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  1. Child obesity emergency - GPs

    The epidemic of childhood obesity is becoming an emergency, according to senior GPs.

    An entire generation could be destroyed by junk food and sugary drinks, according to the Royal College of GPs.

    It has called for a national child obesity action group to be set up as a matter of urgency.

    The call has been made in a call to chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies this week.

    It calls for more training in malnutrition and obesity for GPs.

    Dr Rachel Pryke, college clinical lead for nutrition, said: “The nutritional patterns laid out in early years can define a child’s health for life and the stark fact is that overweight children are being set up for a lifetime of sickness and health problems.

    “We are in danger of destroying the health of a whole generation of children. As parents and health professionals, we need to take responsibility and ensure that every child has a healthy and varied diet and regular exercise."

    She added: "We cannot allow our young people to become malnourished, squandering their childhood and vitality hunched over computer consoles and gorging on junk food.

    “We have reached a state of emergency with childhood obesity and the current threat to public health is most definitely ‘severe’."

    And college cancer lead Dr Richard Roope warned of a generation of patients that could die before their parents.

    He said: “We are in denial. Our children are currently amongst the most overweight in Europe. This statistic is something that we should all be extremely ashamed of and we all have a responsibility to take action and reverse the trend.”

  2. Final warning for Kent managers

    A hospital group's senior management has been put on a "final warning" after investigators found poor staffing levels and evidence of bullying.

    Regulator Monitor said it had concluded there were serious failings in patient safety and leadership at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

    The trust runs hospitals in Ashford, Margate and Canterbury.

    Monitor stepped in after a damning report from the Care Quality Commission last month.

    Hospitals chief inspector Professor Sir Mike Richards condemned care failings and a "lack of effective leadership."

    It found problems with paediatrics in two hospitals and that the A&E department at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate relied on temporary staff, putting patients at risk.

    Monitor said if special measures were not effective it would take action to replace senior managers and board members.

    Monitor regional director Paul Streat said: "The trust needs to urgently improve the safety of care for patients, and strengthen its management to better support frontline staff. By putting the trust into special measures we can ensure they turn things around quickly.

    “Senior leaders need to listen to and work with all staff to understand and tackle problems on their wards."

    The trust says it is now recruiting extra nurses - up to 69 - and seeking to improve its appointment systems.

    It is also placing its hopes on a new hospital in Dover.

  3. Low cost test for sickle cell

    A new test for sickle cell disease could cost just a few pence a time, researchers revealed last night.

    The test provides results in just 12 minutes.

    Developers say it could be a breakthrough for developing countries which cannot afford the technology to test for the condition.

    The device, developed at Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA, uses the simple idea that blood cells affected by sickle cell are denser than normal cells.

    It uses polymers to separate blood cells by density. A patient simply has to give a drop of blood from a finger prick and this is analysed in a thin tube.

    The findings were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    So far the idea has been tested on some 52 samples of blood, half of them involving sickle cell disease.

    Researcher Ashok Kumar said: "We wanted to make the test as simple as possible. The idea was to make it something you could run from just a finger prick. Because these gradients assemble on their own, that meant we could make them in whatever volume we wanted, even a small capillary tube.

    "The best way to state it is in terms of the actual problem. About 300,000 children are born every year with sickle cell disease, and the vast majority – about 80 to 90% – are in either Africa or India, where for the most part, they aren't going to get access to the current screening tests.

    "There were studies recently that showed in sub-Saharan Africa, between 50 and 90% of the children born with sickle cell disease die before the age of five."

    Ashok A. Kumar et al. Density-based separation in multiphase systems provides a simple method to identify sickle cell disease. PNAS 1 September 2014

  4. An apple a day...

    Simply eating one item of fruit a day may be responsible for cutting the risk of heart disease and stroke by 40%, researchers reported yesterday.

    The findings come from a study in China, where growing wealth means big differences in the amount of fruit people ate.

    The findings were unveiled at the conference of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona, Spain.

    Researchers studied more than 451,000 people in ten different parts of the country, half rural and half urban.

    They found that 6.3% of people never ate fruit and just 18% had a daily portion of fruit. There was a 40% difference in the risk of heart disease and stroke between the two groups.

    Those who ate the most fruit also had the lowest blood pressure.

    The analysis was conducted by Dr Huaidong Du, from Oxford University, UK, said: "Our data clearly shows that eating fresh fruit can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including ischaemic heart disease and stroke (particularly haemorrhagic stroke). And not only that, the more fruit you eat the more your CVD risk goes down.

    "It does suggest that eating more fruit is beneficial compared to less or no fruit."

    Tracy Parker, of the British Heart Foundation - which helped fund the research, said: “This study adds to the growing body of evidence that shows the more fruit and vegetables we eat the better our heart health. Even eating just one more portion a day helped lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, which should give us all that extra incentive.

    "This research only looked at the benefits of fresh fruit, but if you’re struggling to meet your five a day, remember fresh, frozen, dried or tinned in juice all count.

    "Try adding fresh fruit to your cereal, keeping an apple in your bag for a snack on the go, or having tinned fruit in juice for dessert for quick and easy ways to up your intake.”


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