Population health – a new approach for better wellbeing

Health is not just defined by the absence of illness. It’s also about our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Access to traditional health services are of course important, but there are lots of other factors that affect our health and wellbeing. These include access to green spaces, social activities, education and employment opportunities, healthy food, and good housing and transport services. To prevent ill health and improve wellbeing within our local communities, all of these aspects need to be considered, which is sometimes referred to as a ‘population health’ approach.

The King’s Fund has produced a short animation that illustrates what a population health approach looks like. You can also find out more by reading their report, A vision for population health: towards a healthier future or by attending their free ‘virtual’ conference, The big population health conversation. Better still, FHT members who attend The King’s Fund virtual conference and complete a 500 word reflective practice form (downloadable from http://www.fht.org.uk/cpd) can gain 5 CPD points.

Complementary therapy gaining popularity in England

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The article below was first published in International Therapist issue 129 (Summer 2019)

Complementary therapy use in England has grown by 4% between 2005 and 2015, according to a national survey (sharp et al, 2018).

Ipsos MORI asked 4,862 adults in England about their complementary therapy use over the past 12 months, with 766 saying they had seen a practitioner during that time. This means 16% of respondents had treatments in 2015, up from 12% in 2005.

Those interviewed visited practitioners for therapies including massage, acupuncture, yoga, reflexology and mindfulness. They most commonly sought treatments to help with musculoskeletal conditions (68%), particularly back pain (38%). The second most popular reason was support with a mental health condition (12%), including for stress, anxiety or depression (7%) and sleep problems, tiredness or fatigue (4%). Around 11% had therapies to support general wellbeing and prevent ill health.

However, because therapies are predominantly self-funded, access is unequal, with wealthier people far more likely to get the support they need compared with people on a low income. More than two-thirds (67%) of complementary therapy users either pay for their treatments or have them paid for by friends and family, while 17% are referred by their GP and 4% by another health professional. Those who were referred by a GP or healthcare professional usually had treatments funded by the NHS and were more often than not unemployed, with lower socioeconomic status. Almost 40% felt that increased NHS funding and GP referrals and/or endorsement would increase their complementary therapy use.

Those in the south of England were almost twice as likely to have treatments as people living in the Midlands or the north of England. This could again relate to wealth, as the average person living in the south is more likely to have the disposable income to pay for treatments than those further north.

Just over one-fifth of respondents (22%) claimed they would not be willing to pay for a therapy treatment.

Read more about the survey at fht.org.uk/IT-129-research-Sharp

Not yet an FHT member?

Join today and enjoy more articles like this in our online reading room and quarterly membership magazine, International Therapist. As a member, you can access lots of other benefits, too, such as tailor-made insurance policies and a listing on our Accredited Register of complementary therapists, independently approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (eligibility criteria apply). Click here to learn more about the benefits of being an FHT member


Set aside some time for yourself this September


As a therapist, you may spend countless hours supporting the health and wellbeing of clients, but do you set aside enough time to look after yourself?

We all need to look after our own mental and physical wellbeing to avoid problems like stress, anxiety, burnout and overuse injuries.

Action for Happiness has given us a gentle reminder with its September Self-Care action calendar, with a simple suggested task each day to keep us all on the right track.

The movement publishes monthly calendars, offering daily suggested tasks on the theme of the respective month. ‘Self-Care September’ follows other recent calendars, including ‘Altruistic August’, ‘Jump Back July’, ‘Joyful June’, ‘Meaningful May’ and ‘Active April’.

Suggestions for this month include the following:

  • Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love
  • Stop the glorification of ‘busy’, it’s good to take a break
  • Notice the things you do well today, however small
  • Get active outside and give your mind and body a natural boost
  • Accept your mistakes as a way of helping you make progress

Download the calendar

Complementary therapies are beneficial to people with advanced cancer

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The article below was first published in International Therapist issue 129 (Summer 2019)

Aromatherapy, reflexology and massage can all benefit clients with advanced cancer, according to a review published in Palliative Medicine.

Searching medical databases, a team of researchers found five qualitative studies evaluating the therapeutic needs of people in palliative care with advanced cancer, which provide evidence of the benefits of therapies.

They examined three ‘analytical themes’: the patient experience during the therapy (enhanced wellbeing and escapism), beyond the complementary therapy session (lasting benefits and overall evaluation), and the delivery of complementary therapy in palliative care (value of therapist and delivery of the complementary therapy).

The results showed that people with advanced cancer experienced benefits from aromatherapy, reflexology and massage, including enhanced wellbeing, respite and escapism from their disease.

Access the review abstract at fht.org.uk/IT-129-cancer-therapies

Not yet an FHT member?

Join today and enjoy more articles like this in our online reading room and quarterly membership magazine, International Therapist. As a member, you can access lots of other benefits, too, such as tailor-made insurance policies and a listing on our Accredited Register of complementary therapists, independently approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (eligibility criteria apply). Click here to learn more about the benefits of being an FHT member

Apathy is the forgotten symptom of dementia


Apathy is the most common neuropsychiatric symptom of dementia, with a bigger impact on function than memory loss – yet it is under-researched and often forgotten in care.

A new study has found that apathy is present in nearly half of all people with dementia, with researchers finding it is often distinct from depression.

Although common, apathy is often ignored as it is less disruptive in settings such as care homes than symptoms like aggression.

Defined by a loss of interest and emotions, it is extremely distressing for families and it is linked with more severe dementia and worse clinical symptoms.

Now, research led by the University of Exeter and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in LA has analysed 4,320 people with Alzheimer’s disease from 20 cohort studies, to look at the prevalence of apathy over time.

