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.


  • New Zealand backtracks on smoking ban

    29/11/2023 Duración: 26min

    When former Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern passed legislation to reduce access to tobacco products, the policy was held up as an international example. So there was shock among health experts in New Zealand and across the world this week when the newly sworn in Government announced they would be scrapping the plans. Claudia Hammond asks Janet Hoek, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago what the international impact will be. She hears from the people who hear music when nothing is playing. Professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University, Tim Griffiths, describes what might be happening in the brain to cause these musical hallucinations. Claudia is also joined by public health expert Dr Tabitha Mwangi to discuss new research from Tanzania where health experts are collaborating with religious leaders to provide family planning services. They look ahead to COP28 in the United Arab Emirates where the climate conference will hold its first ever ‘Health Day’. And ask whether

  • Gene editing treatment approved for sickle cell

    22/11/2023 Duración: 26min

    The UK has become the first country in the world to approve a gene editing treatment for people with the genetic conditions sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. The news has been hailed as revolutionary, unthinkable just a decade ago. But will the new treatment provide a realistic option for the millions of people living with these haemoglobin disorders worldwide? BBC health reporter Philippa Roxby joins Claudia to look at the latest. She also brings new evidence from Australia on the health benefits of delayed cord clamping to new born premature babies. And a study drawing attention to the impact of surfing on surfers’ mental health. Could it add billions of dollars to the world economy? Losing a family member is a difficult experience for everyone but for people who no longer have a connection to the person who has died, it can cause a mixture of grief, sadness, guilt, or relief. Claudia talks to broadcaster and author, Professor Alice Roberts, about her experience of losing her mother after being es

  • Vaccinating children against chickenpox

    15/11/2023 Duración: 26min

    The committee that advises on vaccinations in the UK has recommended that chickenpox is added to the standard list of childhood vaccinations; something which the USA and many European countries have been doing for some time. So why do some countries vaccinate children against chickenpox and others choose not to? Claudia Hammond is joined by family doctor Ann Robinson. They also hear from conversation analyst Charlotte Albury, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, about how doctors communicate with patients with obesity can have a significant impact on their weight loss success. And with shortages of doctors in many parts of the world, are shared appointments the answer, where a group of patients with the same condition all see the doctor at once? Also discussed, high blood pressure and how reducing your salt intake can be just as effective as medication in some cases. Image: Little girl receiving chickenpox vaccination in clinic Credit: Liudmila Chernetska Presenter: Claudia Hammond

  • A drug to prevent breast cancer

    08/11/2023 Duración: 26min

    This week it was announced in the United Kingdom that women at high risk of breast cancer will be able to take a drug, Anastrozole, which is usually used to treat breast cancer, as a preventative measure. Recent trials show the drug can reduce the incidence of breast cancer by almost 50% in post-menopausal women at moderate or high risk of the disease. Claudia Hammond is joined by medical journalist Clare Wilson from New Scientist to discuss how the drug works and who it will be offered to. We also hear from Pakistan where four hundred teachers in Islamabad have been trained to screen their pupils for eye problems. Often families can’t afford for their eyes to be tested, so the classroom is being used to tackle both eye health and the stigma that can surround wearing glasses. And do you think you are humble? Well Claudia discusses whether the whole idea of humility is undervalued with Professor Daryl Van Tongeren, the Director of the Frost Center for Social Science Research at Hope College in the United

  • Warnings over antibiotic resistance in children

    01/11/2023 Duración: 27min

    Antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective at treating common childhood infections, according to a new study. The research, led by the University of Sydney, found some antibiotics recommended by the World Health Organization for children had less than 50% effectiveness in treating infections such as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. Claudia Hammond is joined by Monica Lakhanpaul, professor of integrated community child health at University College London, to discuss the findings and calls for the urgent development of new treatments. We also look at Raynaud’s phenomenon – a disorder that stops blood flowing properly to people’s fingers and toes – and hear from a Canadian musician who’s had to end his concerts early because of it, along with a researcher in Germany working to identify what causes it. Claudia also looks at new research from China suggesting that practicing tai chi may help slow down the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. And Monica tells us about the work she’s been doing in Brazil

