Posts By / mfancy

Conversation article: What 16,000 missing coronavirus cases tell us about how the UK is handling the pandemic

The temporary loss of data relating to 16,000 positive cases of COVID-19 has raised serious concerns about the operation of the UK’s test and trace system. The NHS body responsible, Public Health England, blamed a technical glitch and said cases were added to the system immediately after the problem was spotted. Despite this quick action, many thousands of people have been affected because they were not warned about their contact with an infected person as soon as they could have been.

Most of us would agree that human life is sacred and that COVID-19 deaths should be minimised, if not eradicated. On this basis, we could argue that the Test and Trace system has, until now, shown some serious flaws. However, we are living in a time of great social, medical and personal uncertainty and this must be taken into account.

Across the globe, all governments have faced the same problem: no one is sure what we are dealing with in terms of severity, spread, impact, solutions, and a whole range of previously unencountered problems. In response, we can say that no government has the correct answer because everything is so uncertain.

A crowd of people enters Oxford Circus underground station next to a sign warning them to maintain a social distance of 2 metres.
16,000 cases of coronvairus were left out of official figures for England. Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Managing uncertainty

Uncertainty is a concept familiar to scientists and the medical profession, but less popular with governments and voters. At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was uncertain of the total number of COVID-19 deaths that would happen across the globe. Even today, no one knows. So governments face the challenge of trying to make popular decisions when the true facts are not known. In turn, the desire for certainty affects policy decisions, which impacts voter opinions and election outcomes.

Systems like the UK’s Test and Trace programme are designed to reduce uncertainty by collecting more information, analysing the growing dataset and helping the government, the NHS and the public better understand the risks. When the system failed to include 16,000 known cases, an opportunity to reduce uncertainty was missed. If the affected individuals had been given the information that they had been in contact with an infected person, then they would have better information about their own probability of catching the virus.

COVID-19 has stimulated a range of different policy choices across the globe. At one extreme, New Zealand is pursuing a policy of complete certainty: the goal is zero COVID-19 cases. At the other extreme, Sweden’s lax approach leaves many citizens unsure if they will become ill. In between, UK policy is like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between more controls and more freedom, trying to respond to the inevitable balance between certainty and uncertainty that all countries face.

People on a street in Stockholm.
Sweden has taken a remarkably lax approach to the virus. Fredrik Sandberg/EPA

While the general perception is that governments are trying to fight the pandemic with differing degrees of success, from an analytic perspective the truth is different: politicians are focusing on trying to create policy certainties during a time of immeasurable medical uncertainty. In this situation, there will always be errors, mistakes, unforeseen consequences, bunglings, confusions and wrong steps.

Because no one really knows what will happen with COVID-19 in the coming months and years, the UK Test and Trace system was a political compromise. Like the idea of total eradication from a new vaccine, the system will never give the population complete certainty in terms of risks, cases and personal health status. COVID-19 is just too complex to be managed by an information system alone. But if reports are correct, analysts in the NHS should have known that their Test and Trace system was too data-rich to rely upon the manual use of Excel to record patient COVID-19 data. On this ground, the NHS has failed to manage its system properly.

Worrying times

The Test and Trace system will never work with the certainty that politicians promise. The virus is too chaotic when it travels through society; managing health services effectively is notoriously difficult and information systems are famed for failing to deliver as promised. Instead, perhaps the message should be that the situation is complex and messy, but an imperfect system is better than nothing. Therefore, the 16,000 cases are not a failure of the system, but an expected uncertainty that is just a sign of worrying times.

Although we must be realistic about what is possible in the current pandemic, there are definite lessons to be learnt from the Test and Trace fiasco. First, the government should manage expectations and explain that systems fail, especially when they are new. Next, the government is clearly working outside its comfort zone in dealing with the pandemic and urgent action should be taken on what policy is trying to achieve. Finally, it’s clear that the NHS doesn’t have enough people with the right analytical skills to run a modern health system in these troubling times.

Whilst there may be many different opinions on what to do next, there is one thing we must face: the uncertainties created by COVID-19 are real and no policy, however well designed, will make them go way any time in the foreseeable future.

Professor of Health Economics, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Five ways to increase protein intake as we age

Two older women eat lunch together.

