Academics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), working on behalf of NHS England and in partnership with NHSX, have analysed the pseudonymised health data of over 17.4 million UK adults to discover the key factors associated with death from COVID-19.
This is the largest study on COVID-19 conducted by any country to date, analysing NHS health data from 17.4 million UK adults between 01 February 2020 and 25 April 2020, which has given the strongest evidence to date on risk factors associated with coronavirus. Among the sample, there were 5,707 deaths in hospitals attributed to COVID-19.
Compared to white people, people of Asian and Black ethnic origin were found to be at a higher risk of death. Previously, commentators and researchers have reasonably speculated that this might be due to higher prevalence of medical problems such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes among BME communities, or higher deprivation. The findings, based on detailed data, show that this only accounts for a small part of the excess risk. Consequently, further work must be done to fully understand why BME people are at such increased risk of death.
Additionally, people from deprived social backgrounds were also found to be at a higher risk of death, which also could not be explained by other risk factors.
Results confirmed that men are at increased risk from COVID-19 death, as well as people of older ages and those with uncontrolled diabetes. People with more severe asthma were also found to be at increased risk of death from COVID-19.
The study linked data about patients that had been hospitalised with COVID-19 with data held in primary care records processed by TPP. This was carried via the OpenSAFELY analytics platform, a new secure mechanism which allowed the GP records to be linked where they are stored for individual care. This minimises the security risks associated with transferring and storing data elsewhere, to deliver analyses quickly and safely while preserving patient privacy. All identifiable data remains in control of the NHS and data is pseudonymised before it can be accessed by researchers.
Professor Liam Smeeth, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at LSHTM, NHS doctor and co-lead on the study, says: ‘We need highly accurate data on which patients are most at risk in order to manage the pandemic and improve patient care. The answers provided by this OpenSAFELY analysis are of crucial importance to countries around the world. For example, it is very concerning to see that the higher risks faced by people from BME backgrounds are not attributable to identifiable underlying health conditions’.
Dr Ben Goldacre, Director of the DataLab in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford, NHS doctor and co-lead on the study, says: ‘During a global health emergency we need answers quickly and accurately. That means we need very large, very current datasets. The UK has phenomenal coverage and quality of data. We owe it to patients to keep their data secure; and we owe it to the global community to make good use of this data. That’s why we have developed a new highly secure model, taking the analytics to where the data already resides.’
Further analyses using OpenSAFELY are already underway, including investigation into the effects of specific drugs routinely prescribed in primary care. The platform can also be used to evaluate COVID-19 spread with innovative approaches to modelling; predict local health service needs; assess the indirect health impacts of the pandemic; track the impact of national interventions; and inform exit from lockdown.
China is facing growing pressure from national governments and international organizations to open its doors to an independent, international investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus causing the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as into the nation’s early response to the outbreak. So far, however, the Chinese government has given no public sign it is interested in cooperating. Its silence, and signs that China is stifling origins research by its own scientists, have fueled theories that the virus accidently leaked from a lab there.
“The whole world wants the exact origin of the virus to be clarified,” German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas told reporters today, endorsing calls for China to allow an outside body to conduct field research and other studies aimed at determining how severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, jumped into humans. The Chinese government’s response to such calls, he says, will demonstrate “how transparent it wants to be with the virus.”
The remarks echo those made in the past few weeks by the European Commission, Sweden, Australia, and others. And they come as a few government officials, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have asserted that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where SARS-CoV-2 was first identified. That lab studies and stores samples of coronaviruses found in bats and other species. So far, however, the assertions that the new virus was in that facility have not been backed by hard evidence, and some scientists are skeptical of the escape claim, saying it is more likely that SARS-CoV-2 naturally emerged elsewhere.
Still, both politicians and scientists are increasingly calling on China to make any investigations it is conducting into the matter more transparent—and to allow independent scrutiny. After its Friday meeting, for example, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Emergency Committee, a group of independent scientific experts advising the agency, recommended a probe that included “field missions” to China, and perhaps the involvement of the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Its goal would be to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts,” the panel said.
“We need transparency,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the Commission, said this past Friday on CNBC in response to a question about whether she would support an independent review. But she suggested any investigation would need China’s participation and could wait until the pandemic abates.
Sweden’s health minister, Lena Hallengren, made similar remarks on 30 April. “When the global situation of COVID-19 is under control, it is both reasonable and important that an international, independent investigation be conducted to gain knowledge about the origin and spread of the coronavirus,” she wrote to Sweden’s Parliament. Hallengren said Sweden is planning to ask the European Union to push for the probe.
