BBC World Service

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.


People With Mental Health Problems Can't Vote or Marry in Third of UN Member States

September 9th, 2016

Episode 112 of 158 episodes

A third of UN member states stop people with mental health problems getting married or voting in elections. That’s the finding of a global survey carried out by the World Psychiatric Association which analysed the obstacles faced by people with mental illness. Dinesh Bhugra, who’s the president of the WPA, says he was shocked by the level of discrimination – some of which stems from old laws in low and middle income countries. In more than half of the countries there was no legal protection to stop employers sacking people with mental health problems. One other issue is that there are no agreed international definitions for mental illness – and no minimum standards for diagnosis and treatment. The WPA says that 29 organisations have signed up to their mental health Bill of Rights – and he hopes they will lobby their governments to improve services for people with mental illness. Studio guest Dr Ann Robinson talks about a new review of studies analysing the impact of Vitamin D on asthma attacks. Although it does appear to reduce the occurrence of the most severe attacks, it’s not yet clear whether taking a supplement of the vitamin could help. For decades, China was the only country in the world to systematically harvest organs from executed prisoners to treat its sick patients. But now China says it has successfully ended this practice. In 2015, Chinese officials say the number of publically donated organs totalled 7700, a figure higher than the previous two years combined. But doubts persist. The BBC’s Jennifer Pak has been to Beijing and southern China to look at the system Removing part of the skull to relieve pressure on the brain of head trauma patients, halves the risk of death compared with other treatments. The global study which was led by a British doctor, found that just over 1 in 4 patients who had part of their skull removed following head injury went on to die within 6 months – compared with nearly half of patients who received just medical management. In the New England Journal of Medicine study, the patients were also followed up to a year after their injury – and again the craniectomy patients did better, with nearly half of them independent at home, compared with only a third of the medical group. Peter Hutchinson, Professor of Neurosurgery at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Cambridge says that keeping patients alive is only part of the story – the quality of life of patients following this type of head injury can vary from being in a vegetative state to disability or a good recovery. Family doctor Ann Robinson reveals some good news this week – that no cases of zika have been reported in people taking part in or watching the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But the World Health Organization has strengthened its guidance for people who’ve visited areas affected by zika. They want people to abstain from sex or use condoms for six months after they return – advice which applies to both men and women. Photo by: Newscast Online

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