From science to fiction and back: reflecting on Andromeda strain scenarios

Science fiction has drawn heavily from advances (or anticipated advances), promises and pitfalls of science. Writers keep creating possible future worlds and, in describing their make-up, often cover aspects involving health issues which pervade the core of human society. Science fiction’s imaginary worlds almost always take into account the implications of technological development, which can have a great impact on health. In many ways, science fiction stories have anticipated several possible developments in public health and their implications. Author, as well as director and screenwriter, Michael Crichton has served as one of the most eminent examples of how successful, influential and to-the-point science fiction can be.

 

Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942 and was educated at Harvard College and Medical School, but became a best-selling novelist with his work also spanning to cinema and television. Many of his novels, like his most notable Jurassic Park, heavily reflect his scientific background and meticulous research. Crichton was digging into science-in-the-making topics and was then writing his science fiction. Even personal experience from medical school has been his inspiration. For long periods of time he read only non-fiction and scientific journals. He was looking within the published articles for the what if that he could reincarnate into a book.

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When are we going to ditch the M-word?

(This post was first published on the Mental Health Foundation website).

We’ve come a long way in public mental health in recent years. Part of the ground that we have covered – towards making a difference in how mental health problems are perceived and how people with lived experience can be supported – is because of our concentrated efforts to tackle the stigma of ill-health. The language that we use is fundamental to that. We have managed, as a society, to move away from stigmatising and discriminatory terms like ‘mental’, ‘maniac’ and ‘madman’. But what about ‘murderer’?

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A season on the brink

globeIt’s now been a full year since I joined the Mental Health Foundation. And it certainly was an interesting year.‎‎ Leading the organisation’s public health innovation and development function has in turn led me to an extremely rewarding journey. For me, public health is – simply and above all – my means to make a difference to a world succumbing to an ever expanding rhetoric of intolerance. Continue reading A season on the brink

A questionable future

TunnelLight

Now that we are starting to slowly establish that Greece is going to become the poorest nation within one generation, it is also time to look to the future. Greece has recently focused entirely on the financial shortcomings of the economic crisis and the wider, internationally influenced, political agenda impacting on public spending. The case for health, however, is increasingly becoming the product in a can of worms that no one wants to open.

The escalating financial crisis in Greece is not only economic, but also about health and social care. Public healthcare provision is overstretched: there have been about 50% cuts in hospital budgets, secondary and tertiary care centres are understaffed, shortages of medical supplies have been reported, and the day-to-day running of healthcare services remains non-transparent and bureaucratic. In this environment, public health and prevention are taking the highest toll; public health spending has shrunk to 4% of GDP, whilst health promotion activities are by large left to underfunded non-governmental organisations.

Take vaccination for example. Continue reading A questionable future

Austerity (what else?)

BMJ_austerityI admit I was quite impressed when a recent issue of BMJ (the British Medical Journal) was published with a cover featuring the word “Austerity” in six different languages (including the Greek “Λιτότητα”). It surely must be important when such a prestigious and widely read scientific journal decides to discuss an issue that ravages less privileged countries. I mean, everyone is talking about it apparently.

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A viral year

2013Just before the end of the year, any self-respecting blog is supposed to look back and do a recap. Not necessarily believing in that but falling victim of this tradition, I’d like to share the medical headlines that caught my attention in 2013. Still working on pandemics and major epidemic outbreaks, my primary interests revolve around these and 2013 was a year that saw viruses and epidemics taking a central stage in the medical scene. But even more important than the strictly medical news is perhaps the social aspect that each one of them had. Another good reminder ahead of next year that there are determinants of health and disease that should not be neglected.

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