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. It helps us build and maintain strong muscles and bones, helps us better recover from illness and injury, and reduces likelihood of falls and fractures. But, as we age, many of us don’t get enough protein in our diet. This is partly because our appetites diminish naturally as we get older. Convenience, effort, and value for money, are also reasons that older adults may not get enough protein.

However, protein is extremely important as we age. This is because our bodies become less able to convert the protein we eat into muscle and other important biological factors that help us better recover from illness and injury – so we actually need to eat more protein as we get older.

Here are five tips to help you get enough protein in your diet as you age.

1. Add sauces and seasonings

Research shows that the taste and flavour of high-protein foods can encourage older adults to consume more of them. And taste and flavour are easily added with sauces and seasoning.

In studies where we have offered older adults a hot chicken meal either with or without sauce or seasoning, we find more chicken was eaten from the meals with sauce or seasoning compared to plain meals. Meals with sauces and seasonings were also rated as more pleasant and tastier than the plain meals.

Adding sauces and seasonings to meals can increase the consumption of high-protein foods. Participants also subsequently ate equal amounts of protein at the next meal following flavoured meals and plain meals, meaning that their protein intake was increased overall.

2. Add cheese, nuts or seeds

Some foods that add flavours are naturally high in protein themselves. Good examples are strong cheeses – like blue cheese – as well as nuts and seeds.

As well as protein, cheese is full of calcium and other micronutrients, including Vitamins A, D and B12, which also help maintain strong bones. Cheese can be easily added to soups, salads, pasta or mashed potatoes.

Nuts and seeds can be added to breakfast cereals, salads and desserts such as yoghurts, and can provide an interesting texture as well as added flavour. Nuts and seeds are good sources of plant-based protein, and are also high in healthy fats, fibre, and many vitamins and minerals, and can reduce risk of many chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. However, nuts and seeds may not be suitable for everyone (as they can be difficult to chew), but cheese is soft and full of flavour.

3. Eat eggs for breakfast

Breakfast meals tend to be low in protein – so eating eggs for breakfast is one way to boost protein intake.

Our recent study found egg intake could be increased by providing people with recipes and herb or spice seasoning packets that increased the taste and flavour of eggs. We gave participants recipes that used both familiar and exotic ingredients, from a variety of countries, for dishes that required a range of preparation methods. Egg intakes increased after 12 weeks by 20%, and were sustained for a further 12 weeks in those who had received the recipes.

Fried eggs in a pan.
Eggs for breakfast are an easy way to get more protein. Mary Volvach/ Shutterstock

Eggs are a nutritious source of protein, and are typically easy to prepare and chew, good value for money and have a long shelf life. Egg dishes can also add taste and flavour to the diet. However, eggs may not be suitable for everyone (including those with certain diagnosed conditions), but for most people egg consumption is considered safe.

4. Make it easy

Try to make cooking as quick and easy as possible. Many types of fish are available that can be eaten directly from the pack, or simply need heating – such as smoked mackerel or tinned sardines. Fish is also full of many vitamins and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (which are present in oily fish like salmon) which is good for heart health. To allow easier and quicker cooking, purchase meat that is pre-cut, pre-prepared or pre-marinated, or fish that has been deboned and otherwise prepared, and then make use of your microwave. Fish can be very easily and quickly cooked in the microwave.

Beans, pulses and legumes are also easily bought in cans and ready-to-eat, and are all rich sources of protein for those who wish to consume a more plant-based diet. They also contain fibre and many vitamins and minerals, and can protect against many chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.

5. Eat high-protein snacks

Many people reach for biscuits or a slice of cake at snack time, but try eating a high-protein snack instead next time. Many high-protein foods are already prepared and easy to consume. Some examples include yoghurts or dairy-based desserts – such as crème caramel or panna cotta. Yoghurts and other dairy-based desserts can offer many health benefits, including improved bone mineral density, as necessary for strong bones. Nuts, crackers with cheese, peanut butter, or hummus are also great choices.

Inadequate protein intake can result in poor health outcomes, including low muscle mass and function and decreased bone density and mass, leading to increased risk of falls, frailty, and loss of mobility. To avoid these harms, researchers currently recommend consuming 1.0-1.2g protein per kilogram of bodyweight for older adults compared to 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight for all adults.

