The Coffee Break 86

News updates this fortnight includes the latest from the Health Survey of England which monitor trends in the nation’s health; why hibernating animals could help combat obesity and singing classes to help new mothers with postnatal depression.


Population Health

Firstly this fortnight, NHS Digital have published the latest figures for the Health Survey of England which monitor trends in the nation’s health. The Health Survey for England 2018 surveyed just over 10,000 adults and children to bring together data on conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, weight, smoking and physical activity. Some of the key facts published included: 40% of adults had participated in some form of gambling activity other than the National Lottery; 43% of adults had at least one longstanding medical condition and more than half of all adults were at increased risk of chronic disease due to their waist circumference and BMI.

The Health Foundation have released their final report from the Young peoples’ future health inquiry which aims to understand the influences affecting the future health of young people and what needs to change to secure a healthy society. “While young people are preparing for adult life, they are also building the foundations for their future health. If they can secure the building blocks they need such as good quality work and housing, and build supportive relationships, then their prospects of a healthy adulthood are improved”.


Quality Improvement

Moving on, this report entitled “Bodies of Evidence”, by the Alliance for Useful Evidence, outlines the work of UK and Irish professional bodies in health, teaching and policing. The Alliance has been championing research and evaluation in the work of more than one million professionals to improve the lives of patients, pupils and the wider public. In 2017 27 professional bodies signed a “Declaration of Evidence” to make a public commitment that they expect their members to take full account of evidence in their daily decisions and advice. This report illustrates how these national institutions have been upholding that commitment.



Researchers have long recognized the fact that a wide range of animals are not affected by the same life threatening conditions that affect humans. In a new study researchers Elliott Ferris and Christopher Gregg investigated hibernating animals and questioned why they don’t suffer from obesity. In their study Ferris and Gregg note that hibernating animals actually put on weight in the build up to hibernation and become insulin resistant but can later easily shed the extra weight as their bodies automatically reverse insulin resistance. The researchers found that the genomes of different hibernating species had all, independently, evolved a series of short DNA sections called “parallel accelerated regions”. The researchers noticed that parallel accelerated regions appear close to genes linked with obesity in humans, this discovery leads them to hope that their findings will eventually help find a way of controlling not only obesity but other conditions related to metabolic mechanisms.


Mental Health

Finally, an article in The Guardian looks at a singing class, “Melodies for Mum” run by Breathe Arts Health Research. The classes aim to help new mothers with postnatal depression (PND) or at risk of it, by singing songs specially chosen to improve confidence and help them bond with babies. Since the programme began 2 years ago in South East London, 150 women have taken part. Now, funded by a £2m grant from the Wellcome Trust, it is being expanded to reach hundreds more – part of a big study into how arts interventions boost physical and mental health.