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3 Key Medical News Stories: 3rd January 2019

Medical News

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: the introduction of a “pudding tax”, virtual tumours and child health records.

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Pudding Tax

Public health experts suggest a “pudding tax” may be necessary to challenge high levels of sugar consumption.

Considering the latest medical news, we’ll turn now to the sugar tax. Introduced in April 2018, it only applies to fizzy drinks and to the manufacturers, meaning whether consumers are affected is decided by them.  

The suggestion for a pudding tax comes after the news that the average 10-year-old is exceeding the sugar intake limits for an 18-year-old.

The sugar reduction programme is already targeting puddings. This Public Health England initiative, launched in 2017, aims to reduce sugar in popular foods by a fifth by 2020.  Puddings are amongst the 10 categories of food included in this programme.

The need for a pudding tax stems from an uncertainty that the food industry will act on this issue voluntarily. There has also been an increased sugar consumption from puddings specifically, which may be driving the interest in this issue.

What can we learn from this?

The statistics on childhood sugar consumption are staggering and shocking. It is difficult to know where the responsibility lies; the food industry, advertising, parents or the government. In reality, it’s probably a mixture of them all, with added socioeconomic and educational factors as well.

Childhood obesity and its consequences is one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. Being aware of the campaigns and initiatives tackling this issue is important!

Question to think about- Explain your opinion on the sugar tax. Do you think it is necessary or effective? Do you think more could be done, and if so what?  

Read: The Sugar Tax:  an interview guide


Why not try one of our quizzes?


Virtual Tumour

An innovative virtual 3D model of cancer provides a fresh way of studying the disease.

Researchers from Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute have created a virtual model of a tumour sample, with every cell mapped.

Users can become avatars in the ‘virtual’ laboratory surrounded by cancer cells, represented by multi-coloured bubbles.

A tumour sample the size of a pinhead is now metres in diameter and allow users to ‘fly through’ the cells via a head set.  

This new way of studying cancer may provide a deeper understanding of how cancer cells interact with each other, ultimately leading to new treatments in the future.

What can we learn from this?

Another fascinating and exciting use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality in medicine. According to the latest medical news, this new technology is part of an international research scheme and shows how AI has a part to play in research as well as front-line medicine.

Although there’s an incredible potential for virtual reality in medicine, are there some disadvantages?

There is a big concern about the collection and storage of huge amounts of data, and of course, there is always the question of whether machines are reliable enough in the world of medicine!  

Question to think about- How important do you think virtual reality will be in the future of the NHS?

Read more: NHS Hot Topics – Artificial Intelligence in Medicine

Child Health Records

The child health record “red book” is to move online in a bid to improve NHS care for new mothers and babies.

In other medical news, this red book is a personal child health record, given to parents at a child’s birth. The move of this book to a digital version comes with the intent of decreasing the number of stillbirths and infant deaths.

Although the number of stillbirths in England have declined since 2010, England still falls behind many European countries on this issue.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, has announced more specialist neonatal staff and intensive care cots will be available to improve maternal care.

The government aims to halve the number of stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in new-borns by 2025.

What can we learn from this?

Making the NHS digital has been in progress for many years. This issue itself is increasingly debated within the medical profession – with many professionals finding the current IT and patient note systems frustrating and time-consuming.   

A digital red book is said to make life easier for parents and health care professionals, by keeping up with the times. Digital women’s maternity records will be introduced by the end of 2019.

Question to think about- Debate the pros and cons of a digital NHS

In 2018, medical news made headlines as NHS was hit by a cyber-attack, providing a point of discussion about the safest way of storing patient records.  

Read more: The NHS Cyber Attack

Words: Katie Burrell

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