Health Check



Health Check grapples with health issues on a global scale, investigates discoveries and solutions in healthcare, and looks at how to deliver a healthier world. Presented by Claudia Hammond.


  • Superbugs and superfoods

    Superbugs and superfoods

    15/02/2021 Duración: 26min

    Infections caused by germs which have become resistant to the medicines used to treat them pose a great threat to people’s health, as curable diseases become untreatable. Unregulated medicine dispensation and improper cleaning and sanitation at hospitals can all contribute to the spread of resistant germs. Overuse of antibiotics in animal rearing can also contribute, although this is less prevalent in Africa. Professor Joachim Osur and Dr John Kiiru explain. Many claims have been made about the potential health benefits of coconut oil. The oil is used widely in cooking and for hair, skin and healthcare. Dayo Yusuf travelled to Mombasa, Kenya, to investigate how coconut oil is produced and explore the nutritional facts and fiction. Priscilla Ngethe discusses these issues with BBC Africa Health Editor Anne Mawathe and reporter Dayo Yusuf.

  • Covid vaccines: bad news, good news

    Covid vaccines: bad news, good news

    10/02/2021 Duración: 38min

    The South African government has decided to pause its roll-out of the Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine because of disappointing results of the vaccine’s effectiveness against the most common variant in the country in a trial of young people. And is there any good evidence from trials elsewhere that this vaccine reduces the chances of people spreading the coronavirus to others, as well as preventing severe illness and death? How do you test whether a vaccine prevents or reduces transmission of the coronavirus? Claudia’s regular guest epidemiologist Professor Matt Fox of Boston University discusses the issues. Claudia talks to two ovarian cancer specialists, Dorothy Lombe in Zambia and Georgia Funtes Cintra in Brazil about the challenges and success stories in providing treatment and care for women with this kind of cancer. The Global Cancer Coalition Network has released a report documenting the worsening situation in cancer care in 104 countries because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dorothy and Georgia tells us

  • Vaccinating Africa against Covid-19

    Vaccinating Africa against Covid-19

    08/02/2021 Duración: 26min

    So far five African counties have begun vaccination campaigns, with vaccines gifted to them by wealthier countries. For many of the continent’s 1.2 billion people Covid -19 vaccinations will come through the COVAX initiative, which is a programme designed to reach many of the poor and vulnerable across the world. Whilst this is a huge task, Africa does have the advantage of having developed effective methods of delivering vaccinations with campaigns to fight Polio and Ebola. Along with the global pandemic, life threatening diseases such as cholera still thrive in inadequate sanitary conditions which is the situation for many people worldwide. However, there are some relatively simple and cheap solutions available, such as a scheme to build waterless latrines in Nigeria. Reporters Rhoda Odhiambo and Charles Mgbolu join presenter Priscilla Ngethe to discuss these health issues.

  • Covid-19 vaccines prevent 100% of deaths

    Covid-19 vaccines prevent 100% of deaths

    03/02/2021 Duración: 33min

    Claudia Hammond discusses the latest influx of excellent Covid-19 vaccine results with Sarah Boseley, health editor of The Guardian. Dr Samara Linton reports on efforts by black doctors in the UK to overcome vaccine hesitancy in their communities. The Biden administration is to rescind the USA’s Mexico City Policy which denies federal aid funding to organisations overseas that provide abortion counselling or services. The policy, also known as the Global Gag, prevented other family planning and HIV prevention services from receiving essential funding. Joy Phumaphi, former Botswanan health minister and now with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health talks to Claudia about the impact of the policy on the health and wellbeing on women and children in sub-Saharan Africa, and about the prospects for these services after the Mexico City Policy’s imminent demise. A team of eye specialists at University College London has found that levels of air pollution typical of big cities around the wor

  • Brazilian city’s Covid crisis: ‘It’s like Hell’

    Brazilian city’s Covid crisis: ‘It’s like Hell’

    27/01/2021 Duración: 38min

    The Brazilian city of Manaus remains in a state of crisis as its second surge of Covid-19 cases continues to overwhelm its hospitals and kill hundreds of people every day. Dr Marcus Lacerda, a clinical researcher at the FioCruz Institute talks to Claudia about the city’s medical oxygen supply shortage and why the coronavirus has caused even more suffering during this second surge of cases. One of the commonest symptoms of Covid-19 illness is the loss of the sense of smell. It returns after a few weeks in most people but a significant minority still can’t smell anything many months later. We talk to Professor Carl Philpott of Norwich Medical School who’s led an international panel of nose doctors, assessing the evidence for the best therapies to restore the olfactory sense to people who’ve lost it following respiratory infections. So-called smell training comes out top as the most evidence-based approach. Carl explains how it works and we hear from two people who are trying to regain their sense of smell. Ca