  • A musician’s story of coping with schizophrenia

    25/10/2023 Duración: 26min

    Talented guitarist, Hamish Barclay, was given steroids when he was a teenager to treat a kidney problem. He then experienced the rare side effect of psychosis and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. He has lived the condition for the past ten years. Now 29, he’s being supported by his mother Josephine to return to making music once again. Claudia Hammond sits down with Josephine, Hamish and his sister Maudie for a conversation about life with schizophrenia – and the stigma around the word. The family talk about how they sometimes avoid using the term because they know it can put people off playing music with Hamish and Maudie describes how her mum ensures Hamish can continue to play by driving him to London and sitting in classes with him. We also hear some of Hamish’s compositions, as he tells us about the voices – or auditory hallucinations – that affect his songwriting. And hear how important returning to music has been for his wellbeing and mental health. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Dan

  • Cholera cases surge in Zimbabwe

    18/10/2023 Duración: 26min

    More than 100 people are suspected to have died in Zimbabwe in the most recent outbreak of cholera there. Almost 5,000 possible cases have been reported across the country, with the Zimbabwean government moving to ban large gatherings to prevent the spread of the water-borne disease. Claudia Hammond is joined by BBC health reporter Philippa Roxby to discuss how authorities are hoping to avoid a repeat of the last major cholera epidemic in the country, which killed more than 4,000 people in 2008. We also hear about the Cardiff Model for Violence Prevention, which started out as a PhD project and is now used across the world to help authorities discover where violence is taking place and how it can be prevented. Claudia speaks to the man behind the idea, and the doctor now hoping to introduce it to cities across the US. Claudia and Philippa also look at new calls for urgent action to address male fertility around the world. And we travel to Sierra Leone to hear about what has been described as a ‘diabete

  • US proposes world first policy to reduce STIs

    11/10/2023 Duración: 26min

    ‘Doxy PEP’, or doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis, is where a common antibiotic is given to someone shortly after having unprotected sex to avoid the chance of them getting an STI like chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis. It’s an idea being put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA to cut STI rates. If their proposal is rolled out across the country, it would be the first national guideline recommending Doxy PEP for certain individuals, anywhere in the world. Claudia Hammond speaks to Professor Annie Luetkemeyer about the evidence for Doxy PEP, and hears from a Canadian man who had syphilis. BBC Health and Science Correspondent James Gallagher brings Claudia new research on the most effective COVID-19 disease trackers. And a study from Sweden which could help us understand why people live beyond 100, by analysing their blood. And they hear from people around the world who have come together to talk about grief. The New Normal is a charity that has its roots in a barber shop

  • Malaria vaccine backed by WHO

    04/10/2023 Duración: 26min

    A vaccine for malaria that can be produced cheaply on a large scale has been recommended for use by the World Health Organisation. It was developed by the University of Oxford, and is only the second malaria vaccine to be developed. Claudia Hammond is joined by New Scientist health reporter Clare Wilson to look at how the new vaccine works, and why it’s proven so hard to find a way to inoculate against malaria. We also look at major new research that’s found women are facing major inequalities in cancer care around the world, with calls for a feminist approach to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. Claudia and Clare also discuss this week’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Professors Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman are sharing the prize for their work developing the technology that led to the mRNA Covid vaccines. And we hear whether or not there’s evidence that mental health ‘first aid’ courses have real medical benefits. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Dan Welsh

  • The deadly practice of gum lancing

    27/09/2023 Duración: 26min

    Gum lancing is a tradition practiced on babies in some parts of the world. It’s done with good intentions, and involves extracting the teeth of infants with symptoms such as a fever or diarrhoea in the belief it will cure them. It can be fatal though, with tooth buds sometimes being removed using unsafe, unsterile instruments such as nails, and without anaesthesia. We hear from a family in Kenya who lost children that underwent the procedure, a dentist raising awareness of its dangers in the country, and Claudia Hammond speaks to dental public health expert Dr Kristina Wanyonyi-Kay to find out more about the practice. Claudia is also joined by BBC health reporter Smitha Mundasad to discuss new research on the Covid drug molnupiravir, suggesting it could be leading to new mutations of the virus passing between people. We also hear from a listener who wants to know if eye exercises can stop our sight deteriorating as we get older, and from an ophthalmologist with the answer. And how scientists have discov

  • Could global AIDS program be cut?

