Saturday, August 2, 2008

Is the US's HPV vaccine safe enough?

The US Food and Drug Administration has released documents suggesting that in the two years since the HPV vaccine Gardasil was introduced in the country 18-20 women have died as a result. During that time 8 million women have been vaccinated. That suggests the chance of dying from the vaccine is very roughly around 1 in 500,000.

You've 28 times more chance of dying from Gardasil than of winning the UK national lottery. It's not quite as simple as that since the UK is using a different vaccine - Cervarix - for which I haven't seen the side-effects data but you see the point.

The vaccine protects women against HPV which causes cervical cancer. The disease can already be detected using a smear test while HPV transmission can be reduced by practising safe sex.

But let's put these considerations aside for a moment. The big question is: vaccine programmes only work if pretty much everyone is vaccinated, is it acceptable for George Bush - or Gordon Brown - to ask citizens to run a 500,000-1 risk?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Celebrity +hot topic +sex = internet hit

Angelina Jolie +twins +dollars. Cristiano Ronaldo +slavery +diving. David Cameron +smug grin -policy. We are told that the best way to get your stories picked up on the internet is to make sure there's plenty of search-engine friendly words in there. Celebrity names. Hot news topics. Tenuous links to sex.

So even if your story is about double-entry book-keeping (if such a thing still exists in the spreadsheet age), you need to begin the first paragraph with: 'Rather than joining a late night love nest at the Hague with Radovan Karadžić or reading Hello! magazine, the accountants of Barack Obama, Jenifer Aniston and Madonna will be concerned about the hottest, sexiest development in double-entry book-keeping'. Could we do that sort of thing on malehealth? Or would you find us just a little less trustworthy when you had an important health question to ask?

OK, stories on the drug-related song lyrics of French president Nicolas Sarkozy's former nude model wife Carla Bruni might be going too far - even if they are vaguely health-related - but we could do more with the website (and with the Men's Health Forum's own website). The technology they're built on is stone age by the standards of the web and, very limited resources permitting, we're looking to make improvements. Have a look at the site and let us know what you'd like to see.

As well as the site itself, I'd particularly like to know whether we should be trying to get our content out there on other people's sites whether as links, news feeds or via social networking portals. It might help to get the site better known but it takes time. Would our limited time be better spent developing our articles so that when someone does type a health concern into a search engine, we've got material on it? That's a question I can't make my mind up on. What do you think?