What should donors do? New learning on health systems in fragile settings

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Steve

This is a guest blog by Steve Commins from Thematic Working Group on Health Systems in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States.

 

Despite fifteen years of donor efforts to define and address fragile and conflict affected states, the global aid system remains inconsistent in its approach to situations of conflict – veering from rapid (and solely) humanitarian, short term responses, to more nuanced investments in longer term tactics and support for health systems. A new set of papers provides evidence on the particularities of local fragility and the innovative ways that health systems can be strengthened even in settings in crisis.

 

The papers in a special issue for, Conflict and Health, provide new reference points to literature on health in fragile …

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Pubic hair microbes as a forensic tool

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After watching CSI, and with forensic science being more advanced than ever, it’s easy to presume that criminals leave DNA traces everywhere that can help to make a conviction if they are caught.

Human hairs come to mind as a great place to start, however, the majority of samples recovered at crime scenes are shed hairs containing insufficient levels of nuclear DNA, meaning they cannot be used to make an identification. This is because short tandem repeat (STR) analysis is performed on crime-scene DNA, where probes are attached to the sample, then it is amplified in length by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to create a DNA fingerprint. Two samples can then be compared to find if there’s a match. With …

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How can ‘conservation genomics’ help the recovery of the most endangered species?

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Crested Ibis 6. Credit Ningshan branch of State Forestry Administration China

Cheng Cheng is from the School of Life Science & Technology at Xi’an Jiaotong University, China, and Jun Yu is from the Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. They are authors of an article published in Genome Biology which has revealed the genomic ‘signatures’ of extinction events in birds. In this post they talk about how these new insights could be used to help conservation efforts of the endangered Crested Ibis in China, and prevent the extinction of other species.

Birds play important roles in ecological balance. They are found everywhere around the globe, with their species numbering nearly twice that of mammals. Unfortunately, the rate of their extinction appears to have increased in the past millennium. …

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Cooking skills program brings about changes in food attitudes and behaviors

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Research published today in BMC Public Health by Jamie Oliver’s back–to-basics home cooking skills program (Jamie’s Ministry of Food), shows that participants who completed a 10 week-cooking course, increased their vegetable consumption and cooking confidence, as well as changed their cooking and eating behaviors. In this guest blog, Alicia Peardon, CEO of The Good Foundation and Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia, talks about the merits of the program and how Australians can take steps towards combating diet-related disease.

 

The Good Foundation is a not-for-profit established in 2010 to focus on programs that promote good health and nutrition, with our first priority being Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia. We partnered with Jamie Oliver and The Good Guys to …

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Acetate helps hypoxic cancer cells get fat

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Today’s guest blog is a Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellow, Jurre Kamphorst, a researcher focusing on the metabolic stress responses in cancer cells and lead author of a study published in Cancer & Metabolism.

Unlike normal cells, cancer cells are wired to just keep on growing. This continued growth requires a constant supply of cellular building blocks, including fatty acids for cell membranes. Normally, fatty acids are mostly being made from glucose. However, tumors often face reduced oxygen levels (hypoxia), causing glucose to be only partially metabolized and secreted as lactate, instead of being used for fatty acid synthesis. We discovered that acetate substitutes for glucose as a source for fatty acid synthesis in hypoxic cancer cells.

We were initially …

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Making sense of methylation and methodology

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New research published today in Clinical Epigenetics questions the methods used in some studies for assessing DNA methylation in cancer, calling for the use of only quantitative techniques. This is a guest blog by Dr Annette Lim (Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, Australia) and Dr Alexander Dobrovic (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Australia) to explain more about the importance of how we measure DNA methylation in cancer.

Given the critical role of methylation in embryogenesis, it is not difficult to expect that dysregulation of methylation will be a fundamental element in the evolution of uncontrolled cell cycling within the cancer genome. As such, the identification of altered methylation in tumours has held promise of unlocking …

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Promise vs perils of electronic cigarettes- a new article collection in BMC Medicine

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Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, ECs) are the centre of much controversy due to public health concerns associated with some of its components including nicotine which is highly addictive. Additionally, the availability of such devices to young never-smokers and the re-normalization of smoking is a growing concern. This has been highlighted in the news lately where a study shows three times as many children have tried e-cigarettes than those who have smoked tobacco. However, on the other hand ECs are considered to be potentially less harmful than tobacco smoke and are used to aid smoking cessation.

The debate on ECs between clinicians and public health professionals has been discussed extensively at several meetings including the European Respiratory Society,

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Making Sense of Big Data: Standards in Genomic Sciences

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Nearly 20 years into full genome sequencing, today the cost of sequencing a single genome, once a feat of only the well-funded, is ceasing to be a matter of discussion. Sequencing is merely data gathering for the biology. With this change, journals too have changed. Looking to publish scientific breakthroughs, many journals have stopped considering the sequencing of a whole genome a scientific advancement, or work worthy of publication. But as the cost of sequencing drops, the amount of data in public databases rapidly accumulates. And as with all big data, its great potential lies in its size. We need to be able to view genomes in comparison. Yet there is no contextualisation for this data: what methods were …

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November blogs digest: Kissing, open access, zombie ants, and more

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There were posts on everything from diabetes to chemical sterilization in dogs across our blogs in November. Catch up on our most popular posts here:

The Impact Factor of journals converting from subscription to open access

In January, BioMed Central Publisher Stefan Busch wrote a piece about the Impact Factor trend of established journals that had joined our portfolio of open access publications. He asked whether there was an open access citation effect to observe, and whether the findings had implications for an editorial strategy? The answer was ‘yes’ to both questions.

In a new post in early November, Stefan reported additional data, which is helping the picture become more fine grained. It shows the extent and the sustainability of the Impact Factor gains …

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World AIDS Day 2014: can better access help Close the Gap?

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There is great inequality in the world, and today, on World AIDS Day, the inequality in healthcare is plainly obvious as many people do not have access to comprehensive antiretroviral therapy that is designed to help keep the disease at bay.

So, with this in mind, how could we end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, as UNAIDS state is possible in their 2014 report?

The answer is by closing the gap between those people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment and support services and those that do not. Closing the gap means empowering and enabling all people, everywhere, to access the services they need. No one should be left behind.

Stigma associated with the disease has resulted …

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