 

Professor of Psychology, Bournemouth University

Lecturer of Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Clean eaters tend to have difficulty managing their emotions

What do you do when you feel anxious about an upcoming interview or angry about a friend’s unfair comment on your behaviour? You might take a few deep breaths and try to view the situation from a different perspective: it’s just an interview, not a matter of life and death. And, on calmer reflection, your friend may be right – you did react a bit strongly.

Alternatively, you may bury your feelings in a tub of ice cream. The latter is called emotional eating and some people use it to regulate their emotions.

But not everyone turns to unhealthy eating to regulate unpleasant emotions. Our latest research, published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, suggests that some people actually eat healthily to do so. You might wonder what’s wrong with drinking a GM-free raw vegetable smoothie. Surely it can’t harm you? And for most people, it is harmless. But eating healthy food can become an unhealthy obsession called orthorexia nervosa.

Pathological obsession

Orthorexia nervosa is a term coined by Steven Bratman in 1997, from the Ancient Greek “ortho” meaning right and “orexia” meaning appetite, to describe a fixation on healthy eating. As such, orthorexia nervosa has also been referred to as “clean eating”, although the term orthorexia nervosa suggests a pathological obsession, rather than yet another fad diet.

Because healthy eating and healthy lifestyles are generally considered desirable, it can be difficult to spot when healthy eating becomes an unhealthy obsession. But an obsession with healthy eating can be hard for your physical and mental health as well your relationships. It can cause arguments with family or friends over food choices and lead to social isolation.

While orthorexia nervosa is not yet a recognised diagnosis, it shares some similarities with other eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa. Research shows that people with eating disorders have trouble recognising and regulating their emotions, but this had never been shown in people with orthorexic tendencies, so this was the focus of our study.

Out of control

We recruited 196 people with an interest in healthy eating through Facebook (including 167 women in the UK with an average age of 28). We found that difficulties identifying and regulating emotions were associated with orthorexic tendencies. In particular, people with orthorexic tendencies were found to feel out of control when upset and to have difficulty knowing how to regulate their emotions. The participants in our study with orthorexic tendencies also had trouble identifying and accepting their emotional reactions.

People with orthorexic tendencies often struggled to regulate their emotions.
GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Similar to a recently published study that looked at bloggers’ experiences of orthorexia nervosa, our findings suggest that people with orthorexic tendencies may use restrictive dietary rules around healthy eating to feel perfect and in control. They also use it to cope with difficult feelings, potentially because they feel they don’t have other ways to make themselves feel better.

While not everyone who eats healthily will have orthorexic tendencies, people who use obsessive and restrictive dietary rules to regulate unpleasant feelings may be at risk of developing orthorexia nervosa.

With around half of people on Instagram using it to share food experiences, the increased prevalence of fad diets, mixed information around what we should and should not eat, health guidelines, and even climate change, more and more people may decide to eat more healthily and control what they are eating. While this may all be for a good cause, we recommend people to be conscious of when their healthy obsession may become unhealthy.The Conversation

Laura Renshaw-Vuillier, Senior Lecturer, Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ways of Seeing Sport Coaching Violence – a unique interactive installation

On Monday 4th November 2019, as part of the ESRC festival of social science, Dr Emma Kavanagh and Dr Adi Adams (Faculty of Management) alongside final year sport student Terri Harvey, curated and hosted an arts based installation to showcase their research on inter-personal violence in sport. The event adopted an innovative, immersive, sensory art-based method not traditionally utilised in sport coach education (but widely used in other ‘caring’ professions) to bring their research knowledge to life and allow coaches and other practitioners to engage with data in a dynamic manner. This was achieved through re-presenting research data collected by the BU academics in audio and visual forms.

Abuse, intimidation and violence in sport and coaching remains a significant global problem. In 2017 the British Government published the Duty of Care in Sport Review, sharing the findings of a critical inquiry into the culture and climate of elite sport in the United Kingdom. High performance sport came under significant scrutiny linked to a number of high profile accounts in the media that raised serious questions concerning the safety of elite sporting spaces and the threats they can pose to athlete welfare. Allegations of bullying, racial, sexual and gender abuse alongside other forms of discrimination have been made across Olympic and Paralympic sports. This ESRC event provided an opportunity to engage practitioners in debates surrounding the safety of sporting spaces as a way of promoting the duty of care in practice.

