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Journalism - Discovery Channel Health

I write one or two features a week for the Discovery Health Channel, usually expanding on a recent piece of news but also general features on men's health or wider topics. The features are widely syndicated and end up all over the Web.

Below is most of them, split into:

General

Brain injury care: time for a rethink - Each year, more than a million people in the UK sustain some form of head injury. The majority recover while some have severe long-term problems. But experts warn that those in between are being neglected.

Eye surgery: focusing on the risks - Laser surgery is sold as a modern, simple cure for sight problems. But Health Which? recently warned that some providers of the service are being less than honest about the procedureís risks. Whatís the story?

Addiction - Is it in our genes? - Figures suggest that addiction causes 150,000 deaths in the UK each year, and researchers believe we may soon be able to pinpoint the genes responsible. But is it really all in our DNA or do we make a conscious choice to become an addict?

Put your back into it - dealing with back pain - For many people a bad back is part of life. A staggering 80 per cent of us will have at least one day of extreme back pain in our lives and half of all adults in the UK get it badly every year.

Under pressure - how two minutes could save you 16 years - What kills 40 per cent of us despite being treatable at any age? What affects a third of the population yet only a small percentage knows they have it? And what can be accurately diagnosed within two minutes using a machine that costs less than £100?

Having a gutful - keeping your intestines healthy - It may not be the sexiest topic in the world but September 2-8 is Gut Week. Promoted by the Digestive Disorders Foundation, the idea is to get people thinking about their guts. Why? Because theyíre behind 1 in 10 doctor visits and 1 in 12 deaths.

Lupus - raising awareness of a difficult disease - An estimated 50,000 people in the UK, 90 per cent of them women, are suffering from a complicated and disabling disease called lupus. The problem is that many of them donít yet know they have it.

The Big Itch - Getting Rid of Scabies - The mention of scabies is likely to have most people recoiling in horror. An infestation of small mites that dig under your skin and leave eggs to hatch along the way is hardly attractive.

When dads want to play mum - The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has just released a report that suggests men want to spend more time with their children than ever before. But are employers and the government standing in their way?

Coming in to bat - cricket as a fitness regime - You want to get fit but the idea of running on a treadmill or ploughing into an opponent doesnít really appeal. So why not take up cricket?

Personal

Turning the light on moles - Everyone has a mole or two. But what are they, where do they come from and can they be dangerous? We take a look.

Getting into hot water - jacuzzis, spas and your health - Thereís nothing more luxurious than relaxing in a hot spa or sauna after a hard dayís work. But as well as making you more relaxed, can these therapies actually boost your well-being?

Why you need to "salt" out your diet - A recent study concluded that the majority of us consume double the recommended amount of salt. But is this important? Do we need to cut down on salt - and if so, how do we do it?

Food for thought - Do you eat to live or live to eat? Do you turn to food when youíre depressed or anxious? If so, you could be jeopardising your mental and physical health, but there is a way out, and itís all about breaking the cycle of dependence.

Choosing the best time to exercise - We all know that exercising for 30 minutes a day is a prerequisite to a healthy life, but does it matter when we do it? Well, according to recent studies, timing can make all the difference.

Out to lunch, not out for the count - Itís well known that peopleís productivity falls after lunch - one recent survey suggests that what it calls "Afternoon Apathy Syndrome" is having serious financial repercussions for UK industry. It also says that what you eat may stave off afternoon lethargy.

Wearing wrinkles well - No one likes growing old and seeing their body succumb to gravity. But while an inventive use of clothes, make-up and hair styling can disguise many signs of ageing, there is one that is a lot more difficult to hide - wrinkles.

Donít panic - dealing with anxiety attacks - A panic attack can strike at any time, causing shaking, a racing heart, erratic breathing or stomach pangs. But while it might feel like youíre going crazy, experts say what is happening has the most natural causes.

Counselling - is it good to talk? - Counselling is increasingly being offered to anyone who has suffered some kind of emotional distress. But does it really work or is it little more than a modern form of cure-all snake oil?

The low down on mental breakdowns - Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. Some have a complete breakdown. But how do you stop it happening to you and, just as importantly, help those that have already been there?

Public health

Herbal medicines: are they safe? - In the past year, some traditional herbal medicines have been dismissed as ineffective, others banned and one even blamed for the death of a top athlete. So how safe are they?

SARS: killing the killer bug - A killer bug is sweeping the world, with nine people confirmed dead from an estimated 264 cases. But what is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and what are we doing about it?

Why hospices need care - Looking after people with terminal illnesses is not only vital, itís also a clear measure of societyís compassion. Yet hospices in the UK remain desperately underfunded. Whatís to be done?

CJD: are we still at risk? - In 1996, we learnt with horror that UK citizens were dying from a form of incurable rare brain disease, caught from eating poor-quality meat that had been infected with the cattle disease BSE. So are we still at risk?

Smallpox - how worried should we be? - The recent announcement that the government expects to vaccinate key health workers against smallpox as part of its contingency plan for dealing with a bio-terrorism attack might leave lesser mortals wondering where they fit into these plans.

