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Elephants in the living room and "ISMS" of all kinds–whimsical and reflective contributions from the board
  1. Carlos Alvarez-Dardet,
  2. John R Ashton, Joint Editors

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    In this issue, we are reminded how fortunate we are to have such erudite Board members who actively contribute to our journal’s scope and depth. An Editorial from Nancy Milio, Mother of Healthy Public Policy, tackles the vexed question of ideology, science, and public policy as applied to public health. She lays on the table the scary consequences of the ideologically driven policies of the Bush administration, with “faith based programmes” in departmental areas as varied as agriculture, housing, health, justice, and the Veteran’s Administration now receiving two billion pounds a year, and Orwellian phenomena such as the Centers for Disease Control being told not to monitor the birth rates of girls in abstinence only programmes. Milio goes on to describe the consequences of faith’s twin, the market, as an uncritical ideology that brings with it less transparency and an erosion of civil rights. Penetration of religious fundamentalism into policy, and the elephant in the living room that nobody in political life dares talk about, bodes ill for the current biggest empire, with China and others lurking in the wings, buying up US debt, and creating a position where even the current “owners” of US wealth must eventually be taken into account.
 See page 814

    And from one of public health’s great contemporary polymaths, Len Duhl, who now admits to senior moments, where one forgets names and facts while still being (in his head) only 40 years of age, we have poignant reflections on aging from one who is well into it, together with a number of stories from one of the field’s best story tellers out of what he would be proud to be described as the Sufi tradition. Bringing us down to earth, the Gallery homes in on Home Zones in Bristol, where environmental equity is being established between pedestrians, cyclists, social use, and vehicles.
 See pages 816, 885

    In something of a theme this month, we have a Glossary on violence against women, and Research Reports from Canada and from Jordanian refugee camps on intimate partner violence and wife beating respectively. While domestic violence is overwhelmingly about men being violent to women, it nevertheless is interesting that so little is published about women who are violent to men, and while the home is the most dangerous place for women, the street remains much more dangerous for men. This topic has now become a major focus of interest for the World Health Organisation’s programme on violence as a public health issue.
 See pages 818, 834, 840

    Other Research Reports this month include:

    • that living in neighbourhoods characterised by a poor quality built environment is associated with a greater likelihood of depression (surprise, surprise, but sometimes—particularly now—you need the evidence for the policy police!)

    • motherhood before the age of 18 continues to be related to a variety of adverse circumstances in adult life (surprise, surprise again);

    • reducing childhood longstanding respiratory problems will require attention to background socioeconomic status factors in addition to maternal smoking;

    • perhaps surprisingly, only a comparatively small proportion of psychiatric illness seems possibly attributable to substance use, whereas a more substantial proportion of substance use seems possibly attributable to psychiatric illness;

    • good control over working time reduces the adverse effects of work stress on sickness (no surprise there);

    • culture specific approaches to employee wellbeing are necessary in the workplace;

    • the frequency of assessment of publication bias in meta-analysis is still very low;

    • the impact of socioeconomic deprivation on mental health differs between men and women, with women being more sensitive to disadvantage in childhood and men being more sensitive to lack of socioeconomic success;

    • and from Stanistreet and colleagues, the claim that patriarchy leads to higher male mortality, and a preventable social condition.

    See pages 822, 828, 842, 847, 851, 858, 864, 870, 873

    Meanwhile, in an unusually rich set of papers in Theory and Methods, we have:

    • the suggestion from Daniel Reidpath that we should be treating populations as more than the sum of their parts;

    • an intriguing contribution on the “bootstrap” method for studying air pollution;

    • a challenge to systematic reviews of the health effects of social interventions;

    • a proposal for a novel way of conceptualising residence in terms of a bubble that includes the surroundings of the dwelling in various forms;

    • cause for caution in the use of adult recall of parental occupation;

    • a suggested brief measure of neighbourhood physical disorder;

    • and an important suggestion about the record linkage of domestic assault victims between the emergency department and the police.

    See pages 877, 881, 886, 893, 898, 904, 909

    In conclusion, a Letter from Viktor Čulić suggesting that the excess in cardiovascular events on Mondays could be caused by the weekend’s alcohol.
 See page 911

    We must apologise if anybody thinks we are publishing too many papers about the blindingly obvious, the evidence police are out there and, as Nancy Milio has reminded us, the defence against superstition and dogma is always to assemble the evidence—we can’t have it both ways.

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