39 e-Letters

published between 2015 and 2018

  • Ethnic disparity in risk of SIDS and other unexplained infant death is not due to deprivation; examining ethnic patterns may help to clarify aetiology

    We thank Professors Bartick and Tomori for their comments on our paper. [1] We entirely agree that unexplained death in infancy (UDI) in the (mainly White British) general population of England and Wales is strongly associated with deprivation, as shown by many previous studies. Clearly, any factor that is associated with deprivation among the White British group will be a risk factor for UDI in the general population.

    However, our paper is about ethnic, not socio-economic, variation. [2] The finding of a nearly five-fold disparity in risk across ethnic groups in England and Wales is both striking and novel. Moreover, we demonstrate that this disparity is not explained by deprivation. Formal adjustment for deprivation (IMD quintiles) does not even slightly reduce the ethnic variation (see Table 2). A simple scatter plot of ethnic groups illustrates the lack of a relationship between deprivation and risk, with a virtually horizontal overall trend line (see Figure at https://doi.org/10.5287/bodleian:XmE4XBaoZ). For example, Black Caribbean babies have nearly triple the UDI risk of Black African babies, but similar levels of deprivation. The Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups each have around half the UDI risk of White British babies; the White British and Indian groups have similar (relatively low) levels of deprivation, and the Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups are the most deprived in England and...

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  • Deprivation is the most striking finding of this study; other known risk factors must be explored to explain ethnic variation

    We read with interest the article by Kroll et al., “Ethnic variation in unexplained death in infancy, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), England and Wales 2006-12: national birth cohort study using routine data”[1]. While the five-fold disparity in death rates across ethnic groups is notable, the most striking finding was marked association of infant death with deprivation seen in Table 1, with an OR of 3.45 (95% CI 2.82-4.23) between the most deprived group and the least deprived group. Indeed, 69% of deaths were found in the two most deprived quintiles. The analytical attention on ethnic variation in the paper overshadows the central finding that the majority of risk is driven by poverty.

    Furthermore, unmarried status is a potent indicator of socioeconomic status that may cluster with poverty, lack of social support and experiences of racial discrimination. The remaining variation that the paper attributes to possible cultural variation must be broken down into specific known risk factors, such as tobacco exposure, sleep position, preterm birth, alcohol and substance abuse, lack of prenatal care, formula feeding, sofa sharing, and the combination of bedsharing with these other risk factors[2].These known risk factors are also largely clustered around poverty. Even sleep position is indirectly associated with poverty via formula feeding, as videographic data show that bedsharing formula feeding infants are more likely to assume hazardous sleep position...

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  • Response to Question on Charging for NHS care

    We congratulate the authors on this timely and interesting study: ‘Political views of doctors in the UK: a cross-sectional study’ [1]. We address Question 12, asking whether doctors agree that ‘Patients should be charged for non-urgent care if they are not eligible for free NHS treatment’.
    The authors correctly state that agreement does not mean support for current NHS charging regulations, not least because the most recent amendments in England were introduced after this questionnaire (October 2017 [2]), however we remain concerned about potential misinterpretation, and suggest aspects of charging regulations where doctors’ opinions could be further explored.
    Firstly, the question, which understandably echoes government policy language on charging, is similar to asking ‘Should people have to pay for things that are not free?’ without addressing complexity of eligibility, and the fact that some people living in the UK have lost their eligibility with recent regulations. An assessment of opinions would require measuring knowledge of charging and its relationship with immigration enforcement, as well as evaluating acceptance of the immigration system itself, as this now determines eligibility. Windrush patients being denied NHS treatment highlighted the complexity of this issue [3].
    Secondly, doctors’ opinions on measures which penalise and threaten patients if they seek care, such as linking unpaid NHS debt to immigration enforcement [4], and NHS data shar...

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  • An intervention, not an accident: Research into use of force by police requires understanding its context and counterfactuals

    In “Years of life lost due to encounters with law enforcement in the USA, 2015–2016,” Bui et al. estimate the public health impact of police use of force by a simple computation of the years of life lost by the people killed by police.[1] Unnecessary use of force by police is a problem demanding serious attention, and leadership in policing has responded with interventions and training in recent years to improve de-escalation techniques and reduce the incidence of unnecessary or unlawful use of force. Bui et al.’s analysis, however, fails to consider three key factors in these analyses: first, the distinction between necessary and unnecessary/unlawful uses of force; second, the potential impacts on years of life lost had the police not have intervened in these specific scenarios; and third, the broader impacts of police intervention on public health.
    Police may use lethal force when they have sufficient reason to believe that a person poses a risk of serious physical injury or death to another person. A reporter for The Washington Post concludes that “the vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers… were armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats.”[2] Unnecessary or unjustified use of force by police are thought to account for about five percent of the total number of incidents of use of force,[2] with great skeptics acknowledging they are certainly fewer than 50%.[3] Including sensitivit...

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  • Length of Life is Affected by the Whole of Your Life

    It is bittersweet to see one’s predictions of a fall in life expectancy coming into being.
    I work on statistics, but also talk to patients regularly about their diets, lifestyles and
    environments. The medical service struggles to deal with the results of poor diet and
    pollution. Perhaps it is time for a health service to deal with the causes of illness.

    Ancel Keys crusaded against fats. He cherry picked data from only 6 of the available
    22 countries. Sugar was then used to make low fat food palatable. Fructose and
    galactose, in sugar, milk, corn syrup and fruit, are implicated in cancer, heart disease,
    dementia and diabetes.

