Find thousands of books, manuscripts, visual materials and unpublished archives from our collections, many of them with free online access.


Valeh, Rena
  • Videos

About this work


Against the premise of humankind's great achievements in science and technology... the central question is why are we still so 'sick'? The plagues which the programme alludes to asthma, allergies, diabetes, the non-communicable diseases are at epidemic proportions. These diseases are estimated to bankrupt health systems Worldwide. The WHO considers that there are four contributing factors to this epidemic: smoking, alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise. The programme identifies a different approach to this problem. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello from New York University talks about our distant origins and the beginning of life on earth which was a microbial planet. From simple bacteria came complex ecosystems. This is evidenced by some of the environmental changes around us. Individually we are also ecosystems hosting 90% bacteria versus 10% mammalian cells. Martin Blaser, Human Microbiome Project contributes to this observation. Lesley Page, Visiting Professor of Midwifery, King's College London finds this surprising but thinks this connects us to the universe. The point of the microbes is that they are symbiotic and helps us to stay healthy. However, in the face of the rise in the non-communicable diseases mentioned already, there is a 'Disappearing Microbioata Hypothesis'. Having been exposed to antibiotics for 70 years, it has been estimated we have lost a third of all the microbes evident in indigenous populations who have not been exposed to antibiotics. There is a brief archive sequence in colour showing Alexander Fleming in his laboratory and penicillin production. Modern life seems intent on removing 99.9% of all bacteria. Birth is thought to be the major time when key bacteria is transferred from the mother to her baby (via her breast milk and from a vaginal birth). DrRodney Dietert, Professor of Immunotoxiology from Cornell University, argues that this is critical for future health. His hypothesis is 'The Completed Self'. Hannah Dahlen, Professor of Midwifery from University of western Sydney, promotes immediate skin-to-skin contact with the baby to help with the transfer of bacteria. It is also argued that this early contact sets up a chain of hormones which helps with the bonding process and endures into the baby's life. Breast milk in particular is helpful to the baby. More recently, analysing breast milk, it has been discovered that the milk contains indigestible sugars designed to feed the bacteria in the baby's gut. Anita Kozyrskyj, Professor and Principal Investigator for the SyMBIOTA Project, University of Alberta talks about the connection between the development of gut bacteria and the growing immune system. There is only one chance to get this delicate relationship right. The consequences of this is the diseases mentioned already. Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London, is concerned about the increasing rates of Caesarean Sections. Philip Steer, Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics, Imperial College, London, has a theory that as Caesareans are safer, then more are requested. There are some risks especially regarding respiratory problems; the longer term consequences are less well understood. In particular, the baby does not receive the mother's special reservoir of bacteria. Birth in hospitals may also lead to seeding by the wrong bacteria present in hospitals such as clostidium. Bacteria can impact on brain development and the neuro system. Bacteria from the birth canal is being introduced to Caesarean born babies to readdress the imbalance. Data to date looks promising. The chain of transgenerational processes could also be disrupted by a Caesarean including the maternal heritage of bacteria transfer. Neena Modi, Matthew Hyde, Research Associate Imperial College, London, and Jacquelyn Taylor, Associate Professor of Nursing at Yale University, talk about how a normal birth may be a programmable event and effect future health outcomes, ie. birth epigenetics. There are some epidemiological studies. Sue Carter, Professor, Biologist and behavioural Neurobiologist, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has been studying the long term consequences of Pitocin or Syntocinon (Oxytocin), a hormone which is used to speed up labour. Aleeca Bell, Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, indicates that animal studies show that the use of these synthetic hormones can have detrimental outcomes. In particular, studies show that there is an association that being born via Caesarean exposes baby to obesity later in life. However, Julie Ryan Gerland, Chief United Nations Representative, World Organization of Prenatal Education Associations, discusses the difficulties in getting world leaders to take action. We could be more susceptible to pathogens and pandemics. Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive, Royal College of Midwives also comments briefly at the end.


United States: Alto Films Ltd 2014

Physical description

1 DVD (87 min.) : sound, colour, PAL

Copyright note

Alto Films Ltd 2014

Creator/production credits

A documentary film for One World Birth. Written, Produced, directed and filmed by Toni Harman, Alex Wakeford.
Narrated by Rena Valeh.



  • English

Permanent link

We’re improving the information on this page. Find out more.