Malnutrition affects all countries on Earth

Since last year, I have taken a deeper interest in malnutrition and food poverty both here in the UK and across the world. One thing I noticed was that the image of malnutrition is often linked to regions in Africa and Asia. While the issues there are not unimportant, people are going hungry in all parts of the world.

There are probably people suffering from malnutrition right now who do not realise it. Food poverty is a growing issue both in developing and developed parts of the world. Anywhere there is an imbalance of wealth, there will be some people who are worse off than others.

Another aspect of malnutrition is those who are overweight or obese due to poor diets. This can eventually lead to a range of diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

According to World Hunger’s ‘Hunger Notes‘:

  • Overall, 5.6 million children under age five died in 2016, nearly 15,000 daily
  • Approximately 3.1 million children die from undernutrition each year 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world
  • Globally, about 151 million under-five-year-olds were estimated to be stunted in 2013. (UNICEF, WHO and The World Bank, 2018
  • Globally, 99 million under-five-year-olds were underweight in 2013, most of whom lived in Asia and Africa (Krasevec et al., 2014).

Some common terms (from the World Health Organization)

Malnutrition: deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients

Undernutrition: insufficient intake of energy and nutrients to meet an individual’s needs to maintain good health.

Stunted: when someone has a low height for their age

Wasting: when someone has a low weight for their age

Micronutrient deficiencies: the insufficient amount of important vitamins and nutrients

Overweight and obesity:

  • the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.
  • overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25; and
  • obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

I believe everyone has a right to have access to nutritious, healthy food and that no one should go hungry. With the research and technological advances of today, health services, scientists and the general public should be able to come together to combat the issue.


References:

https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/malnutrition

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight

World Child Hunger Facts

Taking a break from media

We need to take a break from the media including social media. That doesn’t mean I turn off the television and then I get on CNN online. That means I truly take a break. And children need to be taking breaks as well. … What we know about children is if they’re spending most or all of their time related to tragedies, that can increase their stress reactions.

Robin Gurwitch PhD

Lately, I’ve found myself picking up my phone, flicking through the same notifications and discarding it only to pick it up two seconds later. It’s difficult not to feel like this pandemic has been a missed opportunity to relearn how to enjoy ourselves without our screens, or how to learn or simply exist without them.

There is a lot of focus on maintaining communication with our loved ones via social media, but what about letter writing? How many people take the time to put pen to paper instead of the three seconds it requires to send a text message? How many of us send emails that aren’t work-related? Everything has been streamlined into micro-messaging and I’d argue that a lot of people don’t feel connected at all.

Still, taking a break from media isn’t just about not keeping in touch, it’s about mental clarity. We’ve been bombarded with so much information over the past year and a half that there’s no time to process it. There is no time to reflect. With our laptops, phones and televisions screens on, we are in a constant flux capacitor of information and we need a break.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can do that doesn’t involve a screen. We can get off our phones by subscribing to print magazines, or working on a physical puzzle. I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about a boom in escapist fiction – books that aren’t about a pandemic, really good stories you can get lost in.” – Tanya Goodin

I used to love reading books as a child and young adult, but with the popularity of social media and smartphones, I started reading on my phone. During the first lockdown in the UK, I created a huge spreadsheet of books I wanted to read – and proceeded to read four or five before I gave up. For the third (!) lockdown, I bought a physical book called The French Girl (and two ebooks). Reading the physical book was a revelation. At first, I struggled to get through a chapter. My fingers would itch for my phone, desperate to scroll through notifications! With time, I was able to sit through multiple chapters and switch off from the world for a little while.

As for the ebooks… I started one and got distracted by something else on my phone. The huge spreadsheet remains untouched.

Go figure!


Source: How to take a digital detox during the Covid-19 pandemic

On This Day [Aug. 26th]

AUGUST 26TH

  • 1938: a tape recorder was used for the first time to send a radio broadcast

pile of cassette tapes

  • 1743: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was born. He is considered to be ‘the father of modern chemistry’ and is responsible for naming oxygen and determining what role it plays in combustion and respiration.
  • 1874: Lee de Forest was born. He invented the Audion vacuum tube which made it live broadcasting possible.

COVID-19 vaccine protection is fading as the number of cases increase

pexels-photo-5878503.jpeg
Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Researchers in the UK have found that the protection offered by the Pfizer/Biotech and AstraZeneca vaccines begins to fall after six months. The researchers have linked this to the need for booster shots for those who already had two doses of the vaccine.

While major countries like the US, UK and also the EU are planning to administer booster shots, there has been some criticism and scepticism. Some researchers believed there was no evidence that booster shots were necessary. Some also believe it would be morally wrong to start giving people a third dose many people are unable to access the vaccines at all.

To read more check out this article on Reuters – ‘COVID vaccine protection wanes within six months – UK researchers

Do you need to wear a face mask outside?

Face masks have become part of our new normal over the past year both indoors and outdoors. While they’re highly recommended inside heavily populated areas like supermarkets/grocery stores and public transport, there’s not much guidance when it comes to outside.