Tuberculosis - still a threat - Tuberculosis (TB) may have a place in the popular imagination as a disease of the past - but according to the latest research, itís making a comeback.

Ethics and the future

Schizophrenia - a figment of our imagination? - Itís a sad fact that schizophrenia is greatly misunderstood by the public, but even doctors are divided over whether itís a real disease. So does it exist, and if so what are the symptoms?

ADHD: are drugs the answer? - Child prescriptions for the behavioural drug Ritalin rocketed again in the UK last year. But is this down to wider treatment of attention disorders, or a more disturbing trend of keeping kids under control with psychoactive drugs?

Sperm donors - giving away your details - The law is due to change so that people conceived by sperm donation can access "non-identifiable" information about their donor. But is this enough, or should disclosure include a donorís name and date of birth?

The designer-baby dilemma - The question of so-called "designer babies" is set to become one of the defining issues of the 21st century, standing on the ethical fault line between scientific advances and their practical applications. Is our society ready for it?

Living in a free world - should we advertise prescription drugs? - New drugs have revolutionised medicine and are becoming more easily available. So why are the only people not allowed to supply information on a particular medication - or the disease it treats - the drug manufacturers themselves?

Face off - getting to grips with face transplants - With the news that full-face transplants could be possible in the next six months, many people are worried about the ethical and moral implications, and want answers before the first operation takes place.

IVF - 25 years on - The first test-tube baby will be 25 this year. So how far have we come? With suggestions that IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) babies are more likely to have genetic disorders, and success rates still low, is it worth the risk?

A bitter pill - the making of a male contraceptive - The male contraceptive pill has been a talking point for years, but never seems to come to anything. Now scientists are confident that men may not have to wait much longer.

Men's health

Healthy variations - the state of the nation - Two recent surveys have highlighted wide variations in menís health across the UK. But why do we flourish in certain places and wilt in others - can some cities really be bad for our health?

Rolling with the punches: dealing with tragedy - Severe emotional blows in life are inevitable and can make or break a person. Recent research suggests that women cope better than men - is this true and, if so, what can we learn from them?

For better or worse - do men still fear commitment? - Itís a cliché that has inspired more than its fair share of books, programmes and plays - men are scared of commitment. But with society changing so much in the past few decades, is it time for a re-evaluation?

The long and the short of penis enlargements - In January, a surgeon was struck off for botching penis enlargement operations, and just two weeks later, media reports suggested the procedure was the most popular form of cosmetic surgery for UK men. So whatís the real story?

Impotence unzipped - With a new impotence drug, Cialis, now available in the UK and promising even better results than Viagra, have we at last found the solution to erectile problems? Or does the solution to impotence lie in more than drugs?

Boxing clever - whatís the best underwear for men? - Are you a closet Y-front wearer, or do you prefer baggy boxer shorts? Most men choose underwear that feels comfortable, or looks good. But is this all we should worry about? Could some pants actually be better for us than others?

Beer bellies - the bare facts - Last week, Italian scientists announced they'd found a gene variation that predisposed certain men to getting a flabby stomach, or "beer belly". So are some men simply destined to become fat?

Survival of the fittest - Research suggests that nearly a fifth of young men in the US could be too unfit to fight for their country. Is it about time you turned the gaze onto your own fitness levels?

Getting men to look after themselves - Incredible as it may seem, and despite huge advances in medicine, men are living no longer now than they were in 1970. In fact, an unskilled labourer can expect to live on average one year less than his counterpart in 1972 - just 68.2 years.

A job for the boys - 21st century nursing - Nursing is often regarded as a purely female occupation. But although it is dominated by women, the number of male nurses is increasing and they now account for just over 10 per cent of the profession. So how has this rise come about, and are our attitudes changing?

Senile sperm and the male biological clock - Itís long been a pub boast that a man can still produce children at 90, while women only have until the menopause. But now research suggests menís reproductive health may be just as much at the mercy of time as womenís.

Bigorexia - when bulking up can bring you down - While everyone is aware of anorexia, a condition that usually affects women and causes sufferers to mistakenly believe they are fat, fewer of us may know about the inverse form of the disease that affects men - muscle dysmorphia.

Keep on the ball: spotting testicular cancer - Few male illnesses can boast as much celebrity support as testicular cancer. But while stars such as Robbie Williams and Jonathan Ross have boosted awareness, experts complain that many men still arenít making the necessary checks.

Breaking up is hard to do: why men still have a lot to learn - The breakdown of a relationship is always difficult, but even with the stigma of publicly expressed emotion out of the way, many men are still failing to deal with their feelings properly - and that can impinge on mental and physical health.

Driving the menís health message home - Menís health is a big issue, particularly because most blokes continue to drag their heels when it comes to getting help. So whatís the answer? Could a radical approach - say, a "workshop manual" for the body - turn menís attitudes around?

Seeing red - tackling anger in men - A new survey claims that lost tempers cost the UK economy an estimated £16 billion a year. Anger in men is nothing new, but can it get out of hand, and how should we tackle the problem?





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