  • First days of India’s Covid vaccination programme

    First days of India’s Covid vaccination programme

    20/01/2021 Duración: 36min

    After the first few days of India’s Covid mass vaccination programme rollout, Claudia talks to medical ethicist and health policy expert Anant Bhan about the issues arising from the lack of efficacy data for one of the two vaccines. Will they undermine confidence in this gargantuan public health exercise? Cindy Sui reports from Taiwan about a recent increase in the number of suicides among students there. Claudia talks to Zi-Jun Liu about the obese miniature pigs that he is using to study the dangerous condition of sleep apnoea. Claudia’s guest of the week is Tabitha Mwangi of Cambridge University, with news on making yellow fever vaccines go much further when there’s a serious outbreak, protecting vulnerable children from malaria and how the pandemic is putting commercial sex workers in West Africa at greater risk of HIV infection. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker (Picture: BMC medical staff congratulate their colleague Sr. staff nurse Charushila More after she administered the f

  • WHO warns against vaccine rollout unfairness

    WHO warns against vaccine rollout unfairness

    13/01/2021 Duración: 34min

    BBC global health correspondent Naomi Grimley joins Claudia Hammond for a round-up of the latest developments in Covid vaccines and their rollouts – including the World Health Organisation’s Director General who has admonished richer countries and pharma companies for undermining the chances of access to vaccines for all countries. Plus a controversial vaccine rollout in India and the Iranian leader wants to ban US and UK vaccines. Claudia’s guest of the week is family doctor Ann Robinson who has perspectives on some of the latest Covid treatment news. Early results suggests a place for two monoclonal antibodies in treating patients who are sick enough to be in intensive care, although the drugs are expensive. And there are some encouraging results from a small trial in Argentina of convalescent plasma therapy in older mildly ill patients. The pandemic has disrupted the training of the next generation of health professionals. From Chile, Jane Chambers reports on how a leading dental college in Santiago i

  • The first year of the pandemic

    The first year of the pandemic

    06/01/2021 Duración: 39min

    Claudia Hammond talks to Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley exactly one year after she and Claudia first talked on Health Check about a mysterious respiratory disease that had appeared in Wuhan in China – with 59 cases reported at that point. What have been the highs and lows of the world’s response to the coronavirus so far? Alison van Diggelen reports from the USA on research which has found that on average the mental wellbeing of older people has held up better during the pandemic than that of younger generations, despite the mortality risk being much higher for the elderly. Researchers in California and Georgia have also looked at why. For listeners living under strict lockdowns, psychologist Virginia Frum recommends awe walks. Walks during which you deliberately look out for things to be amazed by can boost your emotional wellbeing. You don’t have to travel to spectacular scenery: awe walks can work just as well in a city as out in nature. Boston University’s global health epidemiologist Matthew

  • How children think about maths and time

    How children think about maths and time

    30/12/2020 Duración: 27min

    Claudia Hammond explores how children think with two psychologists; Dr Victoria Simms from Ulster University who researches how children’s understanding of maths develops and Professor Teresa McCormack from Queens University Belfast who researches how children understand time. The discussion was recorded in front of an audience at the Northern Ireland Science Festival in February 2020. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Caroline Steel (Picture: A group of preschool students sitting on the floor with their legs crossed and their arms raised in the air. Photo credit: FatCamera/Getty Images.)

  • Ambiguous loss: a different kind of grief

    Ambiguous loss: a different kind of grief

    23/12/2020 Duración: 26min

    Have you lost a loved one who is still a part of your life in some way? Did it leave you feeling confused or frozen about how to continue with life? Claudia Hammond examines the distressing phenomenon known as ambiguous loss – the enormous challenge of dealing with a loss when you aren’t sure what has happened, leaving you searching for answers, unable to move on. What has the pandemic done to our memories? Anecdotally many people report that they keep forgetting things which they are sure they would have remembered before. Psychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster examines the new emerging evidence. Our brain is formed of two hemispheres and in most of us, the two halves are interconnected by millions of nerve fibres that form a large bridging structure called the corpus callosum. But some babies are born without a corpus callosum, linking the two sides. A quarter of these babies grow up with serious developmental difficulties and half have mild to moderate cognitive problems. But a q