    20/09/2023 Duración: 27min

    The PEPFAR scheme was launched by George W Bush in 2003 to provide HIV and AIDS relief around the world. Officials say it’s since saved more than 25 million lives in 55 different countries. Now, though, its future could be under threat. With its funding due to expire at the end of September, some US Republicans are pushing for it not to be renewed because of alleged links to services providing abortions. Claudia Hammond is joined by professor of epidemiology at Boston University, Matt Fox, to look at what the outcome could mean for global AIDS provision. We also hear from scientists in Nigeria and the US about the groundbreaking discovery of a gene variant in people of African ancestry that increases the risk of Parkinson’s Disease. Claudia and Matt also look at a new study suggesting a minority of people who are sceptical of vaccines are less likely to get their dogs inoculated. We hear from researchers in Germany looking at whether getting people to exercise while undergoing chemotherapy could improv

  • Do men have a friendship problem?

    13/09/2023 Duración: 26min

    The author Max Dickins was preparing to propose to his girlfriend when he came to a realisation: he didn’t have anyone he felt he could ask to be his best man. It prompted him to write the book ‘Billy No-Mates’, looking at why he didn’t have any close male friends any more, and asking if men, in general, have a friendship problem. In a special discussion in front of a live audience at the Cheltenham Science Festival in England, Claudia Hammond speaks to Max about his journey. They’re also joined by Robin Dunbar, a Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford University who’s spent decades researching friendships in humans and other primates, and Radha Modgil, a practicing GP and wellbeing expert whose book ‘Know Your Own Power’ looks at what advice there is for people facing difficulties as they go through life. The panel look at what psychology can teach us about friendships between men, the difference these relationships can make to our mental health, and the best way of both maintaining the friendship

  • Opioid overdose antidote made available in US

    06/09/2023 Duración: 26min

    With deaths from opioid overdoses rocketing to more than 100,000 people each year, the US has moved to make the drug Naloxone available to buy in pharmacies for the first time there this week. The nasal spray treatment can revive people who have overdosed within minutes. Claudia Hammond is joined by Dr Ann Robinson to hear how the drug works, and what lessons the US can learn from how other countries around the world are using it. We also hear from the first polar research team to try to tackle taboos over menstruation by training the next generation of Arctic and Antarctic scientists how to deal with having your period during an expedition. Claudia and Ann look at new research suggesting the morning after pill becomes more effective when taken with anti-inflammatory drugs. And we find out whether opposites do truly attract, as a new study on romantic relationships uncovers what happy couples do and don’t have in common. Image Credit: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty I

  • What happened to babies with Zika virus

    30/08/2023 Duración: 26min

    In March 2015, Brazil reported a large outbreak of the Zika virus infection. Over the next year, the disease became a global medical emergency. Thousands of babies were born brain-damaged, after their mothers became infected while pregnant. As the World Health Organisation discusses the current global Zika situation and the lessons learned from the outbreak, Claudia Hammond is joined by Dr Graham Easton to hear from the families affected in Brazil and ask what life is now like for the babies who were born with complications. We also hear about new recommendations for how communities around the world can better prevent Sudden Cardiac Death, as well as research on whether how far away you are from a defibrillator is related to how deprived your area is. Claudia speaks to a psychiatric nurse and the woman who says she saved her life by going above and beyond the call of duty. And we hear about the world first from Australia, where scientists discovered a living worm in the brain of a woman who’d been experie

  • Disgraced surgeon appeals prison sentence

    23/08/2023 Duración: 26min

    When former transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini first implanted a synthetic trachea into a patient more than a decade ago, it was hailed as a breakthrough. But the person he operated on died, as did subsequent patients. And in 2013, Macchiarini was reported to Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, where he had carried out the operations, for scientific misconduct. Over the years, Health Check has followed the story and in this programme we hear the latest as Macchiarini appeals against a prison sentence in Sweden for gross assault. Claudia Hammond is joined by BBC health and science correspondent James Gallagher who has been finding out whether eating his meals quickly or slowly is better for his health. And he brings us news from the USA of one of the first functional kidney transplants from a pig into a human. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Dan Welsh

