The appeal of collaborating with a government agency, or an organisation funded by one, seems obvious. It provides researchers with much needed resources and information, while also offering practitioners and policymakers a way of generating the evidence needed to design better programmes. Continue reading
Backgrounding Marx is hard to do, especially when 2018 is the 200th anniversary of his birth and a huge number of global events are focusing on the great man. This is his usual “leader of the orchestra” position, with his life-long friend, constant benefactor and sometime co-author Engels in his usual role as second fiddle. But another 200th anniversary is fast approaching: that of Engels’s birth in 1820. Best to be forewarned and forearmed. Continue reading
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Dr Fiona Lithander, Senior Research Associate, NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre.
Fiona explains how a new questionnaire could be used to increase healthy food and drink options in hospital retail outlets
At the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Bristol Biomedical Research Centre we are interested in the role the NHS plays in promoting good nutrition and health in children. Recent reports have shown a quarter of children in the UK are overweight or obese; a worrying statistic in itself, and the problem doesn’t appear to be getting any better.
NICE guidelines say that retail outlets in hospitals such as shops, cafes, restaurants and vending machines should offer healthy food and drink options, and that these options should be prominently displayed. They also say that nutritional information about the foods on their menus should be available. These guidelines do not refer to foods served to patients, although patients may have access to foods and drinks for sale onsite.
At NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre we developed a new questionnaire to help NHS Trusts assess how healthy their food and drink options are. This differs from other questionnaires in that it allows Trusts to compare their findings with the NICE guidelines. Trusts can use this questionnaire to measure how healthy prepared foods for sale are, and can make changes accordingly. These changes may involve, replacing sugary drinks with sugar-free options such as water, and replacing chocolate bars with more healthy options such as unsalted nuts.
Using this questionnaire, we measured how healthy the foods and drinks were in two Trusts, and how closely they followed NICE guidelines. Our findings showed a lack of healthy food and drink options for sale in vending machines. Nutritional information on menus was minimal, and there was limited promotion and advertising of healthy foods and drinks. Since the findings were published, both of the Trusts have made improvements.
Our plan is to further develop the questionnaire in conjunction with the NICE guidelines, so that it can be used more widely in NHS Trusts and in local authority settings, such as leisure centres. Making it easier for parents to direct their children to healthier choices should be a central element of our healthcare system.
Disclaimer: This study was supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health.
This blog was originally published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
As a former clerk of the House of Commons, the recent Newsnight coverage(i) depicting a culture of unchecked bullying and sexual harassment by some MPs took me by surprise. Not because of the allegations: the stories reported, and many more, have long been open secrets in Westminster. But because, for the first time, the corrosive culture of normalising this behaviour was revealed. What is new is that the careful investigation of reporters Chris Cook and Lucinda Day has exposed a pattern of abusive Members not being held to account, and a historic management culture of quietly moving victims who speak out. This is a culture which has normalised the acceptance of bullying behaviour, refused to shine a light on the bullies, and thus tacitly condoned it. This is the same cultural quicksand which led us to Weinstein, Bennell and Saville: a wilful collective blindness. Continue reading
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Marilyn Howard, University of Bristol Law School
The Government’s flagship benefit reform, Universal Credit, could be sailing into choppy waters.
Universal credit aims to simplify benefits and to make work pay. It does this through amalgamating different means-tested benefits and tax credits, paid for different purposes and potentially payable to a different member of a couple. Included in Universal Credit are payments previously paid separately for housing costs and for children (Child Tax Credit). Continue reading
Smart Cities apply technology, connectivity and data to the urban experience, but they could easily become Fake Cities. Their factories still produce things – but they are staffed by robots. Their cars still take you where you want to go – but they are driven by autonomous systems. You can hold their digital products in your hands – but only via a smart phone.
In the worst case, Smart Cities trade down authentic human experiences for something artificial, virtual and ersatz. But can the Smart City ever trade-up and improve on the original? Continue reading
Over a billion NHS prescription medicines are issued by pharmacists in England every year – at a cost of over £9 billion. Many of these are prescribed by GPs to manage long-term health conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
The current “repeat prescription” system allows patients to request a further supply of medicines without the inconvenience of another doctor’s appointment. Continue reading
Dr Laura Johnson, Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, discusses her new paper in which she assesses the impact of dietary patterns on obesity and how modelling may help influence change in both personal habits and public policy.
No single food or nutrient is to blame for obesity. There so many routes from diet to overeating and weight gain, and in real life foods and nutrients aren’t eaten on their own. So, it’s misleading to look at foods that way in research, it’s the overall balance of diet that matters. Continue reading
Lindsay Walker, Lindsey Pike, Marsha Wood, Hannah Durrant
Access to reliable and timely evidence is essential for parliaments to effectively execute their four main functions of scrutiny, legislation, debating and financial oversight. Sources of evidence can be diverse, with academic research only one type of information that is used in parliamentary processes.
A substantial recent study, led by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), examined the role of academic research in the UK Parliament. Findings revealed that, while research in its broadest sense is useful for parliamentary work, challenges remain, with academic research still “not cutting through”. General surveys and follow-up interviews – including with MPs, MPs’ staff, parliamentary staff and peers – identified lack of accessibility and poor communication as challenges to the use of academic research. For example, evidence in academic sources was commonly thought to be presented in a complicated way, with one MP commenting: “Academic research is usually not that user-friendly from our point of view as users”. An earlier study of UK parliamentary staff also found that academic research was seen to be “too abstruse.” Continue reading