    Are the NHS and social care the priorities? Perhaps money to buy good food is more
    important, and maybe we have too much medicine, not too little. I have seen patients
    taking up to 29 different drugs. No pharmacologist can work out how they interact.
    One patient took 5 drugs for his asthma. People complain of drug side effects and are
    just given more drugs to deal with these symptoms.

    The Depression was forgotten, and it was assumed we could keep becoming richer,
    until 2008. Similarly we cannot just extrapolate the increasing life expectancy figures.
    Public health improved after building reservoirs, chlorinating water, installing sewage
    systems, reducing overcrowding and setting up smokeless zones.

    However, chemical production has increased greatly...

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  • Concerns re: Kondo and Ishikawa - 2nd Editors' note

    This is the second E-letter from the Editors of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health concerning a paper by Kondo and Ishikawa [http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2018/01/12/jech-2017-209943]. The paper examined the impact of an intervention to encourage people of lower socio-economic status attending pachinko parlours in Japan to undergo health checkups. The intervention, which was not controlled by the authors, used gendered stereotypes of the nursing profession and suggestive uniforms that play on women’s sexuality to encourage people to engage in health checkups. The study conducted was granted ethical approval by an institutional research ethics board.

    JECH condemns the use of sexism, gender and professional stereotypes and other forms of discriminatory practice or language for any purpose, including health promotion programs. The intervention studied in the article contradicts our principles. Concerns about this paper have been sent to us and we have published these as E-letters that are attached to the article.

    We have conducted an audit of our review processes and determined that an improbable chain of accidental human processing errors in the online editorial system meant that we failed to give this paper the usual scrutiny and oversight our submissions receive. In our time as Editors, we have overseen more than 10,000 manuscript submissions prior to this withou...

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  • Authors' responses

    In this paper we sought to explore the idea that the delivery of health promoting interventions could be tailored in ways that might increase uptake among hard-to-reach populations, potentially helping to reduce health inequalities. In hindsight, we realise that the specific intervention used in this study was extremely inappropriate. We acknowledge that the intervention involved drew on stereotypes for female nurses, reinforced the objectification of both women and nurses, thus reinforcing gender inequalities. We also acknowledge criticism that some of the terms we used in translating our paper into English caused offense to some readers.

    We are deeply sorry for our poor judgement and for the negative impacts of this paper. As health inequalities researchers, we are very concerned about the macrosocial determinants of health inequality and recognize that gender inequalities are one such determinant. While it has been very difficult for us to receive such a negative response to our paper, we are grateful to those who have helped us understand its limitations and how we can avoid these in future.

    Response to Tsujimoto and Kataoka
    We thank the Tsujimoto and Kataoka for their comments. While we agree that it would be helpful to formally test for gender differences in the effect of the study intervention, we are unable to conduct such an analysis since permission to use the data, as approved by the ethics board, has now expired. As we discuss in the paper...

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  • A typical example of unethical study and a wrong editorial decision

    We read the article published online in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health by Dr.Kondo and Dr.Ishikawa with great sorrow and have major concern on the authors' unethical design by regarding young women wearing sexy nurse costumes as a form of acceptable behavioural intervention. As an experienced clinician who can fully appreciate the difficulty in motivating clients for health check-up, the proposed incentive/strategy is totally unethical which insults all ladies and is a strong humiliation to our professional nurses and even to the respectable Japanese culture. We can hardly believe why this kind of study with major methodology flaw can obtain an ethical approval and even being accepted and published by an esteemed journal like Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. We are terribly sorry to say that this kind of practice is totally unacceptable in clinical medicine and academic world, hence I am writing to ask for a more serious explanation from the Editor on the Journal's and his standpoint on this classical "black" and "white" issue. The authors should be adviced to withdraw this paper as soon as possible, otherwise the integrity of future studies published in the Journal may be unnecessarily affected.

  • Critique of Kondo and Ishikawa's article

    I am writing to express my strong concern on the article "Affective stimuli in behavioural interventions soliciting for health check-up services and the service users' socioeconomic statuses: A study at Japanese pachinko parlours," authored by N. Kondo and Y. Ishikawa (2018). Seeing an article which encourages the objectification of women being published in this peer-reviewed journal is both shocking and disappointing. In that article, the authors suggest that an intervention involving "young female staff" wearing "sexually attractive nurse costumes"/ "erotic nurse costumes" could be effective in "soliciting" men to engage in health check-ups. I am extremely disappointed by the use of such methods, as well as such terms, in Kondo and Ishikawa's study, and strongly in doubt that they are objectifying and inappropriately sexualising women and the nursing staff in Japan.

    It is clear that ethics and code of morality are always the first and the top priority in research. Involving ethically incorrect practices (i.e., asking young women to wear erotic nurse costumes to engage men in healthcare service in this case) and even providing supportive evidence for their effectiveness to the public via an open-access journal are by no means acceptable. Despite my disappointment in the authors and the relevant private healthcare company using those gender-stereotyped practices, I am also provoked by the indifference of th...

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  • Concern about interactions and true effect of heroic stimuli

    We read an article recently published online in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health by Dr.Kondo and Dr.Ishikawa with great interest and appreciate the authors' efforts to seek effective interventions for socioeconomically vulnerable people to have a health check-up. They suggested "hedonic stimuli" promote socially vulnerable people to have health check-up services. The "heroic effect" in this research directed to one gender only (mostly). We consider they should have performed the analysis which compares the difference of the intervention effect between on male (sensitive to this heroic stimuli) and on female (insensitive to the stimuli) in order to consider interactions (e.g. simply wearing healthcare staff's costumes). We believe that the difference in effect size between genders is the true intervention effect arisen from the "hedonic stimuli". We suggest it should be investigated using the original data of Table 2.