According to Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, the risk of catching COVID-19 outside is quite low.

“The risk of outside transmission is very low because viral particles disperse effectively in the outside air. A study in Wuhan, China, which involved careful contact tracing, discovered that just one of 7,324 infection events investigated was linked to outdoor transmission. In a recent analysis of over 232,000 infections in Ireland, only one case of COVID-19 in every thousand was traced to outdoor transmission. And a scoping review from the University of Canterbury concluded that outdoor transmission was rare, citing the opportunity costs of not encouraging the public to congregate outdoors. Overall, transmission is around 5000 times less likely to happen outside than inside.” (Posted April 27, 2021)

Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases doctor and Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

… so, does that mean that we ditch our face masks and get some fresh air? With the vaccination programmes across the world coming along more efficiently and effectively we’re edging closer and closer to that point.

However, until it’s fully safe to do otherwise, we should all continue to maintain social distancing when around people who aren’t in our households, support bubbles or friendship groups.


The quote is taken from Sciline’s ‘Quotes From Experts‘.

Update: EMA concludes that benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks

The EMA safety committee held a meeting on 18th March and found that:

  1. the benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects;
  2. the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots in those who receive it;
  3. there is no evidence of a problem related to specific batches of the vaccine or to particular manufacturing sites;
  4. however, the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia, i.e. low levels of blood platelets (elements in the blood that help it to clot) with or without bleeding, including rare cases of clots in the vessels draining blood from the brain (CVST).

The full report of the meeting can be found here.

AstraZeneca vaccine suspended in Europe due to safety concerns

Several countries across Europe have suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine due to safety concerns. There have been reports of blood clotting and deaths in people who have been administered the vaccine.

In comparison, there seems to be little trouble with the rollout of the vaccine in the UK with scientists there insisting that the jab is safe.

What happens next?

The European Medicines Agency is currently reviewing the issue, along with the Moderna and Pfizer-Biotech vaccines which have also been linked to blood clotting. The EMA executive director, Emer Cooke, said:

There is no indication vaccination has caused these [blood clotting] conditions.

However, like with any form of medicine, we will only find the answers through continuous testing.

Currently, WHO has stated that it is safe to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine and indications are that the suspensions may not last, particularly in Europe where some countries are experiencing a third wave of infections.

16th March 2021:

WHO is investigating the reports and working closely with the European Medicines Agency.

As soon as review of the data is finalized, we’ll inform the public of any findings.

For the moment, the European Medicines Agency’s position is that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.

WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) is meeting today to review the reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in persons who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Source:

On This Day – 14th March

On This Day, Albert Einstein was born. Born 14 March 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, Einstein was a renowned physicist who developed the special and general theory of relativity.

He is, perhaps, one of the most influential scientists of the 20th Century, with his work continuing to have an impact even today (without his breakthroughs, technology such as the computer, television and music players would not have existed).

Einstein was also partial to dropping some notable insight, much of which exists in the form of quotes posted all over the internet.

My personal favourite (and one I need a constant reminder of) is:

If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.


Sources:

Reference

Today In Science

Biography

Mental Health and Social Media

When people ask me if I have social media, I often provide my handles with a caveat.

I don’t post often.

It’s an understatement, really because I hardly post at all. Why? Well, like the video states, I was using it as an escape and it often took all my time and I’d feel terrible after. Instagram in particular has me feeling anxious and nervous so I limit my time on it.

One thing that has always caught my interest is society’s reliance on social media. How often do people wake up and scroll through their Twitter or Facebook feeds? Or during a spare minute, you’re casually on Instagram seeing what your friends are up to. It may seem simple and benign, almost, but we are all taking in this information and processing it whether we are aware or not.

Continue reading “Mental Health and Social Media”

How are we using social media?

Roxanne Cohen Silver, PhD:

Research does make it clear that social media is a larger source of misinformation and rumour than we typically get from traditional media. There isn’t anybody who is monitoring and vetting the information for its truthfulness or its veracity. So we need to step back. How are we using social media? Is it for connection, or is it for information gathering?

Purplexed Science: During the early stages of the pandemic, I admittedly relied heavily on Twitter updates. Not necessarily other people’s tweets, but the curated headlines and conversations Twitter itself would group together. The public’s willingness to be informed is directly linked to how the media has chosen to inform.

I found myself deleting several news notifications I’d set up because it was nothing but COVID-19, and I think that can do two things.

Dilute the information, or expose people to more misinformation. Human beings tend to rationalise what they cannot understand and this pandemic has been no different.

People are using social media for connection, but that also comes with information gathering. People feel a need to share what they’ve learnt with others. Often without stopping to fact check, after all, it’s easier to click a button than it is to input a search term into Google and spend half an hour reading up on a topic you may not necessarily understand.

One solution may be integrating a fact checking service within all social media platforms, or a service that allows people to quickly input information and returns them with a concise and clear explanation. Implementing such a service would be costly and time-consuming, so the buck stops with social media and news outlets. They should be held accountable for what is posted and do their due diligence before misinformation is allowed to spread.