Sussex professor in major documentary on childbirth and global health

Microbirth, featuring Professor Stefan Elbe, is being shown on 22 September in the Chowen Lecture Theatre, 6-8pm

A major documentary film that examines how modern birth practices could be making our children more susceptible to disease later in life features a Sussex academic.

Professor Stefan Elbe, Director of the Centre for Global Health Policy, is among those delivering some stark warnings in the film, Microbirth, which is being shown on campus on Monday (22 September) from 6pm to 8pm in the Chowen Lecture Theatre.

Featuring prominent scientists from the UK and North America, the film highlights the rise in non-communicable diseases linked to the immune system, such as type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, asthma and cardio-vascular disease, and inquires about the possible reasons for the increase.

Speaking on camera, Professor Elbe comments on figures produced by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health that the cost of treating these diseases – predicted by the World Health Authority to cause 80 per cent of deaths worldwide - could bankrupt global healthcare systems by the year 2030.

“To put that into context, the combined economic output of most countries in the world any given year is less than one trillion US dollars and they are estimating a cost of 47 trillion US dollars. It is a staggering sum indeed.”

The film, made by Brighton company Alto Films, explores several possible explanations for the rise in these diseases. These include the hypothesis that births by Caesarean section interfere with the natural transference of hormones and good bacteria between mother and child and profoundly affect the baby’s immune system and metabolism.

While the scientists debate the medical and microbiological arguments, Professor Elbe warns of “the deeper threat to national security” of the rising tide of non-communicable diseases.

He says: “If we don't find ways of managing for these diseases better, if we can't come up with cheap or cost-effective ways to address them, we are going to be landed with quite a big socio-economic problem that could be de-stabilising in the worst case scenario. So I think that's why we need to raise more awareness around non-communicable diseases and get more co-ordinated action on this.

“I don't think we are too late but we are definitely not too early either. This is a really big challenge, something we have to confront urgently. We have to change our thinking.”

  • Microbirth, produced and directed by Brighton filmmaking couple Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford, is being premiered at public screenings around the world. The Sussex screening will be followed by a Q&A with the Directors/Producers. Entrance is free.

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 19 September 2014