  • Contaminated cough syrup found in Iraq

    16/08/2023 Duración: 26min

    Iraq is the latest country to report a batch of contaminated cough syrup according to the World Health Organisation. It’s the latest in a string of health alerts issued by WHO in the last 12 months. According to reports, 300 children died worldwide last year by taking contaminated cough syrups. BBC health reporter Philippa Roxby joins Claudia Hammond to discuss this and the latest health research. When the Ugandan government passed tough anti LGBTQ legislation in May, health experts claimed it would have a devastating effect on HIV healthcare services. We hear from a clinic in Kampala where people living with HIV are scared to collect their medicine. And Claudia speaks to Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of California Berkeley in the USA, Bob Knight. His team are trying to improve technology for people who struggle with speech by decoding brain signals. All with a bit of help from classic rock music. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Clare Salisbury

  • A closer look at leprosy

    09/08/2023 Duración: 26min

    In the week that the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that leprosy was now endemic in the South-eastern United States, Claudia Hammond looks at global action on leprosy with science journalist Kamala Thiagarajan. There is an international effort to learn more about weaning seriously ill people off ventilator support in hospitals. We hear about the Weansafe study from Ireland. Professor of integrated community child health at University College London, Monica Lakhanpaul joins Claudia in the studio to discuss why the roll out of a new vaccine for RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) in the US could be a gamechanger. And why on your next trip to a hospital, you could see groups of elderly in-patients going on walks. Could it help prevent the effects of bedrest? Image: Leprosy, nerve biopsy, nerve fibres surrounded by histiocytes Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Clare Salisbury

  • Henrietta Lacks’ family settle lawsuit

    02/08/2023 Duración: 26min

    Henrietta Lacks was only 31 years old when she died from cervical cancer in 1951. While she was in hospital in the USA, her cells were harvested without her knowledge which, since being replicated infinitely, have gone on to enable research into cancer, dementia and Parkinson’s. As well as contributing to the development of vaccines for polio and COVID-19. Her family have fought for decades to get justice for the “stolen” cells, and this week reached a settlement with Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. The United Nations says we now live in the era of "global boiling". As temperatures continue to soar across the southern USA, the BBC’s Health and Science Correspondent James Gallagher heads to a high-tech heated chamber in the UK, on a mission to find out how hot is too hot for our bodies to cope with. In Sweden, dentist Dr Nivetha Natarajan Gavriilidou tells Claudia Hammond about her work using the bone structure of the jaw to predict how we might get shorter as we age. Could it lead to dent

  • Playing catch up on childhood immunisations

    26/07/2023 Duración: 26min

    The World Health Organisation and UNICEF say global immunisation services reached 4 million more children in 2022 compared to the previous year, after a huge backslide during the Covid 19 pandemic. But the progress in countries like India and Indonesia masks continued decline in many lower income countries. Global health expert Tabitha Mwangi and Claudia Hammond discuss how immunisation numbers can bounce back. They also look at new research from Sub-Saharan Africa that suggests as many as one in 10 teenagers might have high blood pressure, and what might be the most effective way of lowering it? While you may be gripped by the action from the Women’s football World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Dr Kerry Peek is keeping a careful eye on the games for health reasons. She’s one of a team of ‘concussion spotters’ deployed this year for the first time at the tournament. Claudia asks her why professional sports women are more at risk from head injuries than men. And are you a perfectionist? Psychologist Dr

  • A new era for Alzheimer’s drugs?

    19/07/2023 Duración: 26min

    Just months after the ‘momentous’ announcement of the first drug shown to slow the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, the results of a global trial into another have been published. The antibody medicine donanemab helped people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s by slowing the pace of the brain’s decline by about a third. Dr Graham Easton joins Claudia Hammond to look at what another ‘breakthrough’ means in practice. They also look at new evidence from the USA that giving hearing aids to older people at risk from dementia could be another way to slow cognitive decline in some people. While caring for women in childbirth, midwives are expected to be compassionate. Claudia hears from Dr Halima Musa Abdul, Senior Lecturer in Nursing Science at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, and to Dr Kaveri Mayra, who trained in India and is now a researcher at the University of British Columbia. They say that particularly in lower and middle income countries, midwives aren’t being shown enough compassion at work themselves

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