Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What’s the deal with genetically modified (GM) foods?

It’s complicated; but here is a quick summary of what the controversy over genetically modified foods is all about. GM engineering involves reconfiguring the genes in crop plants or adding new genes that have been created in the laboratory. Scientific modification of plants is not something new. Since time began, nature has been modifying plants and animals through natural evolution, meaning that the plants and ani­mals that adapt best to the changing environment survive and pass their genes on to their offspring. Those that are least fit do not survive.

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Better health care delivery: doing more with existing resources

The healthcare sector faces challenges which are constantly escalating. Populations are growing worldwide and so is the share of the elderly in society. There is a constant proliferation of new medications, diagnostic methods, medical procedures and equipment, and know-how. This huge progress greatly improves the quality of medical treatment but at the same time increases its costs. Governments and authorities are allocating ever growing budgets to healthcare systems but the increased budgets do not cover the increased costs of providing quality healthcare to the public.

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What causes oral cancer and how can we prevent it?

We know that excessive consumption of alcohol is detrimental to oral health, but why? We know that tobacco smoking, alcohol, and poor oral hygiene cause increased acetaldehyde levels in saliva. Alcohol itself is not carcinogenic, but it is metabolised to acetaldehyde which has been strongly implicated in the development of oral cancer. The variation between people in how they metabolize alcohol might explain why some are at greater risk of cancer than others.

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National Volunteer Month: a reading list

On 20 April 1974, President Richard M. Nixon declared National Volunteer Week, to honor those Americans whose unpaid “efforts most frequently touch the lives of the poor, the young, the aged and the sick, but in the process the lives of all men and women are made richer.” This commemoration has since been extended to a full month to recognize those who offer their time, energy, and skills to their communities.

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The four principles of medicine as a human experience

The standard in medicine has historically favoured an illness- and doctor-centered approach. Today, however, we’re seeing a shift from this methodology towards patient-centered care for several reasons. In the edited excerpt below, taken from Patient-Centered Medicine, David H. Rosen and Uyen Hoang explore four core principles that underlie the foundation of this clinical approach.

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The return of opiophobia

Opiophobia (literally, a fear of opioids or their side effects, especially respiratory suppression) has been around for a long time. Nowadays it’s primarily prompted by the opioid epidemic that has caused a five-fold increase in overdose deaths over the past two decades. With opioids implicated in over 40,000 deaths in the United States each year, interventions such as daily milligram limits, short-term prescribing, and “risk evaluation and mitigation strategies” are important public health measures.

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What to do about tinnitus?

Tinnitus (i.e., ear or head noises not caused by external sounds) is common among the general population across the world. Tinnitus can be experienced as a “ringing in the ears.” It can also sound like a hissing, sizzling, or roaring noise. It can be rhythmic or pulsating. Tinnitus can be a non-stop, constant sound or an intermittent sound that disappears and returns without a pattern. It can occur in one or both ears.

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Modernization of mortuary practice and grief

Modern western mortuary practices are characterized by the professionalization of the management and presentation of the corpse. These practices serve as a stark contrast to those in traditional societies across the world and those throughout history. Changes to how we treat and dispose of the dead are such that industrialized societies have become outliers on the spectrum of the world’s cultures.

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Artificial intelligence in oncology

There is no denying the presence of computers in our everyday life, whether it’s through phones, personal virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, or video games. Lately, the interest and development surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) has escalated, and the opportunities to embrace this within the healthcare industry seem to be growing.

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Collaboration for a cure: harnessing the power of patient data

I am a classic example of a fitness fanatic who uses a wearable device to count my steps, measure my heart rate, and track my sleep pattern. Every day, I am armed with data gathered about my physical activity, alerting me as to whether I’ve been slacking in the gym or eating too many bags of crisps. There is no doubt that now, more than ever, we live in a world where ‘big data’ is ubiquitous in influencing our daily decisions.

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Brain tumour awareness: The end counts too

Here in the United Kingdom, we have the worst survival rates for brain cancer in Europe, with just 14% of patients surviving for ten or more years. Whilst prognosis for most other types of cancer has improved, brain tumour survival rates have remained stagnant, with no game-changing new drugs being developed in the last fifty years. As brain tumours progress, the aggressive nature of the disease becomes apparent.

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Misconceptions of vaccines

Vaccines help to provide immunity against diseases. Sadly, there are a number of misconceptions surrounding vaccines, leading to some areas of the community opting not to vaccinate. This has a negative impact as decreasing immunisation rates can lead to an increase in diseases that can be prevented by vaccines, as was seen with the whooping cough in California.

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Shaping the legacy of Dame Cicely Saunders [excerpt]

She arrived in 1938, at age twenty-one, for the Michaelmas term. In that year, there were 850 women studying at the University, making up a record 18.5% of the student body. Cicely elected to read Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (P.P.E.). This programme of study had been established at Oxford in the 1920s as an alternative to ‘Greats’ or Classics. It was generally known as ‘Modern Greats’.

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How did the plague impact health regulation?

What do we think of when we hear the word “plague”? Red crosses on boarded-up doors? Deserted medieval villages? Or maybe the horror film-esque cloak and mask of a plague doctor? Unsurprisingly, the history of plague and its impact on health regulation is more complex and far-reaching than many assume. This extract from the Textbook of Global Health looks at the medical and environmental legacy of pandemics.

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The changing face of women in medicine

As a current fourth year medical student in the United Kingdom, I am in a year in which the number of females supersedes the number of males. This trend certainly isn’t unique to my own medical school, with a General Medical Council (GMC) report stating that women now make up 55% of all undergraduate medical students. This current trend is a change, as in the past medicine has always been a male-dominated profession.

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Acknowledging identity, privilege, and oppression in music therapy

As clinical music therapy professionals who are goal- and solution-oriented, how much time do we spend considering our client’s experience outside the therapy room? How might taking the time to learn about a client’s multifaceted identity affect the therapeutic relationship? Furthermore, how do our own personal identities, beliefs, and experiences affect our relationships with clients? In answering these questions, we begin to scratch the surface of making our practice more intersectional.

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