At the start of the study, 45% presented with apathy, and 20% had persistent apathy over time. Researchers found that a proportion had apathy without depression, which suggests that the symptom might have its own unique clinical and biological profile when compared to apathy with depression and depression only.

Dr Miguel de Silva Vasconcelos, of the University of Exeter and King’s College London, said: ‘Apathy is an under-researched and often ignored symptom of dementia. It can be overlooked because people with apathy seem less disruptive and less engaging, but it has a huge impact on the quality of life of people living with dementia, and their families. Where people withdraw from activities, it can accelerate cognitive decline and we know that there are higher mortality rates in people with apathy. It’s now time this symptom was recognised and prioritised in research and understanding.’

Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: ‘Apathy is the forgotten symptom of dementia, yet it can have devastating consequences. Our research shows just how common apathy is in people with dementia, and we now need to understand it better so we can find effective new treatments. Our WHELD study to improve care home staff training through personalised care and social interaction included an exercise programme that improved apathy, so we know we can make a difference. This is a real opportunity for interventions that could significantly benefit thousands of people with dementia.’


Rye is healthy, thanks to an interplay of microbes


Eating rye comes with a variety of health benefits. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland now shows that both lactic acid bacteria and gut bacteria contribute to the health benefits of rye. Published in Microbiome, the study used a metabolomics approach to analyse metabolites found in food and the human body.

Rye sourdough used for the baking of rye bread is rich in lactic acid bacteria. In addition to fermenting the dough, these bacteria also modify bioactive compounds found in rye. They produce branched-chain amino acids and amino acid-containing small peptides, which are known to have an impact on insulin metabolism, among other things.

Many of the compounds found in rye are processed by gut bacteria before getting absorbed into the body. The study found that gut microbes and microbes found in sourdough produce compounds that are partially the same. However, gut microbes also produce derivatives of trimethylglycine, also known as betaine, contained in rye. An earlier study by the research group has shown that at least one of these derivatives reduces the need for oxygen in heart muscle cells, which may protect the heart from ischemia or possibly even enhance its performance. The findings can explain some of the health benefits of rye, including better blood sugar levels and a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The study used metabolomics as the primary method to carry out an extensive analysis of metabolites found in food and the human body. The effects of gut microbes were studied in mice and in an in vitro gastrointestinal model, mimicking the function of the human gut. Using these two models, the researchers were able to eliminate naturally occurring differences in the gut microbiome between different individuals, making it easier to detect metabolites actually originating from rye.

Rye can be traced back to what is now known as present-day eastern Turkey, from where it has spread to many cuisines across the world. In Finland, for example, rye has been consumed for thousands of years, and it was recently selected as the country’s national food.

Although the health benefits of rye are long known, the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. For instance, the so-called Rye Factor refers to the lower insulin response caused by rye than, for example, wheat bread. Eating rye makes blood sugar levels fall slower, which leads to beneficial effects on the health – for a reason that remains unknown.

A significant factor contributing to the health benefits of rye are its bioactive compounds, or phytochemicals, which serve as antioxidants. In addition, gut microbes seem to play an important role in turning these compounds into a format that can be easily absorbed by the body, making it possible for them to have a greater effect.

“The major role played by gut microbes in human health has become more and more evident over the past decades, and this is why gut microbes should be taken very good care of. It’s a good idea to avoid unnecessary antibiotics and feed gut microbes with optimal food – such as rye,” Researcher Ville Koistinen from the University of Eastern Finland notes.


Action for happiness hopes we have an altruistic August


Action for Happiness hopes to spread selfless goodwill next month, with its ‘Altruistic August’ action calendar.

The movement publishes monthly calendars, offering daily affirmations on the theme of the respective month. ‘Altruistic August’ follows other recent calendars, including ‘Jump Back July’, ‘Joyful June’, ‘Meaningful May’ and ‘Active April’.

Suggestions for this month include the following:

  • Decide to be kind to others (and yourself) all this month.
  • Offer your seat, give way, or hold the door open for others.
  • Take a friend on a spontaneous adventure.
  • Try to bring a smile to as many people as possible today.
  • Sign up to be an organ donor or give blood.

Download the calendar

College of Medicine announces dates for this year’s food conference


Food on Prescription 2019 is the latest in a series of food conferences, run by the College of Medicine, that have become a leading UK event on food, lifestyle and medicine for all healthcare professionals, who want to create a healthier future for patients, communities and the nation.

Held on Thursday October 24 at the Royal Society of Medicine, the conference will focus on:

  1. The latest insight on the biome and the relationship of food to our major lifestyle conditions
  2. Supporting healthy eating throughout our communities and nation
  3. Transforming the clinician and patient relationship including the 10 min consultation
  4. Creating a stronger coalition of stakeholders to reverse the current situation whereby those who most need healthy food are the least likely to be able to either access it or want it.

The Conference will include presenters who represent some of the leading experts and leaders in food, lifestyle and medicine as well as senior politicians from the largest political parties.  As in previous years, it is a conference that will ‘walk the talk’ including a healthy lunch and positive interaction with the audience but with a sharp focus on bringing about effective change at every level.

Vist the College of Medicine website for more information and to book tickets

A small knee bone is making a comeback

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A small bone more common in clients with arthritis is making a comeback, according to an article published in the Journal of Anatomy.

The fabella is a small independent bone located behind the lateral femoral condyle that is common in non-human mammals. It is absent in many humans who have lost the bone through evolution.

However, a recent systematic review examining medical literature over the past 150 years has found an increase in its prevalence. The findings show that the fabella is now three times more common than it was 100 years ago and is present in 39% of people.

Scientists believe that this increase could coincide with the global increase in human weight and height due to improved nutrition over the past century. Increased weight and height leads to larger calf muscles and longer shinbones, putting more pressure on the knee, and in turn leading to the formation of the fabella.

Read more