The event brought to life qualitative social science research data, currently available to academics through peer-reviewed journal articles through the production of an immersive arts-based installation. The data was used to enable those who attended to see/hear/feel and confront the contemporary issue of inter-personal violence in the world of sport coaching, from the perspective of ‘others’. The event aimed to bring sport coaches (and other practitioners) together around a shared concern/problem in the sport industry, with the aim of inspiring awareness, understanding, empathy, care and practical solutions to reducing interpersonal-violence. An arts and media-based approach is often adopted in the education of other ‘caring’ professions engaged in complex, difficult, ‘social’ and emotional work (e.g. nurses, medical practitioners, social workers, palliative care workers), yet has gained limited application in the sporting profession.

 

The event attracted significant attention from external practitioners, students and local organisations. Participants moved around and shared the immersive space with others, experiencing the ‘felt difficulty’ (Trevelyan et al., 2014) of ‘what it feels like’ to experience violence and intimidation as a participant in sport. It is anticipated that experiencing this ‘felt difficulty’, provoked by engaging with material that is ‘perplexing’ or ‘disorientating’ has the potential to provide a platform for coaches to reflect authentically on and transform their own practice. The impact of attending the installation is currently the topic of Terri’s dissertation and the team are excited to understand more about how participants experienced the event.

The event would not have been a success without the support of the ESRC team and, in particular, Adam Morris who helped drive the installation forward. In addition, thanks goes to the sport students who volunteered on the evening and actively engaged in the project through ‘becoming voices’. All of these people shared one passion; making sport a safer space for all those who participate in it.

Dr Mark Readman at the Creative Industries Workshop in Istanbul

Earlier this month I took part in a ‘Creative Industries Workshop’ in Istanbul. This was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Istanbul Development Agency. About 40 of us had won funding to attend – a mixture of UK and Turkish ‘experts’ (academics and industry representatives) – and we were tasked with addressing the challenges faced by Turkey’s creative industries.

The key issue presented to us was how to maximise the potential for growth, diversification and resilience in Turkey by identifying the specific affordances of the creative industries. There is clear ambition in Turkey to “increase the value added of goods and services produced in the country” and the UK is seen as a model for such growth.

The thematic areas which we addressed were: Ecosystem – the structures of finance, networking, collaboration, services, and actors which facilitate growth; Demand – the sensitivity to awareness, ‘customer needs’, and particularly the ways in which other sectors (such as tourism) might complement and stimulate this; Design and value added – the emphasis on digital transformation trends which might ‘intensify user experience’ through improving the quality of life; Data and knowledge – how the creative industries are defined, the relationship between data and policy, and possible research which might produce new models.

The workshop was a very stimulating fusion of different perspectives, and each group presented ‘solutions’ to the funding bodies which drew on our experience and understandings of successful policies and practices. Some of us, however, of a more critical mind set (and I won my funding on the basis of promising to provide this) had further questions that we wanted to pursue, for example: the need to avoid a kind of ‘colonial approach’, dispensing ‘wisdom’ from the UK; the problematic relationship between the creative industries and the craft industries – ways of achieving complementarity without collapsing key differences; the notional affordances of ‘ecosystems’ – some of us suggested that ‘true creativity’ prospered despite, rather than because of ‘ecosystems’; and, ultimately, the nature of this thing called the ‘creative industries’, which is often presented as an ‘ontological category’, but which tends to be a strategic category – some transparency about this seems to be required.

There will be a further call from the AHRC intended to nurture some of the collaborations that were made possible in the workshop, and the challenge will be to maintain this critical stance whilst working together to stimulate worthwhile projects (and we saw some excellent examples of existing initiatives). As we face life post-Brexit, Turkey is likely to be a significant partner, given its position, between Europe and Asia.

Mark Readman, FMC

Mentor + Media – a new app for professionals working with refugee youth

The “Media literacy for refugee youth” international project started in 2017 and its aim was to understand how unaccompanied minor refugees use digital technologies and social media. For this, the principal investigator of the project, Dr Annamária Neag, with the support of her mentor, Dr Richard Berger, carried out field work in Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy and the UK. A total of 56 unaccompanied refugee kids were interviewed, and some of them also took part in a digital ethnography phase. Moreover, in London, a group of young people joined the participatory action research phase of the research.

