Women's Health Base

A look at women, the world and the web

Archive for April, 2009

Desperately Hungry Housewives

Posted by hannahflynn on April 29, 2009

My colleague Esther Armstrong has written an interesting piece on last night’s television show, Desperately Hungry Housewives.

In it she questions whether this kind of television is necessarily ‘healthy’ viewing for vulnerable women. Definitely worth a look.

It ties in with my own views on how TV can affect women’s body image.


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Breast cancer screening hit by recession

Posted by hannahflynn on April 29, 2009

Women in Ireland are missing out on their breast screening, as a recruitment freeze in the public sector has affected the appointment of radiographers.

Following the Irish budget, the appointment of any new radiographers has been suspended. Plans for the national breast cancer screening service , BreastCheck in Clare, Donegal and Leitrim have been affected.

Last year, it was claimed, money was withdrawn from Donegal’s screening programme because BreastCheck was due to be rolled out this year. A similar situation is occurring in Belfast.

A spokesperson has said interviews and checks for prospective radiographers has been carried out but they are unable to employ them.

Pressure groups are claiming to lose the service will be political suicide for any government.

It will be interesting to see if the £2 billion cut in secondary health care over the next 5 years in the NHS will affect screening here. It expects to make £500 million of those cuts by getting patients out of hospital more quickly, or not inviting them for screening at all perhaps?

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First 100 days – Barack Obama’s health care reform

Posted by hannahflynn on April 27, 2009

Its been a tumultulous 100 days since Obama took office, and while health care reform has been shadowed by the current economic situation some very significant moves have been made. From promises to lower the cost of health care and the swift signing of bills to increase access to family planning, providers and campaigners for women’s health already have cause to celebrate under Obama.

20 January –  In his inauguration speech Obama highlights the issues facing US health policy and promises to tackle them with science, “We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

23 January – Ends ban on federal funding for international groups which fund or promote abortion known as the Mexico City policy. Population Action International said, “Women’s health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance. President Obama’s actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don’t have access to family planning.”

3 February– Tom Daschle, who was set to become Obama’s health secretary and was expected to lead his health care initiative, withdrew his nomination for the post following an admission he failed to pay about $140,000 in back taxes. He had built up a career as a strong advocate of universal health care and has a strong voting record in favour of abortion access.

23 February– Obama holds a fiscal responsibility summit at the White House voicing his intentions to tackle health care.

27 February – Proposes overturning of “conscience rule“, which allows health professionals to refuse to supply emergency contraception on the grounds of conscience.

5 March– Obama hosts day long summit for health care at the White House. He says, “Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative its a fiscal imperative “.  He later added, “In December every voice has to be heard, every idea must be researched every option must be on the table. There should be no sacred cow.”

9 March– Allows federal funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research. He also declares all federal scientific research will be walled off from political influences. See his speeches as represented by Wordle.com here.

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Flu epidemic may be hit by recession

Posted by hannahflynn on April 27, 2009

Tamiflu during 2005 bird flu outbreak

Tamiflu during 2005 bird flu outbreak


The recent emergence of ‘swine flu’ in Mexico should come as no shock, the WHO has been considering a global flu pandemic a matter of when not if, since the emergence of bird-flu in 1997, but we should start to question how prepared we are for the potential consequences of this.

 As influenza pandemics are hard to predict, governments can only prepare for them through the stockpiling of flu drugs (like Tamiflu) and vaccines. This is expensive business.

Dr Merion Evans, an epidemiologist from Cardiff University, is concerned preparation may take a back seat during the recession.

“The government might be less ready to put a lot of money into stockpiling medicines when it’s unclear how beneficial they are.”

 A vaccine cannot be produced until it’s known what strain is causing a flu pandemic. We currently know that H1N1 is responsible for the epidemic in Mexico, but until a few days ago we did not know if it would be H5N1, the strain currently known as ‘bird-flu’. Therefore pharmaceutical plants must always be ready to go at any time.

“That’s a lot of investment into faculties for producing large amounts of vaccine in a short period of time. That may be a victim of the credit crunch,” Evans warns.

