Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Seven ways to talk to terminal patients

Before COVID-19 arrived in our lives, chronic illness was considered the next worldwide pandemic. But COVID-19 did arrive and life as we knew it has radically changed. Healthcare workers, particularly nurses and physicians, are now having frequent palliative care (the area of end-of-life care that focuses on patient comfort) conversations although most are not trained […]

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Six ways to reduce your environmental impact

Over the last 50 years, human population has doubled, and global trade has increased ten-fold, drawing more deeply on Earth’s natural resources, warming the climate, and polluting the global environment. If current climate trends continue, a third of the global population will live in places warmer than the heart of the Sahara Desert 50 years […]

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How anti-immigration policies hurt public health

Immigration is neither a new issue nor an exclusively American one. In 2017, there were more than 250  million immigrants living worldwide, and about 2.4 million people migrate across national borders each year. Migration also occurs within national borders—it is estimated that more than 750 million people live within their country of birth, but in a […]

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What history can tell us about infectious diseases

One of the remarkable achievements of the past hundred years has been the reduction of the global toll of death from infectious disease. The combination of applied biological science, improved living and working conditions, and standards of living, together with the benefits of planned parenthood, have transformed the health landscape for millions of people, not […]

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Should we fear death?

We are currently faced with a global crisis. A virus has spread to all parts of our planet, and thousands of people have died from the coronavirus. Many people now fear that they are going to be sick and die. Fear of sickness can certainly be rational. It is more questionable whether fear of death is […]

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How ancient Christians responded to pandemics

Ancient Christians knew epidemics all too well. They lived in a world with constant contagion, no vaccines, medieval medical practices, and no understanding of basic microbiology. Hygiene was horrendous, sanitation sickening. People shared “toilette paper”(a sponge-on-a-stick). Besides that, in the second and the third centuries CE, two pandemics rocked the Roman World. The first, the […]

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How conspiracy theories hurt vaccination numbers

Near the end of 2018, data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that a small, but growing, number of children in the United States were not getting recommended vaccinations. One in 77 infants born in 2017 did not receive any vaccination. That’s more than four times as many unvaccinated children as the country […]

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Why anti-vaxxers are rising again

In the midst of a health crisis when our only hope is a new vaccine, many have begun to wonder how those with anti-vaccination sentiments might respond to the current COVID-19 crisis. Many have guessed that the only natural, rational response would be for anti-vaxxers to change their minds and wholeheartedly embrace the prospect of a new […]

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How to prepare for death

The main challenge in reflecting on one’s own death is the way the various aspects of death and dying are intertwined which make it difficult to discern personal mortality. First there is the prospect of me dying; of me entering whatever is in store at the end of my life. How long will it last? […]

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The life and legacy of Florence Nightingale [timeline]

This year, to celebrate the role nurses and midwives play in providing health services across the world, the World Health Organisation has declared that 2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. In honour of this, we are taking this opportunity to recognise the work of Florence Nightingale, a British nurse, statistician, […]

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Is collecting medical data really essential for health care?

The United States spends an inordinate amount of money on health care. Much of this spending goes to data acquisition, to medical monitoring, and to assessment of how our health systems function. But are there other areas where money devoted to gathering health data might be better spent? Our health is a product of the […]

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Understanding guilt in mother-child relationships

“You never write…you never call….” The guilt-tripping mother is common stereotype in movies and TV. But how many adult children harbor feelings of guilt toward their aging parents? Who experiences this guilt, and why? About one in five adult children experience feelings of guilt toward their ageing mothers, based on data from a nationally representative […]

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Confronting mortality in the COVID-19 pandemic

In the last four months, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has marched across the globe. It has stomped to every continent and, as of my writing, to 134 of the 195 countries in the world, sickening hundreds of thousands of people – and killing thousands of them – on its way to global […]

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Music schools respond to COVID-19 shutdown

Keeping Upbeat in Tough Times is the new motto for the San Francisco Community Music Center. The phrase sums up the school’s attitude toward the abrupt transition to online instruction that it had to make this spring, after local schools closed their doors because of a government-ordered mandate aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 […]

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Why the COVID-19 pandemic feels like a movie

I read there is a spike in streaming of the 2011 film Contagion by Steven Soderbergh. The film uses a made-up virus loosely modeled after a Nipah virus outbreak. Contagion opens with a black screen, and we hear a woman coughing. The fictional virus MEV-1 hits the brain (and not the lungs as in corona virus pandemics), and we […]

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Intermittent fasting can help people in high-stress jobs

During times of crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak, citizens often rely on first responders to ensure their daily living remains largely unaffected. However, behind the scenes, people serving in high-stress occupations (i.e. soldiers, police officers, nurses, firefighters, etc.) are often plagued with lack of sleep, shift work, poor eating habits and lack of access […]

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