Transcript of WHO podcast - 29 June 2007
New study on long travel and blood clots; how to stay safe in the summer sun; interview with WHO Assistant Director-General
Iain Simpson: You’re listening to the WHO podcast for the week of June 30th 2007. I'm Iain Simpson.
In this episode:
- new study shows risk of blood clots rises after long travel, although the risk is still relatively low;
- how to stay safe in the summer sun;
- a new WHO Assistant Director-General sets out her hopes for improving the health of mothers, children and the communities where they live.
This week, WHO published the results of a major study that looked into the risks of developing blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT following long travel. The study began as a result of concerns over people who became suddenly ill and, in some cases, died after developing a blood clot following a long journey. It was originally set up to look at risks associated with flying, but the study concluded that, in fact, the risk of developing a blood clot is closely linked with being seated and immobile, particularly for more than four hours at a time. Although the risk remains relatively low, at about one in 6000, experts recommend that people should exercise their calf muscles by moving their feet and ankles and avoid wearing tight clothing during travel. Dr Shanti Mendis was in charge of the study:
Dr Shanti Mendis: The risk is to form deep vein thrombosis in any form of travel: air, bus, car and train. The important factor is immobility. So what you need to do is try to be mobile. Try to move yourself, particularly your feet and your legs. If there is an opportunity, walk about when you get a chance, and when it is safe.
Iain Simpson: News reports in Europe this week have been full of worries about the weather. In southern Europe, unusually hot weather has seen temperatures touching 45 degrees Celsius. Further north, cold weather has been accompanied by torrential rain and flooding. But, in theory at least, this is summer in the northern hemisphere. And with the arrival of summer comes an increasing risk of skin cancer. Every year, as many as 60 000 people die from skin cancer. Most of those deaths could be prevented if people took steps to protect themselves from the harmful effect of the sun. Dr Maria Neira runs the WHO department for Public Health and the Environment.
Dr Maria Neira: What we are recommending is to be wise in the way we are exposed in the sunlight. People are going out on holiday, so we want them to be careful. Children should be kept outside of the sun, especially if they are very small. But this is about everybody. Everybody is concerned about this. Obviously, children and very old people are much more vulnerable, but people with very white skin will also be very much at risk.
Iain Simpson: We know that our children like to be outside in the sun. We can't stop them from playing in the sun. So, what are the kinds of things we can tell them in order to prevent them from putting themselves at risk?
Dr Maria Neira: Clothes. Put on the right clothes to protect them. Obviously, you have to put cream (sunscreen) on as well. They get hot, so you have to make sure they are not playing outside during the most difficult hours of the day. But for the rest, let them enjoy and play outside, but always very well protected. And be careful, if you put on sunscreen, make sure that every two hours you renew this protection.
Iain Simpson: Daisy Mafubelu recently joined WHO as the Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health. She is a citizen of South Africa. Previously, she worked in the Permanent Mission of South Africa in Geneva, Switzerland. When she came into the WHO studio, Chris Powell asked her about her background.
Daisy Mafubelu: Well, I come from what I describe as very humble beginnings, from the grassroots as a nurse and midwife. I have seen the joys and tragedies of childbirth, for example. Having seen all those things, I came up through the ranks. I have been given an opportunity to teach nursing in all these aspects. When South Africa came out of apartheid, when it went into the first democratic elections, I was given another opportunity to get involved in the restructuring of the Health Department to ensure that its various fragmented apartheid administrations would be made into one that could serve all the peoples of South Africa together. That is really when I became involved in the management of health services.
Chris Powell: What, do you think, are your qualities which allowed you to have this very grassroots background and then follow it through to highest management?
Daisy Mafubelu: I have been a person who always wanted to be challenged, always wanted to see if I could meet certain challenges. I am motivated by pressures and challenges. I'm also a person who has been involved in a number of structures that were looking at change. I was always there when something was happening. And I have always been willing to accept responsibility. I would say to myself that if somebody comes to me and asks me to do something, it means that they have seen something in me that says "We think she can do it". If they think I can do it, I think I can do it. So, I grab up those challenges and move forward.
Chris Powell: Within the Family and Community Health cluster, you've got one of the greatest challenges—child mortality. Eleven million children a year—it's just colossal. Nobody seems that bothered. What are the sorts of things you can do to get that on the agenda?
Daisy Mafubelu: One important thing will be to advocate and keep repeating these numbers that you have said—11 million children. To keep saying to people that we are losing more than 500 000 women due to childbirth and things that could easily be prevented.
Chris Powell: How important are innovations like the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which is now hosted within WHO? How important are these kinds of initiatives?
Daisy Mafubelu: This is a very important partnership because it brings together almost 130 partners that were previously working separately. Although they may have collaborated together, they have been working more as individual entities. Now, the critical structure is bringing all these together, as well as UN bodies such as WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and World Bank under one umbrella to tackle maternal, child and newborn health. That particular structure is very critical.
Iain Simpson: Thanks for listening to the WHO podcast. For the latest public health news and more information about WHO's work, visit our website at www.who.int.