We are overdue for a flu pandemic and increased globalisation could have a disastrous effect, as the virus is able to spread faster.

 Flu pandemics can also surprise us as it’s not always older people who are the most susceptible. “The 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ epidemic was more serious in young people, this is as older people have been exposed to more strains of flu and are resistant to them, but younger generations do not have this advantage.”

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Interview with Dr Maggie Blott, vice president of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Posted by hannahflynn on April 26, 2009

Dr Maggie Blott is the vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, she spoke to me recently about the truth behind the headlines on a recent Cochrane review, which found women who remain upright during the first stage of labour have shorter and less painful deliveries.

So, does walking around during labour make it any shorter and less painful?

“[These headlines are] because of a Cochrane review which found women who were upright during the early stages of labour, whether that was standing, walking, kneeling or squatting had a shorter first stage of labour and were less likely to ask for pain relief, well … big pain relief anyway, like epidurals.”

How does this affect current recommendations?

Low risk women without any complications should keep upright and mobile as much as possible and get up and move around; use a ball or change positions. For high risk women who need to be monitored frequently throughout, we recommend that [any monitoring] doesn’t stop them being mobile.

What is the mechanism behind this?

That’s a good question! We are not sure what the exact mechanism is but I think it is probably simply gravity and the pressure of the baby’s head on the cervix, which leads to more effective contractions. And it aids the rotation of the baby’s head into the right position, which is more favourable for a normal delivery.

Lawrence A, et al. Maternal positions and mobility during first stage of labor. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Issue 2, 2009.

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3 reasons to be happy this week

Posted by hannahflynn on April 17, 2009

While Americans are starting to get an Obamover, there are several reasons to be glad to be a woman in the UK this week:

1) Pregnancy advisory ad rules to be relaxed

In blunt terms this means condom adverts before the watershed so our very pregnant, clapped up teenage population can see them as well as their menopausal parents (who all have chlamydia too, though teen rates were put forward as an incentive for the changes, tsk). Plus abortion advice helplines may soon advertise on TV and radio.

2) Sir David Attenborough is now patron of the Optimum Population Trust

The man who has come to represent all that is rational to a scientifically illiterate public is using his power to question the environmental lobby’s avoidance of the population problem. And in the same week the Archbishop of Canterbury has said limiting fertility for the good of the environment is common sense. Lets just hope these two men don’t think it is merely a woman’s role though…

3) The BBC are starting to get peer-review research

Last night BBC 2 put out one of their best documentaries in ages in the form of Professor Regan’s Diet Clinic. It showed the placebo effect made 77 percent of their group (17 overweight women, which was reasonable for a TV demo if you ask me) lose weight, then explained the role of this in double-blind trials and then had a little cartoon explaining how to look out for these in peer-reviewed journals. She was according to The Independent, “the sensible man’s anti-Gillian McKeith, thwacking down loony dieting habits and faux expertise like flies.”

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5 of the best women’s health blogs

Posted by hannahflynn on April 5, 2009

Our Bodies our Blogs

A harsh critic of the Bush administration’s approach to women’s health, this blog could have lost its way once Obama came into office. However, it is as fierce and clever as ever, providing refreshing and informed criticism towards government policy, the medical establishment and the media. They ask the questions every woman doesn’t realise she needs to.

Dr Petra Boyton

More’sagony aunt is increasingly becoming an important but critical commentator on women’s health in the British media. Ben Goldacre is a fan of this psychologist, so get on board. A nice bit of brain food on the side of position of the fortnight, and I think she’s going to become every thinking girl’s favourite.

The Optimum Population Trust

Yes, sometimes it talks about chickens and cows, but this scientific and political site does mainly look at the way human reproduction works…and how it affects the planet. With a wide range of sources, the news it reports on it varied and exciting.

In Rude Health

A comprehensive if naive look at women’s health in the media and brilliantly written. Its author is a professional journalist who writes books looking at the fruitier side of couple’s health, hence the ‘rude’ in the title.


If anything is going to make you happy to be a woman in Europe its this blog. More of a social enterprise than a news source this, website provides information and campaigns for sex education in the United States.

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