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In this issue there is a strong set of papers reporting research findings, but hopefully they contain within them help with Kipling's sixth question, “so what?”—research relevant to making a difference and certainly good enough.
An editorial and linked paper throw light on the methodological problems in validating self reported smoking; something that is becoming more and more important now that governments are investing real resources in helping people to quit.
As research into inequalities in health moves further beyond descriptive accounts of difference, contributions begin to unpeel the layers posed by different levels of analysis, and the World Health Organisation's methods of measurement come under scrutiny. Concerns are also raised about the true conclusions to be made about links between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular death among young Russian men. Area based analysis, as compared with group based and individual based, throws the spotlight on questions raised by being poor in poor neighbourhoods as compared with being poor in better heeled ones and, surprising for some, may be the recognition that even in Scandinavia there are socioeconomic inequities in access to clinical services. And what is going on in Denmark, with deteriorating female life expectancy? Work on family size and asthma raises tantilising questions about sibling effects.
Profound questions are raised by a short contribution from Barrett and Wellings on the methodological issues involved in collecting information on marital status in a post-modern world.
In our Policy and Practice section, we conclude our occasional series on the Balkans crisis of 1999 and afterwards with a look at the re-establishment of clinical services in Pristina hospital under the peace, and Ghebrehewet and colleagues reflect on the lessons from the Kosovan emergency for the ways in which we continue to respond to the health and social needs of refugees.
Finally, a stark reminder of what always lurks in the wings for public health, with the resurgence of syphilis in the Manchester gay community.
And, as a footnote, reader's letters seem to be picking up, with the makings of a good row about abortion and breast cancer, and a riposte on Hawton and his group's recent paper on suicide in female doctors. Keep the letters coming.