  • In Iran, one in five infected by coronavirus

    In Iran, one in five infected by coronavirus

    16/12/2020 Duración: 30min

    Iran was one of the first countries to be hit hard by the coronavirus. In the first population wide survey of infection rates in a Middle Eastern country, Iranian medical researchers now estimate that about one in five people on average were infected during its first wave in 18 cities in the country. But the rate varies enormously from city to city. In the city of Rasht, they estimate more than 70% of the population caught the virus. Claudia Hammond talks to Iranian infectious disease researcher Maryam Darvishian about the findings and what they mean for Iran’s attempts to control the virus today. We look at the sleep hygiene plight of international students whose study and sleep cycles have been thrown into chaos because of Covid travel restrictions. We hear the experiences of a student in Singapore studying remotely at Columbia University in New York. Her classes are usually in the dead of night Singapore time. Harvard sleep researcher Jeanne Duffy advises on the best ways for students to plan their work/

  • Gene therapy for sickle cell disease

    Gene therapy for sickle cell disease

    09/12/2020 Duración: 36min

    Are genetic therapies for sickle cell disease beginning to come of age? Claudia Hammond talks to David Williams and Erica Esrick of Boston Children’s Hospital about their promising results with a gene therapy for the disease in a pilot trial involving six young patients. Their report appears in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine alongside encouraging results of a CRISPR gene editing therapy for sickle cell disease. Both approaches target the same gene – the result of which is to make bone marrow cells to produce foetal haemoglobin to compensate for people’s faulty adult haemoglobin. BBC Global health correspondent Naomi Grimley has a coronavirus global round up for us, and we report on the discovery of a pair of salivary glands new to medical science – the first new set of organs to be discovered for centuries. Dutch researchers detected them with a sophisticated form of body scanning, hiding where the back of the nasal cavity meets the top of the throat. It’s an anatomical revelatio

  • Milestone in HIV prevention for women

    Milestone in HIV prevention for women

    02/12/2020 Duración: 35min

    In the week of World AIDS Day, Health Check looks at what's being described as a milestone in the prevention of HIV infection in women. It is a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - an injection every 8 weeks of a drug called cabotegravir. A clinical trial has been comparing it to a daily PrEP pill which is already known to be effective at preventing HIV infection. The injection regimen was about 90% more effective at shielding women from the virus than the daily tablet. The trial involves more than 3,000 women in seven Southern and East African countries. Claudia talks to study co-leader Sinead Delany-Moretlwe of the University of Witwatersrand about why this form of PrEP seems to be so effective and whether it will be affordable for low and middle income countries. Chhavi Sachdev reports on informal health workers known as ‘chhota doctors’ who are the backbone of primary health care for the hundreds of millions of rural people in India. They are not formally recognised as health care providers by the

  • Another week, another Covid-19 vaccine success

    Another week, another Covid-19 vaccine success

    25/11/2020 Duración: 35min

    Oxford University and Astrazeneca announced interim results from the phase 3 trial of their coronavirus vaccine. The results are promising with efficacy scores ranging from 70% to possibly 90%, depending on the dose of the first of the two inoculations. This vaccine also remains viable when stored at refrigerator temperatures – a logistical advantage compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Claudia consults Charlie Wheeler, head of vaccines at the Wellcome Trust, about how this vaccine may advance the ambition of protecting the world from Covid-19. The pandemic has disrupted routine health services in many countries. Maternity services for pregnant women and women in labour have not escaped restrictions. In the UK this has included banning partners from clinics and wards, often for most of labour. Dr Samara Linton reports. High levels of lead exposure in childhood result in smaller, less robust-looking brains in middle age. This is the conclusion of a long-running study of hundreds of people who grew u