Australia wants to see WHO push for an investigation. “It would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on 23 April, urging WHO members to back an inquiry.
WHO is not currently involved in studies in China, spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic tells ScienceInsider, but it “would be keen to work with international partners and at the invitation of the Chinese government to participate in investigation around the animal origins” of the virus.
“It is our understanding that a number of investigations to better understand the source of the outbreak in China are currently underway or planned,” he added, “including investigations of human cases with symptom onset in and around Wuhan in late 2019, environmental sampling from markets and farms in areas where the first human cases were identified, and detailed records on the source and type of wildlife species and farmed animals sold in these markets.”
The Chinese government has said it has launched its own investigation into the origins and early response to the pandemic, but has publicly provided few details. And it has responded with anger to assertions it bears responsibility for allowing the outbreak to spread globally, with government-sponsored news organs calling such claims “baseless.” Multiple press reports have also provided evidence that China has promoted disinformation campaigns suggesting the virus originated in other places, such as the United States.
The first trial, called DISCOVERY, started on 22 March 2020 to test four experimental treatments against COVID-19. This trial will recruit 3200 patients from Belgium, France, Germany Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The second trial, called RECOVERY, started enrolment of patients in the United Kingdom on 27 March 2020. This trial is testing two treatments against COVID-19. In the future, RECOVERY trial will be expanded to assess the impact of other potential treatments as they become available.
For more information follow the links below:
By: Sheila Harvey, Associate Professor in Clinical and Social Intervention Trials at LSHTM, and Saidi Kapiga, Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at LSHTM
The impact of violence against women is considerable. Women often have low self-esteem and low self-confidence. They feel inferior to others in their community, including their own children, who witness them being beaten by their partner. Other women feel angry and have vented their anger on their children.
But talking about violence has given women hope that things can change.
Globally, around a third of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. There are many negative impacts for women and their families, including poor physical health, mental health problems, such as depression, post-traumatic distress, suicide, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence of an association between intimate partner violence and women’s risk of becoming infected with HIV infection. Studies have highlighted poverty as one of the key drivers of vulnerability to intimate partner violence and HIV infection. This has led to economic interventions, such as microfinancing, being employed as a central approach to addressing these overlapping epidemics with the aim of strengthening women economically and improving household welfare.
There is also increasing recognition of its impact on health. Women’s increased participation in decision-making is associated with positive impacts on population and child health.
It has been suggested that microfinance can reduce intimate partner violence by empowering women economically, which in turn, leads to greater self-esteem and self-confidence, wider social networks, and household decision-making power.
However, the impact of microfinance on violence against women has produced mixed results. It may also increase intimate partner violence by challenging established gender norms and male authority.
A recent evaluation of economic interventions found that positive outcomes were more likely when economic strengthening was combined with gender empowerment interventions.
In one of the earliest trials implemented in South Africa, microfinance loans were provided to women in groups in combination with a 10-session participatory gender and HIV awareness intervention. Two years after delivery of the intervention, women’s reported experience of past-year physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence was reduced by 55%.
This influential trial also raised a number of questions, including whether the impact was due to the microfinance loans or to the 10-session gender awareness component, or both. Another important question for policymakers was whether a similar impact could be achieved in other settings with high rates of violence.
This is something we wanted to find out in the recent MAISHA study.
Delivered to women who are members of an established microfinance loan scheme in Mwanza city, Tanzania, MAISHA involved a ten-session participatory curriculum that covered a range of gender issues and aimed to: empower women, prevent their experience of intimate partner violence, and to promote healthy intimate relationships.
Interviews before the intervention revealed women in Mwanza experience high rates of physical and/or sexual violence. They also experience other forms of abuse such as controlling behavior by a partner, and emotional and economic abuse.
Our intervention reduced the risk of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence by a quarter over a two-year period. The effect was strongest for physical violence, which was reduced by one-third, while the impact on sexual violence was limited.
The impact was greater among women who participated in seven or more of the ten sessions. Attitudes towards violence and norms around male authority shifted among women who received the intervention. In-depth interviews with a small sub-set of the women who participated in the intervention revealed increased self-confidence because of new skills in communication and conflict resolution.
