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Tuesdays 22 August - 12 September 2006, 21.00-21.30
(Repeated Wednesdays at 16.30)

The first thing you want to know when you get some test results back from the doctor is "are they normal?'

Vivienne Parry is not normal according to her friends but medically speaking she's mercifully within the normal range for most things. In this series, Vivienne finds out how the doctors decide what's normal in terms of our weight, height, cholesterol level and state of mind.

If you don't fit into the normal box, does that make you in need of medical treatment, or just different? 

Read Just what does it mean to be normal? by Vivienne Parry.

Find out more about the second series of Am I Normal?

Find out more about the third series of Am I Normal?
Find out more about the fourth series of Am I Normal?

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Cartoon with phrase "Are you normal? No!"

Programme 1 - Weight

You may have been told by your doctor that your weight is just fine, but be aware, they may soon change their minds.

Thirty million Americans became overweight, overnight when the US government changed the upper limit of a normal weight from a body mass index of 27 down to 25.

Could giving children weight report cards every term help them to lose weight? It's easy enough to label a child as overweight, or even obese: much less easy to live with the label.

"Obese is just such a big horrible word" says nine year old, Sam.

Related Links:

BBC Health pages on obesity
Work out your BMI
Mend programme run by Paul Sacher of the Institute of Child Health
International Obesity Taskforce
Terry Wilkin childhood diabetes study
Health Select Committee 2003 Obesity Report
Fir Tree Primary School
Shape Up America

Listen again Listen again to programme 1
(l-r) John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett demonstrate the British class system

Programme 2 - Height

Is being short a medical condition or just a fact of life?

Tens of thousands of children worldwide now receive growth hormone treatment. Some are growth hormone deficient, a known medical condition. Others aren't.

In the US, growth hormone has been approved for use on short but otherwise healthy children. The same could happen here.

We hear from an American dad who took his wife to court to try and stop his son from being given growth hormone. He lost.

Related Links:

BBC Health page on growth hormones
Linda Voss "Short but normal" article in BMJ Journal
Eli Lilly
Child Growth Foundation
World Health Organisation
Tall Persons Club
Short Persons Support

Listen again Listen again to programme 2
Blood pressure test

Programme 3 - Heart

Is your heart healthy? Is it normal? We join Vivienne Parry as she gets her cholesterol and blood pressure checked to find out her risk of heart disease.

If she were a smoker, stopping could cut her chances of having a heart attack by half. Her age and her family history are also risk factors, but there's not much she can do about those.

These days there are tablets to control blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and we know that these factors can all affect how healthy a heart is. But just because we can reduce those factors with drugs, should we?

Vivienne speaks to the cardiologists, pharmacists and GPs in her quest for normality - with or without a bit of pharmaceutical help.

Related Links:

BBC Health pages on heart disease
Rory Collins trials website
British Heart Foundation

Listen again Listen again to programme 3
Woman holding head

Programme 4 - Depression

How do doctors decide if what's going on inside someone's head is normal?

Checklists and questionnaires may help to assess whether or not someone is depressed. But when a teenager answers "yes" to "do you argue with your parents?" does that mean they need anti-depressants?

"Giving someone a pill sends out a strong message that there's something wrong with them that needs fixing" says psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff.

"What seems to one person an acceptable normality would seem to someone else intolerable", says Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression.

Related Links:

BBC Health pages on depression
Columbia University TeenScreen Program
NICE information for the public on depression
Institute of Psychiatry - getting help for someone with a mental illness
The Noonday Demon
Green Gym

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