  • Measles outbreak threat due to Covid

    Measles outbreak threat due to Covid

    18/11/2020 Duración: 35min

    Global measles deaths were already at a 23 year high in 2019 after several years of inadequate immunisation levels in a number of countries around the world. The coronavirus pandemic looks set to make matters worse. The World Health Organisation is worried that disruptions to measles vaccination programmes this year in Africa have substantially raised the risk of large outbreaks in many countries. Immunisation coverage needs to be maintained at 95% or more to keep measles suppressed. Too many babies have missed routine measles vaccination at 9 months and planned special immunisation campaigns in areas where the coverage was already too low pre-Covid had to be cancelled. We talk to paediatrician Ifedayo Adetifa at the Kemri Wellcome research programme in Kenya who’s been modelling outbreak scenarios in Kenya of this situation. The risk of large outbreaks of measles in Kenya is now much greater, and likely to be worse in other countries in the region. But mounting vaccination campaigns as soon as possible would

  • Covid vaccine ‘90% effective’

    Covid vaccine ‘90% effective’

    11/11/2020 Duración: 26min

    Health Check examines the excitement around the preliminary announcement of 90% effectiveness of BioNTech and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in its phase 3 clinical trial. Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Gregory Poland, head of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic in the United States about what we do and don’t know about the vaccine at this stage, and how the vaccine may be approved and deployed in the coming months. She consults Kalipso Chalkidou, Professor of Global Health Practice at Imperial College London, about the challenges of getting this vaccine to people in low and middle income countries. One logistical problem is that the vaccine has to be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsuis. BBC medical and science correspondent James Gallagher also joins Claudia to explain the innovative nature of the vaccine and how its interim success bodes well for the development of other coronavirus vaccines. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker (Picture: Medications in sealed vials with a disposable pla

  • Covid-19 vaccines: Unknowns and dilemmas

    Covid-19 vaccines: Unknowns and dilemmas

    04/11/2020 Duración: 35min

    Some of the first large scale trials of Covid-19 vaccines may report results to regulators in the next few weeks. These first results will reveal how effective these vaccines are at preventing mild Covid illness but they’re unlikely to tell us how good they are at preventing serious disease and death. Should governments permit wide scale vaccination of populations based on that level of data when this may compromise learning more about their efficacy? And might widespread deployment of first generation Covid-19 vaccines make it harder to properly trial vaccines at earlier stages of development but which may have the potential to be more effective? Claudia Hammond discusses the dilemmas with Dr Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group. People who are double-jointed are much more prone to suffering from anxiety and panics attacks. Reporter Madeleine Finlay investigates the link. Claudia consults mental health experts for tips to help people get through the coming months of uncertainty and

  • Covid-19 plasma therapy trial results ‘disappointing’

    Covid-19 plasma therapy trial results ‘disappointing’

    28/10/2020 Duración: 37min

    For months now, many people hospitalised with Covid-19 have been given convalescent plasma – donated blood serum from people who’ve already had the illness. The hope has been that transfusing donated antibodies against the coronavirus will help to prevent deaths and serious illness. Convalescent plasma therapy received a high profile boost in the USA in August when the Trump administration announced emergency use authorisation for the treatment, despite the lack of robust evidence for its efficacy against the coronavirus. Now the results of the first completed randomised clinical trial of the therapy have been published in the British Medical Journal. The findings are not particularly encouraging. In this Indian study, there was no difference in the death rate or the progression from moderate to severe disease between patients given the therapy and those receiving only standard care. Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Aparna Mukherjee of the India Council of Medical Research and the BBC’s medicine and science corres

  • Coronavirus update

    Coronavirus update

    25/03/2020 Duración: 26min

    As South Africa goes into lockdown what measures are they taking? Plus big data in Taiwan and a round-up of drug trials, antibody testing and low cost ventilators. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald (Image: Microscopic view of influenza virus cells. Photo credit: Panorama Images/Getty Images.)

  • Autism: the problems of fitting in

    Autism: the problems of fitting in

    31/07/2019 Duración: 32min

    Many people with autistic spectrum disorder learn techniques to overcome their difficulties interacting with others. The first study that has looked at the consequences of these compensatory strategies reveals some benefits but also significant downsides. The consequences can be stress, low self-esteem, mental illness and misdiagnosis. Claudia talks to lead researcher Professor Francesca Happé from King’s College London and Eloise Stark, a woman with autism. A new research programme at Imperial College London is investigating the link between obesity and infertility in men. Madeleine Finlay explores why weight gain and other factors of modern life might be influencing men’s sperm health. Tick-borne Lyme disease is on the rise in the northern hemisphere. Lyme disease can develop into a serious illness. It is hard to diagnosis early and delayed diagnosis means lengthy treatment and recovery. Dr Mollie Jewett at the University of Central Florida is working on a much faster means of diagnosis, and a more

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