Although the first aim was to understand how these young people use smart phones and social media, the final goal was to create media education materials that can aid their integration into a new society. For understanding the young people’s media lives, Dr Neag also interviewed mentors, guardians and educators who helped her in how to shape these educational materials.

          

Based on the research findings, the team decided that the best course of action was to create an app that could aid the work of mentors and social workers who look after unaccompanied refugee children. With the help of Kyle Goslan, from Bournemouth University, this app is now freely available for iPhones from the AppStore. Those interested in the app should only do a quick search for Mentor + Media on the AppStore and install it from there.

 

About Senait – or the perks of graphically illustrating research

In recent years it has become ever more important to ‘translate’ research findings to people outside academia. While writing blog posts or giving interviews is fairly common, illustrating research is not so much. However, there have been some very interesting projects that trialled this artistic method, and their success led Dr Annamária Neag to contact a Hungarian illustrator, Kata Tóth, to try out this new way at looking at academic research. Their acquaintance is not new, as the artists helped Dr. Neag create a board game to use as a tool for interviewing unaccompanied refugee youth.

The collaboration lasted a couple of months and it involved a very engaged discussion about what and how to represent the two-year long “Media literacy for refugee youth” project. This discussion helped clarify the most important aspects of the research, but it was also relevant to see how someone not involved in academic research sees the relevance of the findings.

Illustration by Kata Tóth

With more than 60 research participants (unaccompanied youth and mentors/educators), it was not an easy task to select just one story to illustrate. That is why, after much thinking and debate, Kata Tóth and Dr Neag decided to work with the metaphor of the digital labyrinth. This metaphor best exemplifies the journey young refugees need to take upon arriving in Europe and starting a new life here. Although the graphic novel presents the story of a 17-year-old girl from Eritrea, Senait, she is a fictional character. Her difficulties in getting settled in a new country and a new digital world, as well as her skills and strengths are representations of those of the young people Dr Neag interviewed during the project.

Illustration by Kata Tóth

Although it is not always easy to ‘translate’ research into a whole different medium, graphically representing academic projects can be fulfilling both professionally and personally. This endeavor can help in distilling the most important findings of your research and it can be a starting point for discussions with young people, students or anyone interested in social science research.

Further information: Finding a Way through the Digital Labyrinth is available from: https://issuu.com/blueanna/docs/illustration_final1

Kata Tóth is a freelance illustrator living in Budapest, Hungary: https://www.behance.net/katatoth

toth.kata.toth@gmail.com

Influencing public policy through research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you interested in achieving policy impact? Then you may be interested in coming to a meeting that’s taking place next Thursday which will provide some useful insights into how to go about achieving this.

As you’re aware, engaging with policy makers can lead to significant and lasting impact. In order to explore this area in more depth, Professor Sangeeta Khorana has invited the Rt. Hon Stephen Crabb MP to BU to discuss how academic research is accessed by policy makers, how it can be used by those in Parliament and how it can lead to influencing policy.

Stephen is Member of Parliament for Preseli, Pembrokeshire and has held this constituency since 2005. He is a member of the Select Committee for Exiting the European Union, was previously Secretary of State for the Dept. of Work and Pensions, Secretary of State for Wales and a Government Whip. Stephen is therefore ideally placed to give some insights into how academic research is accessed and used by policy makers at the highest levels of government.

Professor Khorana has recently contributed economic research into the trade implications of Brexit to the Welsh Assembly and to the Welsh Affairs Committee.

Stephen will give a short talk on how to engage with policy makers, how they access and use research and how it can influence policy before a Q&A with Sangeeta about the impact of her work.

The event is taking place on Thursday 16th May at 11.30 – 12.30 in EB708.

If you would like to attend, please book a place using the following (private) Eventbrite link and enter the password Impact when prompted:

https://stephen_crabb_mp_policy_and_research.eventbrite.co.uk

If you would like to contribute to the discussion, please email questions for Stephen or Sangeeta to: impactofficers@bournemouth.ac.uk in advance.

Many thanks – hope to see you there.