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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2007 August; 61(8): 657.
PMCID: PMC2652985


Monitoring Editor: Carlos Alvarez‐Dardet and John R Ashton, Joint Editors

Hygiene: both biological and political?

In this age of globalisation and the free market, robust political analysis of politics and health has become rare at the same time as publications on inequalities in health have exploded. Miquel Porta argues in this month's Speakers' Corner that publishing on public health topics has become a Russian Roulette. We go some way to redress this with an Editorial from Borrell and colleagues, in which they cite Navarro's recent book to explore a framework that relates politics and policies on socioeconomic health inequalities.

See pages 658 and 722

In Public Health Past and Present, Curtis tackles the natural history of hygiene (an unfashionable term, but one at the heart of the discipline and practice of public health). She argues that hygiene has an ancient evolutionary history, and that most animals exhibit such behaviours because they have been adaptive. In humans, the avoidance of infectious threats is motivated by the emotion of disgust. She goes on to argue the contribution of biological anthropology to our understanding – this prompts one to consider whether the revulsion against global politics is some form of evolutionary political hygiene?

See page 660

Also in this issue, our section on Continuing Professional Education carries a review of the effect of socioeconomic status on the relationship between atmospheric pollution and mortality, and concludes that most existing results tend to show greater effects among the more deprived. Our Glossary on violence is a spin‐off from the 2002 World Report on Violence and Health, and supports the important WHO initiative on that topic. Rutherford and colleagues argue that public health must engage with issues of violence, and that improved definitions and precise description will aid surveillance and enhance response.

See pages 665 and 676

The main findings in Evidence Based Policy and Practice are:

  • that quality as well as quantity of greenspace may be significant in determining health benefit;
  • Antonovsky's salutogenic concept of sense of coherence seems to be a health‐promoting resource that supports the development of a positive subjective state of health;
  • a carefully targeted “fat tax” could produce modest but meaningful changes in food consumption and a reduction in cardiovascular disease; whilst
  • the consumption of milk and dairy products is associated with a markedly reduced prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, and these items therefore fit well into a healthy eating pattern;
  • the United Kingdom's School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme promoted an increase in fruit intake by 4–6‐year‐olds after 3 months. At 7 months, the effect remained significant but reduced, and it returned to baseline when pupils were no longer part of the scheme;
  • mid‐life values for blood pressure and ECG abnormalities retain their predictive value over long follow‐up periods, even though they improved in predictive power when re‐measured in elderly people.

See pages 681, 684, 689, 695, 699, 704

And in Research Reports:

  • the seasonal birth rhythm in Spain shows a decline from 1970 and a lack of seasonality in 1991 to 2000. This trend is similar to other European countries, although Spain shows a more intense loss of seasonality (how does the decline in siestas fit into this story?);
  • analysis of daily time‐series data for outdoor air pollution and infant mortality in 10 English cities found few associations between infant deaths and most pollutants studied, the exception being sulphur dioxide;
  • findings from the Alameda County Study suggest that the contributions made to adult health by childhood socioeconomic position and accumulated disadvantage each constitute distinct socioeconomic influences that may require different policy responses and intervention options;
  • a significant geographic cluster of suicide among young adults was identified in East Glasgow in three time periods. The authors suggest that the explanation lies in the concentration of deprivation in that area;
  • polymorphisms in DNA repair genes may be important in the aetiology of stroke.

See pages 713, 719, 723, 731, 737

Finally, in this age of performance management, Nancy Hanusaik and a group from McGill University in Canada offer an approach to measuring the organisational capacity for chronic disease prevention. Good luck and good hunting!

See page 742

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