and government today than a year ago, surveys show more than 70 percent of Americans and Europeans fear companies and governments will return to business as usual once the recession ends. It’s easy to see why.

from Commentaries:

Water down the tube in London heatwave

waterLondon's transport bosses are telling travellers on the tube system to beat the heat by carrying a bottle of water with them when they venture underground.

But how many of us are refilling our bottles with tap water rather than pouring money down the tube -- not to mention the cost of recycling the plastic bottles -- by buying a new bottle of water each day?

from UK News:

Raising the price of alcohol

Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson has recommended that the government should sharply raise the price of alcohol  to try to combat Britain's chronic drinking problem.

His annual report calls for a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol sold, which would nearly double the price of some discount beer and wine. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also shown interest in minimum pricing.

Confronting medical issues for women



- Shelley Ross is secretary general of the Medical Women’s International Association, a non-governmental organisation representing women doctors from all continents. The opinions expressed are her own. -

The Medical Women’s International Association was created in 1919, not long after the first International Women’s Day in 1911. MWIA’s founder was an American by the name of Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, who served as its first president. She was an obstetrician by training but an activist and humanitarian by action. Not only did she establish MWIA but she also founded the American Women’s Hospital Service during the First World War.