Out of the ivory tower and into the crowds: how social media has transformed academic conferences

What a week it’s been here in Oxford for an evidence nerd like me! First, two days of brilliant presentations, stimulating debate and some tasty and reassuringly-managable food that could be eaten standing up, without fear of finding I’d been talking to Ben Goldacre with a piece of coleslaw draped over my conference badge (I suspect he’d have been merciless). That was our Cochrane UK and Ireland 21st Anniversary Symposium, in which both ‘Cochranites’ and those not involved in the Collaboration (gasp!) gathered to discuss the challenges of the changing healthcare landscape and particularly what Cochrane might do to meet them. Hard on its heels and before we’d had time to set about changing the world, came another fabulous two day evidence-fest, Evidence Live, aimed at ‘everyone with an interest in evidence-based healthcare’. Thanks to social media, large numbers of those people were able to join in as virtual participants at both events and they certainly did! Continue reading

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Improving housing to improve health – warmth and space are key

Key message: Housing needs to have adequate space and be maintained at a comfortable indoor temperature to promote health. Improving warmth in the home can lead to better health, especially for those with inadequate warmth and with chronic respiratory disease.

Do our homes affect our health? Of course! Strong links between poor housing and poor health are well established. So improving housing conditions may improve the health of the people who live there, right? That seems a reasonable assumption, but it’s not quite so simple as it first seems. Poor housing is often one strand in a web of factors linked with poor health, such as poverty, pre-existing poor health and old age, and they can be tricky to untangle. There are also contextual factors to consider; temperature control as an influence on health may be about adequate warmth in colder countries but keeping people cool in hotter climates. Continue reading

Do selenium supplements reduce heart attacks?

Probably not, but it could increase your chance of baldness! Selenium is a trace element which is involved with thyroid hormone metabolism, the immune system and also glass making and electronics! It is available to buy as a supplement over the counter, but it is also found naturally in brazil nuts, fish, shellfish and grains. It has become popular in recent years as it has been thought to work as an antioxidant. A new review from the Cochrane Heart Group assessed the effect of this supplement on healthy adults, to test whether it prevented heart attacks. Continue reading