However, it is not clear whether a similar reduction in violence would be observed if the MAISHA intervention was delivered to women who are not engaged in established group-based microfinance activities. It is possible that combining the intervention with a scheme that aims to empower women economically was necessary to produce the effect on violence we observed. This would support findings from other studies.
To understand whether the MAISHA intervention could have the same effect among women not engaged in a microfinance loan scheme, a second trial has recently been completed in Mwanza city.
The UN’s sustainable development goal 5 is to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against women and girls, and the MAISHA study adds to the growing evidence that violence can be prevented by combining strategies to improve women’s economic and social situation.
Further work is required but the MAISHA intervention has the potential to positively impact the lives of a large number of women, not just in Tanzania but also in other similar settings with high rates of gender-based violence across the globe.
S. Kapiga, S. Harvey, G. Mshana, C.H. Hansen, G.J. Mtolela, F. Madaha, R. Hasim, I. Kapinga, N. Mosha, T. Ambramsky, S. Lees, C. Watts. A social empowerment intervention to prevent intimate partner violence against women in a microfinance scheme in Tanzania: findings from the MAISHA cluster randomized controlled trial. The Lancet. DOI:10.1016/S2214-109X(19)30316-X
On 16 September 2019, MITU published results from a large cluster-randomised controlled trial (called MAISHA study) evaluating a social empowerment intervention to prevent intimate partner violence against women. MITU investigators conducted the trial in Mwanza city, NW Tanzania. Women involved in a microfinance loan scheme (provided by BRAC) took part in a participatory gender awareness curriculum, which aims to empower women, prevent intimate partner violence, and promote healthy relationships. The curriculum was developed by EngenderHealth, an international non-profit organisation focussing on gender equity and reproductive health.
The investigators found that after 24 months, women in the intervention arm were less likely than those in the control arm (who did not receive the intervention) to report past-year physical or sexual intimate partner violence. The effect was greater for past-year physical IPV, which was reduced by a third. However, evidence of an impact on past-year sexual IPV was limited. Women in the intervention arm were also much less likely to express attitudes accepting of intimate partner violence, or express attitudes accepting of intimate partner violence, or to view intimate partner violence as a private matter.
Intimate partner violence is a major problem in Tanzania, and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Tanzanian government is committed to addressing this problem through its national plan of action to end violence against women. This trial, which was conducted in collaboration with the Tanzania National Institute for Medical Research and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, addressed the UN’s sustainable development goal 5 to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against women and girls.
The trial findings add to evidence from other studies showing that a social empowerment intervention combined with economic empowerment can be effective in reducing women’s experience of intimate partner violence. The MAISHA investigators have recently completed a second, linked trial evaluating the impact of the MAISHA intervention delivered to women in newly-formed groups who are not engaged in a formal microfinance loan scheme.
“The results of MAISHA suggest that the addition of a social empowerment intervention to existing microfinance programmes can lead to considerable reductions in women’s experiences of physical intimate partner violence over and above those that may result from microfinance alone” said Prof Saidi Kapiga, co-principal investigator of MAISHA study.
“The MAISHA trial adds to a growing body of evidence that violence against women is preventable. Interventions such as MAISHA have the potential to positively affect the lives of a large number of women in Tanzania, and other settings where intimate partner violence is common” said Dr Sheila Harvey, co-investigator of MAISHA study.
For more information, you can read the published article online in the Lancet Global Health. Here are the links to the paper and the accompanying editorial.
“The community is not on the girls’ side”
Rise clubs are helping adolescent girls and young women start conversations about HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Khayelitsha is one of South Africa’s largest townships, situated in the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa.
As is the case in many other communities in South Africa, women and girls in the semi-informal settlement deal with gender inequality on a daily basis, which puts them at higher risk of HIV infection.
Gender inequality is a barrier for adolescent girls and young women to access HIV and sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education. It also places girls at higher risk of gender-based violence.
Momentum for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Africa is building and many African countries have already integrated UHC into their national health strategies. But with 11 million Africans pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket health expenses, how can Africa achieve UHC which delivers a quality package of care for people living in Africa?
The UHC debate was buzzing in Rwanda’s capital Kigali this week during one of the largest health gatherings in Africa, the Africa Health Agenda International conference 2019. Co-hosted by the Ministry of Health of Rwanda and the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref Health Africa), 1500 health leaders shared new ideas and home-grown solutions to the continent’s most pressing health challenges.
Participants discussed the need for countries to embrace the concept of UHC and do their utmost to make it work. They stressed that good health allows children to learn and adults to contribute to societies and the economy. They also underscored that it can allow people to emerge from poverty and provides the basis for long-term economic security, essential for the future of the continent.
