Thoughts and insights from medical students
This Month in Medical News
My ponderings on the most interesting medical news stories from the last few weeks.
1. Obese people should eat less. http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_9596000/9596480.stm
Who would have known? Apparently, politicians have been telling people that being overweight can be tackled through exercise, rather than telling people straight that they need to eat less. I don’t think there’s a person in this country who hasn’t been told at school, by a health professional, their families, or the media that eating too much causes you to be fat. And if they are saying otherwise, they are just trying to come up with a reason to justify their condition. There’s only so much you can do as a doctor and only so many ways you can repeat a health message to an individual: once they know the basic facts, it’s up to them to alter their behaviour.
2. Doctors must have better English language skills. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15164373
The Health Secretary, Andrew Langsley, has announced that doctors who come to work in the UK must have a better knowledge of English. Personally, I think this is very important. In consultations I’ve had or observed with patients who don’t speak a very good level of English, I always come away feeling slightly unhappy, as though I haven’t been able to help the patient in the best way that I should. And although interpreters do an excellent job, it’s not the same as being able to communicate 1:1 with your patient. And the reason, I feel is that the conversation between a doctor and a patient is one of the most open and honest 10 minute conversations that person will have with anyone. The doctor will be the one to uncover the darkest fears they have; about the lump they discovered a few weeks ago, the fact that they have not been able to recover from their partner’s death, their concerns that they may be responsible for their child’s genetic abnormality. And whatever the truth to their confessions, the doctor needs to be able to communicate and respond appropriately. And that requires them to speak the same language well.
3. The NHS is failing the elderly. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15279794
Many wise people, including Mahatma Gandhi, have said something along the lines of “You can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members.” And now, Janet Davies from the Royal College of Nurses, can join this elite club. Following a Care Quality Commission enquiry into how hospitals were treating it’s elderly patients discovering that we weren’t doing too well (failing to treat them with sufficient respect, or provide them with enough nutrition), Ms Davies said that the problem does not just lie with the nursing profession, but with our society’s approach to older people. It’s a fact that our population is ageing. The question is, are we ready to deal with it?
4. Vitamins may shorten life. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15238610
Argh no! My belief in the assumption that popping a few vitamins will make up for eating junk food has just been sorely tested: apparently, taking too many might just kill you. The idea is that taking too many micronutrients might be detrimental because they become toxic and cause damage, and so should only be taken in a deficiency state. Oh well, apparently there are no miracle cures for an unhealthy lifestyle, a lesson point number 1 should have taught me. Back to the 5 a day it is then…
5. Don’t read in bed: it’s bad for your health http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/oct/13/archive-bed-reading-dangers-lancet-1908
Ok, this story was published in the Lancet in 1908, but it has an interesting theory that if you read in bed, it’s difficult to get the lighting correct so it doesn’t either strain your eyes or shine too bright in them. A problem I sadly still have, over 100 years later.
So there have been some interesting health news stories over the last few weeks: from discovering that fat people need to eat less, to realising it’s important that doctors should speak the same language as their patients, it’s been a bit of a state the obvious period of time for health news. But on a more serious note, the NHS has to address how it’s going to improve elderly care. And I learned that maybe I’m doing more harm than good by eating vitamin supplements, and that I should spend more time sleeping in bed, instead of reading.
Thanks for reading (unless you’re in bed in which case I suggest you stop),