Top of the blogs: the best of Evidently Cochrane 2017

As we approach the end of 2017, Sarah Chapman looks back at the most popular blogs published this year on Evidently Cochrane. 

January  

Chicken soup has brought comfort to many and not least in times of ill health, though in the books I read as a child ‘invalids’ were always offered that horrifying concoction calves foot jelly, which would surely have been an incentive to leap out of bed and declare oneself better.

There’s no chicken soup in January’s most popular blog, but plenty of other things we may reach for when we have a cold. In ‘Just pass the tissues – evidence on remedies for the common cold’, our Senior Fellow in General Practice, Lynda Ware, shares the findings of a Cochrane overview on things people try to prevent, shorten or relieve colds, from vitamin C (only winter athletes need bother) to steam (just enjoy the aroma of your soup). Look out for Lynda in the new year, when she’ll be on your tv screens talking about the evidence on echinacea for colds.

February

Food is a theme for February’s top blog, neither soup nor fries but milk for preterm babies. We were fortunate to have with us, for part of the year, paediatrician Rufaro Ndokera, and her blog on ‘Getting preterm babies feeding orally’ was one of several great blogs she wrote for Evidently Cochrane. She has written this one for parents of preterm babies, sharing the evidence behind suggestions about feeding that they may be given in hospital. Sadly, we haven’t yet seen Faro start up a sideline in realistic stock images, despite our shared frustration at the difficulty of illustrating blogs well.

Atwood, in her February poem, remarks (about cats, but really all of us):

“It’s all about sex and territory,

which are what will finish us off,

in the long run.”

Which brings us to the next blog.

March

“March is the month of expectation” according to the 19th century poet Emily Dickinson, and so it was for us, as we finally brought to fruition an idea that we had been toying with for some time. We knew that running a series of blogs on ‘The Problem With Sex’ demanded something more and different from us than our other special series and, as we prepared, we wondered quite how it would pan out. The blog explaining why we were exploring this topic was the most viewed in March and we were really pleased that all the blogs in the series were much read, shared and talked about it. What’s more, we heard about some changes in practice made as a result – evidence into action!

 

April

I wanted to cheer when I first read April’s top blog, Vaginal dilator therapy: vibrate, dilate or wait?, in which Cochrane author and specialist nurse Tracie Miles takes us beyond the Cochrane Review to tell us what she did about the evidence gap it highlighted; how she listened to the women in her care and set about changing things through new research. Wonderful!

A moment of thankfulness for progress in medical treatments is a good moment to mention another’s gratitude for the apparent effectiveness of his treatment of choice, though its effect on me would have been far from good.  The entry for 11th April 1681 in the diary of Elias Ashmole (the antiquarian whose collection became the foundation for Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum) reads:

May

This is the choice for 23rd May in the ‘Poem For The Day’ anthology I have, that day being the birthday of the poet William Wordsworth. I’m sorry Wordsworth (and I was never a fan), but this won’t wash! A couple of hundred years on, those delivering healthcare must definitely toil at their books (or screens!) and look for evidence to inform their decisions. Of course, they may not find what they need. When nurse and carer Helen Cowan went to the Cochrane Library looking for answers to her many questions about urinary catheters, she found that there are plenty of Cochrane Reviews addressing them but important evidence gaps. Helen’s summaries of the evidence and insights from practice in her excellent blog for our Evidence for Everyday Nursing series, ‘Urinary catheter care: what does the evidence say?’, made this not just top of the blogs for May but also the most popular blog of the year – congratulations, Helen!

Let’s not forget that evidence is only part of the decision-making picture, along with clinical expertise and patient preference. Before we reject Wordsworth entirely, Helen would be the first to agree that “a heart that watches and receives” is rather important in our care of others.

June

Breath is a critical element of the evidence scrutinized by paramedic Scott Munro in this blog. Whether attempts to resuscitate people who have a cardiac arrest out of hospital are more likely to be successful if chest compressions are carried out continuously, or if rescue breaths are added, is an important question for both the trained professional and the bystander. With high quality evidence to help inform practice, and expert reflections from Scott, it’s no wonder this blog aroused so much interest.

July

Someone who is leading their life to the full and writing about it her blog, enabling the rest of us to learn from her insights, is Wendy Mitchell. Wendy, who has young onset dementia, blogged for our ‘Dementia in the Spotlight series about why she takes part in research, about being valued, and about opportunities to change the future. Her blog was our most popular in July. If you missed it, you can read it here.

August

It doesn’t seem the least bit surprising that snuggling skin to skin is good for babies, and Cochrane evidence has shown that its benefits include reducing the pain of procedures such as injections; good news particularly for newborns in neonatal units, and their families. Trainee children’s doctor Asad Abbas explains more in August’s top blog.

September

We’re taking the road less travelled in our approach to organising Cochrane’s global conference for 2018, to be held in Edinburgh in September. Our theme is Cochrane For All and is to be a Patients Included event, part of a longer commitment to increasing the involvement of patients, carers and other healthcare consumers in Cochrane. We hope it will indeed make all the difference. We set out our intentions in the top blog for September. You can keep up with news and opportunities by signing up for our Patients Included newsletter here.

Lines from another September entry in ‘Poem For The Day’, ‘Everyone Sang’ by Siegfried Sasson, reminded me of our (wildest!) aspirations for this.

“Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted; And beauty came like the setting sun…”

October

Corduroy may be one of the few materials that has not yet been suggested as an appropriate dressing for venous leg ulcers, for which healthcare professionals are faced with an array of dressing types and little reliable evidence to guide them. My evidence round-up for nurses on treatments for venous leg ulcers took the month’s top slot.

November

It seems fitting to introduce November’s most read blog with a quote from Martha Gellhorn, a war correspondent whose work spanned 60 years of the last century. In “Apocalypse now: antimicrobial resistance” Lynda Ware looks at this global present day threat and what can be done about it. Common infections could once again kill us; we ignore this at our peril.

December

I am really glad that we have been able to feature so many excellent blogs in 2017 and that our many guest writers have included newcomers to Evidently Cochrane. With December not yet finished, I want to end the blog with my pick of the year. The voice that made me say “wow!” when the blog arrived on my screen belongs to Annette, whose speech problems following a stroke have put a stranglehold on her. Through her writing, she gives a memorable account of what it’s like to live with dysarthria and, with Cochrane author and researcher Claire Mitchell, looks at the research and what needs to happen next to change things for others like her.

Claire and Annette will be writing together again for our special series on Life After Stroke, which we will be running in March. Don’t miss it!

Which of our blogs have you enjoyed this year? Have any of them changed influenced your health decisions or clinical practice? Do let us know by leaving a comment here, or joining the conversation on Twitter @SarahChapman30 @CochraneUK.

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Sarah Chapman

About Sarah Chapman

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Sarah's work as a Knowledge Broker at Cochrane UK focuses on disseminating Cochrane evidence through social media, including Evidently Cochrane blogs, blogshots and the ‘Evidence for Everyday’ series for nurses, midwives, allied health professionals and patients. A former registered general nurse, Sarah has a particular interest making evidence accessible and useful to practitioners and to others making decisions about health. Before joining Cochrane, Sarah also worked on systematic reviews for the University of Oxford and the Royal College of Nursing Institute, and obtained degrees in History from the University of Oxford and in the history of women’s health and illness in early modern England (MPhil., University of Reading).

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