Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.

Videos about H

Live blogs about H

Jenny Sealey talk

JennySealey_portraitJenny became deaf (with speech) at aged 7. Her mother said she could do whatever she wanted. Her careers officer said she could become a librarian! With Graeae, she works with some extraordinary deaf and disabled artists. She is showing a video of some of them as she continues to speak.

Disabled people are dependent on Access to Work and the Independent Living Fund. The first is one of the government’s best kept secrets. It helps disabled people into the workforce, so they can fulfil roles with equality, and come off benefits and pay taxes. The latter does what it says. But in 2012 Esther McVey announced out of the blue that it will be closed and passed to local authorities in June 2015. The pot is £23m, and per person the cost of £346 compares very favourably with the cost of care in residential homes [several thousand]. Jenny argues the closure breaches human rights.

When working on the Paralympics Opening Ceremony, Stephen Hawking said don’t look at your toes, look at the stars. He and many other deaf and disabled people (Beethoven, Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo) have contributed enormously to civilisation. They needed and received support. Jenny is running through a list of people who are struggling with accessing government support so they can fulfil their potential.

For example, a graduate in business studies had Access to Work for 6 hours a day, then when moved to another job was only given 3 hours a week, and had to leave the job… which also means that two signers lost their employment too.

Disability does not occur because someone has done something wrong. Yet disabled people are vilified and in some countries treated as beggars. It amazes some that there are disabled people on the stage. Many decisions seem to be the result of lack of empathy and understanding. For example, how do blind people use tablets with smooth screens? The Paralympics were glorious. Following it, Channel 4 asked Jenny to put some of her people forward to Undateables, which she found sickening.

So Jenny asks us to familiarise ourselves with Access to Work, and with the issues, and help disabled people in their efforts to give their great contributions to society.

Chetan Bhatt talk

ChetanBhatt_portraitOur next speaker is Chetan Bhatt from LSE. He’s commenting on how people generally try to pigeonhole him… as a Hindu Kenyan Asian. But also all sorts of people from his London background are part of him.

Questions about identity and origins are difficult – we might cheer and fight for them, but often we just assume we have them without thinking about it. But the responses are important socially and politically.

Often conflicts are based on old stories of origin and identity, myths which can be about nation, race, religion, caste, culture. Some say origin stories give people a sense of belonging, but Chetan sees them as adding to human misery, and dares us to refuse them. Instead we should develop a deeper sense of personhood, responsible to humanity as a whole; origin myths disguise global power and inequalities.

Tradition is not the same as history. They are often in conflict. Chetan tells two stories of growing up in London.

One is of his next door neighbour, who was National Front, racist and threatening, but today is a family friend, gentle and kind.

The other is of a quiet Hindu boy who became involved in Al Qaeda. He like others discarded his ‘impure’ past to become ‘authentic’… but it is using a forgery of the past, not returning to the past. Ordinary Muslim beliefs can never be pure enough, so are obliterated. The claim to tradition is at war with history.

Purity, certainty, authenticity – all lethal. Today’s main Hindu fundamentalist organisation has roots in Fascism, and has engaged for decades in violence against minorities. Fundamentalists see religion and culture as their sole property.

Chetan respects the right to have and express culture and religion, but not necessarily the content. There is no human right to not be offended. In a genuine democracy, people express different views, and change their views.

Why do we have pride in our nationality – an accident of birth? We live in a global world where goods and services are owned and provided internationally. There is no pure nation or culture. Culture is about many things, but often is what’s decided by the powers that be.

So Chetan asks: what about our identity? Each self is complex and messy, so why not value impurities and uncertainties? Why not be sceptical about origin myths? Be creative… He is showing a slide of a tin of haggis curry. Mmm… fusion cuisine!

Chetan tells the story of Dr Siddiqui, a Muslim fundamentalist. He was shattered by the story of a Pakistani girl who was raped and then exceuted for adultery, and reversed his position to work courageously against fundamentalism.

Ibn Rushd, a 12th century Muslim thinker, said that religious truth may conflict with rational truth, but the latter is still true. There are two distinct realms of truth, and they should be separated, i.e. secularism, or separation of church and state in the US, and laïcité in France. Ideas that shook his world, and ours.

Rachel McKendry talk

RachelMcKendry_portraitRachel wants us to take out our mobile phones and hold them up. Virtually everyone in the room has a phone, each of which has more power than the computers which helped to put a man on the moon. And they can help provide an early warning system for viruses.

Viruses and other infectious diseases are some of the main threats to our increasingly interconnected world. Ebola highlights the threat, and the importance of public health. Doctors protect individuals. Public health protects populations. The reality is that most countries have little public health provision, so Ebola went undetected for 3 months, until it was ready to explode.

The flu pandemic in 1918-20 killed more people than World War I. Pandemic influenza is at the top of the UK government risk register, and it’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’. It’s not just a question of health, but the economy and provision of essential services. Also, antimicrobial resistance is growing, which the Chief Medical Officer describes as a ticking timebomb.

If someone is infected, there is an incubation period before symptoms arise, during which there is a risk of passing it on. There are more delays before diagnosis and intervention, which has a serious effect on PH efforts to prevent the virus spreading. So we need to pick up infections at the onset of symptoms.

Rachel’s team, across many disciplines and organisations, is using reporting of symptoms on the web to form early warning systems. There are 7bn mobile subscriptions in the world. Mobiles are the most sophisticated technology in remote villages in developing countries. The first report of SARS in China was by the public.

Many of us use our mobiles to search the web about our health. Google Flu Trends, based on anonymised searches, provides information 2 weeks ahead of official sources. Tweets also provide lots of information about symptoms. Together, they are being used to create a nowcasting service.

But symptoms don’t imply the same diagnoses, so the team is also bringing diagnostic technology to the people. It uses self-swabbing kits, which are posted back to labs. And phone sensors are now being used to do the diagnosis on the ground. Further, the team has produced bio-barcodes, readable by phone cameras, which can diagnose e.g. HIV. This is all linked to the provision of interventions.

Mobile technology was used in the fight against Ebola – text alerts, communication of test results, etc. It’s still early days, though. The challenge is to develop a means of detecting Ebola and the like 3 months earlier. And the public and public education are the main tools. Together we can fight infectious diseases.