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This week's Friday Five: 21/4/23

MPs condemn failure to address racial inequalities in maternal health

MPs have condemned the work of ministers, who they argue have done little to address glaring racial inequalities in UK maternal health. In a new report, the Women and Equalities Committee have highlighted that maternal death rates in deprived areas are currently on the rise, with women in the poorest areas about two and a half times more likely to die in childbirth than those from the richest areas.

The figures also revealed that black women were almost four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. In the report, it was argued that the government alongside NHS leaders have: "underestimated the extent to which racism plays a role" across maternal health services. MPs have argued for a better-staffed maternity workforce and more representative maternity data across clinical studies to help deliver more personalised care to pregnant women and new mothers and ensure policymakers have access to accurate ethnicity information.

Discussing this report, Laura Seebohm, the chief executive of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance said: “Enduring inequalities in maternity care continue to be deeply shocking. All women, babies and families have a right to high-quality, compassionate care during and after pregnancy. The human and economic consequences of failing to provide this are significant, making it vital that such disparities in maternal experiences and outcomes are addressed.”

Read more at the Guardian

Scientists develop breakthrough "mini-heart" in a petri dish

A team of scientists have developed a beating "mini-heart" by using approximately 35,000 pluripotent stem cells. These cells, which are formed in petri dishes, are made into a sphere using a centrifuge.

This "mini-heart" has been developed to help scientists learn more about the earliest stages of the human heart and to help develop treatments for a range of heart defects including heart attacks. Scientists also hope that this new research will help to provide further insight into the early stages of life, such as why the foetal heart can repair itself - something the adult heart is unable to do.

Discussing the implications of this new research, Dr Alessandra Moretti, Professor of Regenerative Medicine in Cardiovascular Disease at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and head of this study said: “In this way, we mimic the signalling pathways in the body that control the developmental programme for the heart. To understand how the heart is formed, epicardium cells are decisive. Other cell types in the heart - for example in connecting tissues and blood vessels - are formed from these cells. The epicardium also plays a very important role in forming the heart chambers.”

Read more at The Independent

Cancer survivors identified at increased cardiovascular risk

A new study from researchers at Queen Mary University of London finds that cancer survivors may be at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease in later life. However, this risk could be identified through having heart scans, highlighting a need for more personalised follow-up care for cancer survivors.

Dr Zahra Raisi-Estabragh at Queen Mary University of London and her colleagues assessed the heart health of over 18,000 UK Biobank participants. All participants involved in the research had a previous cancer diagnosis including lung, breast, prostate, blood and bowel. Researchers compared their cardiovascular health to participants with no cancer history over 12-years. The research found that a third of cancer survivors went on to develop a cardiovascular problem during the study, compared to a quarter of people in the control group. The highest rates of cardiovascular disease were found in individuals with a previous diagnosis of lung and blood cancer.

Discussing the impact of this research, Martin Ledwick, the head information nurse at cancer research UK said: This study adds to existing knowledge about the impact of some cancer treatments on cardiovascular disease in cancer survivors. It may help to inform strategies for how some cancer survivors need to be monitored long-term, especially in situations where they have been discharged from cancer follow-up to the care of their GPs."

Read more at the Guardian

Coronavirus linked to new diabetes diagnoses

New research by the University of British Columbia reveals that getting Covid could more than triple the chance of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within a year of being affected.

The study found that men, even those with mild cases of Covid, were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to non-infected men. For women, the increased diabetes risk did not appear unless they became severely ill. For both men and women, those with the most severe cases of Covid were at the highest risk of developing diabetes. Those who were hospitalised for Covid had their risk of developing type 2 diabetes double and individuals admitted to intensive care units had their risk more than triple.

The study, which was published in Jama Network Open, analysed the health data of over 600,000 people from 2020-2021, 20% of those involved were diagnosed with Covid. The majority of participants involved in the study had not received their Covid vaccinations as vaccines were primarily unavailable during this period.

Discussing the implications of these findings, researcher and University of British Columbia professor Naveed Z. Janjua said: “This is definitely a concern in terms of long-term outcomes. With a respiratory infection, you usually think, ‘Seven or eight days and I’m done with it, that’s it.’ [But] here we’re seeing lingering effects that are lifelong.”

Read more at WebMD

Quote of the week

A new analysis reveals that women working in mental healthcare are paid on average 6% less than their male colleagues. The data, which analysed the pay across 49 mental health trusts, found that there were only three trusts in which there was no difference in hourly pay between male and female mental health staff (nurses, psychiatrists and healthcare assistants).

Discussing this, Dr Beena Rajkumar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:

“Many NHS mental health trusts have struggled to make progress on this issue since they were first required to publish their gender pay gap data in 2017. They are still decades away from closing the gap and every year they fail to act is another year that women are forced to settle for less than they are worth.”

Read more at the Evening Standard


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