The media’s smoke screen for screening!

The media’s smoke screen for screening!

The brilliant charity Sense About Science has provided me with yet another opportunity to promote the amazing work it does. As part of their effort to debunk science myths and misconceptions, Sense about Science, produces ‘Making sense of’ guides which tackle a variety of misunderstood scientific areas. The areas covered range from statistics to genetic modification. Recently, Sense about Science released a new edition of ‘Making Sense of Screening’ on the emotive area of screening. The guide aims to draw out the common misconceptions around screening and discuss both its pros and cons.

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Public expectations of screening are very unrealistic. But who is to blame for this? In part, the portrayal of screening in the media and in public discussion. High profile cases covered in the media, often involving celebrities or emotive case studies, allows the issue to be sensationalised and the debate skewed. This has led to calls for more regular screening, for more of the general population to increase earlier stage detection. But what’s lost from the debate is the discussion of potential harms as well as the benefits.

Many people are shocked to hear that not all of the population will benefit from screening. No screening test is 100% accurate, which means the use of screening to detect tumours, in say breast cancer, will result in some people being overdiagnosed and receiving unnecessary treatment. Similarly if you get screened and celebrate the news of an all clear, it doesn’t mean you won’t develop that disease later in life and rarely, there are false negative results – where the disease marker is not detected.

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Screening is an important tool that can indicate if you are at high risk of developing a disease and tells professionals what might need to be done. It can play essential role within our healthcare system. However public misconceptions have resulted in the demand on screening becoming excessive. Making Sense of Screening aims to bring clarity to the issue and centre the debate around the scientific evidence of harms and benefits. This guide is extremely important and a huge leap in the right direction towards recalibrating public perceptions of healthcare.

 

Rosie Brian

Scientist in training

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Get them plates cleared!

2015, a new year a new cause? Last year we saw an eruption of charities using social media to raise awareness. We can all remember the likes of the no makeup selfie and ice bucket challenge which, although criticised,  raised awareness and funds. Whilst trawling through twitter on an extremely hungover New Year’s Day I stumbled across the #clearaplate initiative which is supported by Oxfam and Unilever. As a student studying global food security the hashtag surrounding food caught my eye.

#clearaplateFood poverty is extending to more and more families within the UK with over half a million people relying on food provided by food banks. Today one in five families in the UK will struggle to put food on the table, however 11,500 tonnes of food will go in the bin. You have to agree this paradox is startling and raising awareness is vital.

Reducing food inconstancies is the main message behind #clearaplate. The hashtag is part of a unified project run by nilever and Oxfam called Project Sunlight. The project has already successfully served 2 million meals to struggling individuals. The use of twitter to try and raise awareness of this is extremely important as many of us can quite easily be blissfully unaware of such problems. The public need to be on side to think sustainably about food and cooking to help feed the UK population. Project Sunlight has worked with the Trussell trust to set up over 40 new food banks within the UK, to find your nearest food bank click here. Over the course of next year, Unilever, in partnership with Oxfam, will pledge an additional 500,000 meals to help those struggling to put food on the table. The Project Sunlight website also has a lot of ideas, recipes and advice to help people to reduce the amount of food waste they produce. Click here to find out more about Project Sunlight and #clearaplate.

food bankThe aim behind the #clearaplate can also be seen by many other projects emerging within the UK, for example the opening of a pay as you feel café within Leeds. The Real Junk Food Project  running this café uses foods thrown away from large stores to whip up culinary masterpieces, you then pay what you feel the food was worth (what you can afford). It was even written that if you are unable to pay for your meal, you are able to do the pot wash in return. The real junk food project initiated in Leeds and has since expanded throughout many of the UKs larger cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol due to its success. To find out more about the Real Junk Food Project see their website, twitter and Facebook.

real junk food project

If we can trend #clearaplate we not only support food banks but also help the success of the Real Junk Food projects which are critical to food security and stability. So start a fresh this New Year, clear out your cupboards and donate what you can. Let’s make 2015 the year to end food poverty!