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How words can save lives

Claudia meets Professor Elizabeth Stokoe author of 'Crisis Talk' whose research shows when preventing a suicide, that words really do matter and can save lives during a crisis. Through analysing real time recordings of actual conversations between people in crisis and police negotiators, new findings highlight what can work and what doesn't.

(Picture: Vector illustration of two profiles of women with speech bubbles inside their heads. Photo credit: JakeOlimb/Getty Images.)

Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Producer: Erika Wright

'Historic' turning point for Alzheimer's

After years of setbacks, the announcement of the first drug to slow the brain's decline in Alzheimer's is being hailed as "momentous". What makes this breakthrough different?

To study the effect of the environment on our health, scientists sometimes have to look to the past. We hear from the author of a study which has uncovered how the worst recession in US history may leave an indelible mark on how well people age.

Claudia Hammond’s guest this week James Gallagher, the BBC's health and science correspondent, looks at a new single-dose treatment for sleeping sickness and claims it could help to eradicate transmission of the disease by 2030 and why monkeypox is being renamed.

Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Producer: Gerry Holt

(Picture: Human brain scan in a neurology clinic. Photo credit: Andrew Brookes/Getty Images.)

How to make surgery safer

Ask 40,000 surgeons from around the world what they would pick to scientifically investigate and what do they choose? They voted for a new trial to establish whether changing to new surgical gloves and clean instruments just before abdominal wounds are closed up during surgery, would reduce infection. Thirteen thousand operations in seven countries later (in Benin, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa) the answer to the most common complication of surgery is in, and the results are published in the journal, the Lancet. Co-author Aneel Bhangu, senior lecturer in surgery at the University of Birmingham, tells Claudia how the findings of this apparently simple step, will change surgical guidelines around the world.

We all have a space around us that we claim as our own. If anybody comes too close, we feel uncomfortable or even threatened. But what has social distancing and the pandemic done to our personal space? Science writer David Robson reports from one of the biggest brain sciences conferences in the world, Neuroscience 2022 in San Diego on new research, using virtual reality, that revealed, surprisingly, that our personal space had shrunk. But, crucially, while our personal force field has reduced, it’s also hardened. And according to the study, David says, we’re now much less tolerant if this new, reduced 'peripersonal distance' is breached.

And BBC global health correspondent, Naomi Grimley, joins Claudia in the Health Check studio and reports on the challenge to China’s Zero-Covid strategy as coronavirus cases rise; Africa’s first conference on the disabling condition club foot and a new study on acupuncture for pregnant women with lower back pain.

Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Producer: Fiona Hill

(Picture: Operating theatre staff wearing scrubs, one helping the other put on gloves. Photo credit: Jochen Sand/Getty Images.)

Genetic disease and US abortion bans

Ayoka from Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. is desperate to have a baby and her family is helping to pay for her IVF treatment. But Ayoka knows that she carries a serious genetic condition, Fragile X, which she doesn’t want to pass on to her children. She tells Claudia Hammond what it means to know that she would be prevented from having an abortion, even if pre-natal testing revealed her unborn baby had the inherited condition. That's because the state of Georgia, up until yesterday when the ban was successfully challenged in court, has restricted termination after six weeks of pregnancy. This restriction is too early for genetic testing to have taken place. So what will she do if the ban is reinstated?

Lebanon has experienced profound economic, financial and civil shocks in recent years as well as absorbing almost a million and a half refugees, a third of its total population. The strains on its infrastructure are acute and for the first time in almost thirty years, there have been outbreaks of cholera, claiming lives of young and old alike, just as there is a global shortage of cholera vaccines. Lebanon’s Minister of Public Health, Dr Firass Abiad, tells Claudia about the steps that are being taken to treat, vaccinate and restore vital infrastructure to stop the disease spreading.

And the BBC’s Science and Health Correspondent, James Gallagher, brings the latest medical findings, including how armadillos showed that the leprosy bacterium can regenerate organs, how children’s different births cause different microbiomes and different reactions to vaccinations and which smells give you a better night’s sleep.

Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Producer: Fiona Hill

(Picture: A pregnant woman lying down. Photo credit: Brooke Fasani Auchincloss/Getty Images.)

Psychological nudges for HIV treatment

South Africa's anti-retroviral programme to treat HIV infection is the largest in the world with 5.5 million people in treatment. It’s transformed this disease from an automatic death sentence, to something that can be managed as a chronic illness and the government is determined to expand the programme and get more people with HIV in treatment. It’s an ambitious plan and Claudia Hammond hears how psychological tools called "nudges", drawn from behavioural economics, are being used and tested as low-cost interventions to persuade more people into treatment. Dr Sophie Pascoe, Co-Director of South Africa’s first HIV nudge unit, Indlela, describes how the new techniques are being used.

And the plight of the Covid-19 shielders. Shannon is so vulnerable to catching the virus that she has lived apart from her husband and teenage daughter for almost two years. What’s it like having your life on hold and not being able to hug or kiss your loved ones? And Matt Fox, Professor of Global Health Epidemiology and Boston University joins Claudia to discuss the increase in cholera outbreaks and the shortage of vaccines and the new UK trial to manufacture blood in a laboratory.

Image: Beaded HIV/AIDS ribbon brooch among beaded South African flag keyrings, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Credit: Neil Overy/Getty Images)

Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Producer: Fiona Hill

5 episodes