Host country President, Paul Kagame was awarded the honour of excellence in recognition of his political leadership on UHC. In a tweet he thanked Amref saying, “We owe this progress to partners like you who have joined forces with us in our journey to deliver a dignified and healthy life for all Rwandans.” The Minister of Health of Ethiopia also received an award for Ethiopia’s work in promoting primary health care.
Ensuring that everyone has access to basic health services is a challenge and the key to the success of UHC will be ensuring that the quality of services is good enough to improve the health of the people who access them.
“We need to track the impact of UHC,” said Michel Sidibé, co-moderating a high-level ministerial panel. “Coverage is not enough, we need to be delivering quality, affordable, accessible services to all. The ultimate measure of success for UHC will be whether the poorest, the marginalized and the most vulnerable people are able to benefit.”
During the conference Mr Sidibé participated in a townhall with young people. He spoke to them about their meaningful engagement in the UHC process saying that young people need to ‘claim and own the space.’ He also talked to civil society groups about the remarkable progress towards achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment targets across Africa and of the critical need of their continued engagement on HIV within UHC.
The first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage will take place on 23 September 2019 during the United Nations General Assembly under the theme ‘Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World.’
The number of new HIV infections globally continues to fall. Modelled estimates show that new infections (all ages) declined from a peak of 3.4 million [2.6 million–4.4 million] in 1996 to 1.8 million [1.4 million–2.4 million] in 2017—the year for which the most recent data are available. However, progress is far slower than that required to reach the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 new HIV infections (see graph below).
MITU organized a special meeting for stakeholders of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector in Tanzania. This meeting, held on the 7th December 2018 at the White Sands hotel in Dar es Salaam, was a collaborative effort of MITU, the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) Mwanza research centre, WaterAid, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. MITU was holding this meeting for a third year in a roll as part of the Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE) consortium activities in Tanzania.
The meeting was attended by WASH research scientists, policy makers and programme implementers from Tanzania (42) and from other African countries, including Malawi (2) and Zambia (1). The main objective of this meeting was to highlight SHARE consortium research activities implemented by MITU and WaterAid in Tanzania and work done by SHARE partners – Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit (MEIRU) in Malawi and Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). The secondary objective was to bring together key stakeholders in WASH and provide opportunity for sharing information and networking.
During the meeting, Drs Kenneth Makata, Safari Kinung’hi and Elialilia Okello presented preliminary results from the ongoing Mikono Safi study, which means “clean hands” in Kiswahili, a cluster-randomised trial aiming to assess the effectiveness of a behaviour intervention, including promotion of handwashing with water and soap, among school-aged children in the Kagera Region of North-Western Tanzania in reducing the prevalence and intensity of Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura infections. The trial is implemented in 16 primary schools located in 3 districts (Bukoba municipality, Bukoba and Muleba) among the 7 districts of Kagera region.
Overall, this was a highly successful and well-organised event with plenty of time for formal presentations and informal discussions. At the end, participants agreed to continue holding the meeting each year beyond the period covered by SHARE consortium which ends in December 2018.
MITU recently organized a highly successful scientific symposium with the theme “Health of Adolescents and Young People in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Solutions”. The symposium was held on 27-29 November 2018 in Mwanza city, NW Tanzania. The symposium was part of the celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of MITU, one of the main LSHTM research partnerships in Africa, and a product of a long-standing research collaboration with the Tanzanian National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).
The symposium was attended by scientists from Tanzania (58), other African countries (36), Europe (23) and the United States (1). Participants included strong representation from other LSHTM-related partnerships in Africa, including the MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit in Uganda, Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit (MEIRU) in Malawi, and Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) in Zimbabwe, Zambia AIDS Related Tuberculosis (ZAMBART) Project in Zambia, and other key collaborators from South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.
During the symposium, there were keynote presentations reviewing key areas of the health of adolescents and young people (AYP) in Africa, as well as shorter talks and discussion of research gaps, future directions and methodological approaches. Important areas of AYP health addressed included HIV and sexual health; mental health; non-communicable diseases; cognitive development and risk taking; and development and evaluation of interventions. The presentations also showcased research conducted by MITU on adolescent health. This included a special poster session which was well attended by participants during the first two days of the meeting. A special journal supplement showcasing major presentations during the symposium will be published.
We look forward to continuing growth in our research and impact during the next ten years!