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3 Key Medical News Stories: 27th June 2019

A new mum smiles down at her baby who has its hands on either side of its Mum's face

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! In our latest edition, we bring you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope over the past week, just in time for your med school applications.

Joining us this week: maternal health, the obesity strategy and HPV vaccine.

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Maternal Mental Health

New initiative to help women struggling with their mental health during and after pregnancy

The recent service, Mum’s Mind, is the first of its kind for the NHS. It is a service allowing mothers to share their concerns and emotions with trained professionals, via text.

The system works in a way that mothers can send a text and will receive a reply within 24 hours offering support and advice.

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust have set up Mum’s Mind as a part of expanding their perinatal mental health team. This innovative service aims to improve access to services and open up conversations about perinatal mental health.

What can we learn from this?

20% of women experience mental health problems during the perinatal period, ranging from anxiety and depression to psychosis.

For many expectant and new mothers, talking about mental health and feeling anything other than happy is a taboo. Many are welcoming this scheme as it is allowing mothers to talk openly about what they are going through, without fear of judgement.

Question to think about: Critically discuss new initiatives for mental health services, including online and text services.

Read How to Look After Your Mental Health at University

The Obesity Strategy

Drive to tackle childhood obesity is delayed due to Brexit

Following the launch of the ‘obesity strategy’ in 2018, ministers promised several strategies to tackle the obesity crisis. However, one year on, none of these key strategies have become a reality.

The strategies include a ban on energy drink sales to those under 16, clearer calorie labels in cafes and takeaways, no junk food advertising before 9pm and higher standards for food in schools.

Brexit is likely to be the reason for the delay, with the complex political environment creating a backlog, meaning the obesity strategy is developing at a slow pace.

Ministers and campaigners are arguing more action is necessary to achieve the target of halving childhood obesity by 2030.

What can we learn from this?

Although there is frustration surrounding the pace of this campaign, it is worth noting a few recent high-profile changes that are tackling obesity.

One such change is the sugar reduction programme, a campaign launched in 2017 that aims to reduce sugar in popular foods by a fifth by 2020. This relates to the well-known sugar tax, introduced in 2018 and applies to fizzy drinks.

The recent campaigns are tackling either the affordability and therefore availability of unhealthy foods, or the content of the food itself.

Availability of healthy food is also a key barrier, with fresh fruit and veg often much more pricey than cake and chocolate! The government promised a voucher scheme for low-income families to purchase fresh fruit and veg as part of the obesity strategy; however, this is yet to be discussed.

Question to think about: What factors are contributing to the obesity crisis?

Read: The Sugar Tax

HPV Vaccine

Research suggests the HPV vaccine for boys could cut cancer rates

Latest medical research highlights the potential benefits of the HPV vaccine. HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted infection with over 100 types.

HPV 16 and 18 are the types strongly linked to cancer, as they cause 70% of cervical cancers. In response to this, girls aged 12-13 across the UK have routinely received the vaccine for the past ten years.

Now, research shows that HPV 16 and 18 can increase the risk of cancer in men, particularly anal, penile and head and neck cancers.

As a result, researchers are now calling for routine HPV vaccines for boys as well as girls, in order to reduce the risk of cancers.

The focus is particularly on head and neck cancer, as the number of cases are rising, particularly in men, and HPV is present in 78% of cases.

What can we learn from this?

Studies show that since the beginning of the UK-wide immunisation scheme for HPV over 10 years ago, there has been a 90% reduction of instances of pre-cancerous cells in women aged 20.

HPV is responsible for 5% of all cancer worldwide, and as our understanding of its role in cancers other than cervical expands, so does our responsibility to act and protect children’s health for the future.

Question to think about: Discuss the challenges and benefits of vaccination programmes

Read NHS Hot Topics Questions

Words: Katie Burrell

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