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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Indigenous carers bear heavy burden in remote Australia (media release)

Australia’s unpaid family carers are under strain – and in Very Remote areas almost one half of them are people of Indigenous extraction. Census data show that unpaid carers comprised a staggering 11.2 per cent of the total population in 2006. Regional differences are not large, but there are some carer ‘hot spots’ in a number of Remote and Very Remote areas in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia associated with a high proportion of the caring population being Indigenous.

Program developed to treat children's anxiety (Macquarie University)

Child health experts estimate that about one in 10 children suffer from anxiety, ranging from extreme shyness to an irrational fear of global problems. Experts says the issue can even occur among preschoolers.

Macquarie University researchers in Sydney are treating children as young as two and say anxiety is nowhere near as well understood as illnesses like depression. It is estimated that about 11 per cent of children suffer from anxiety compared to 3 per cent who suffer from depression. The researchers have recently developed a program for parents of preschoolers with anxiety, which is showing signs of success.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Reducing petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities

The Australian Government's response to two Senate Inquiries, released last week, shows the introduction of Opal fuel led to a significant decrease in petrol sniffing in regional and remote Indigenous
communities. Currently, 106 communities, roadhouse and other fuel outlets are receiving Opal fuel across regional and remote Australia. The Evaluation of the Impact of Opal fuel (2008-09) reported a 70 per cent drop in petrol sniffing across the sample communities between baseline and follow up data collections. In this year*s Budget, the Government provided an additional $38.5 million over four years to strengthen the delivery of Opal fuel including addressing fuel storage and distribution issues.

New report addresses long-held dietary misconceptions around eggs and nutrition

A special in-depth report from the Egg Nutrition Council which examines the latest scientific research around the nutritional qualities of eggs and addresses the misconceptions around eggs and serum cholesterol has been released. The Egg Nutrition Roundtable Report was prepared following a recent meeting of leading healthcare professionals in Sydney where research on eggs and nutrition from Australia and around the world was examined. The group of healthcare professionals included a cardiologist, general practitioner, nutrition researchers, endocrinologist and a dietitian.

Equity, social determinants and public health programmes

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.

Equity, social determinants and public health programmes Edited by Erik Blas and Anand Sivasankara Kurup presents 13 case studies which examine practicalities and strategies for addressing social inequalities across a range of 13 major public health issues, including, tobacco use, alcohol, mental disorders, violence & unintended injury, food safety and the health & development of children.

The report is a follow-up to the report by Sir Michael Marmot - Fair society, healthy lives .

How doctors can close the gap

How doctors can close the gap. Tackling the social determinants of health through culture change, advocacy and education is the title of a report by the Royal College of Physicians addressing the physician's response to health inequalities. It comes as a response to the landmark report by Sir Michael Marmot, "Fair society, healthy lives."

Monday, 28 June 2010

Suicide-prevention groups say the need is desperate

A nine-month government inquiry into suicide prevention would be wasted unless more funds were urgently injected into mental health, experts say.

The 200-page Senate inquiry report, The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia, has recommended a five-year advertising campaign to destigmatise suicide; mandatory training for police, paramedics and emergency department staff; and improved data collection.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/suicideprevention-groups-say-the-need-is-desperate-20100627-zc2b.html

Friday, 25 June 2010

The hidden toll : Suicide in Australia

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs has released its report into Suicide in Australia. The report outlines a positive approach governments can take to begin to address what is the leading cause of death for Australians under the age of 44.

The report contains 42 recommendations, including :

* Promoting the vital role that crisis lines play in suicide prevention

* Developing services to follow up and intensively support suicidal people

* Making suicide first aid training widely available in the community

* Providing greater support by people bereaved by suicide, and

* Conducting sustained awareness campaigns on suicide prevention

Commentary by Lifeline

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The use of environmental assessment tools for the evaluation of Australian residential facilities for people with dementia

There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests people with dementia can be assisted by the provision of special environments and technology aimed at improving their communication, mobility, manipulation, orientation, cognition and life style.

The Stirling University DSDC has published an audit tool which is being used in the mandatory evaluation of new environments for people with dementia in Scotland. The tool is firmly based in the research literature that describes good environments but has not been subjected to an evaluation of its reliability and validity. This is a necessary step before the tool can be accepted by researchers. This project will evaluate this tool with a view to determining its suitability for use in an audit and advice service.

Commonwealth health budget bulletin - June 2010

This budget review by Dr. Lesley Russell of Macroeconomics examines in depth the health provisions of the 2010 Federal budget. While the Rudd Government's health care reform package has now been revealed, the details are missing and a response to many key issues - particularly mental health, dental health and Indigenous health - are also missing. The approach has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary, clearly designed to address short-term pressure points rather than needed long-term changes. Although the funding provided seems generous, on closer scrutiny funding for important new investments in health care delivery is in fact quite limited, and the real reform elements appear to be critically lacking.

8 Aboriginal ways of learning

Tell a story. Make a plan. Think and do. Draw it. Take it outside. Try a new way. Watch first, then do. Share it with others. Aboriginal perspectives are not found in Aboriginal content, but Aboriginal processes...

Anyone involved in working with indigenous students should find 8 Aboriginal ways of learning a site of great interest.

This is a pedagogy framework that allows teachers to include Aboriginal perspectives by using Aboriginal learning techniques. In this way, focus can remain on core curriculum content while embedding Aboriginal perspectives in every lesson. It came from a research project involving DET staff, James Cook University's School of Indigenous Studies and the Western New South Wales Regional Aboriginal Education Team between 2007 and 2009.

The resources are presented in a wiki format : follow the menu on the left for in-depth content, discussions etc. Users may join the wiki to contribute material and comment on the content.

The Healthy Ageing Quiz : Practical tips for ageing well

A new report by the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre (NSPAC) has explored the topic of healthy ageing and what it means to actually "age well". The report draws on evidence-based research through the latest health and positive ageing strategies.

Entitled Healthy Ageing Quiz- Practical Tip for Ageing Well, it includes a quiz which provides older adults with an opportunity to assess their health and learn how they can improve it.

Launching the new report, NSPAC research head, Peter Matwijiw, said while there was lots of information on the internet about healthy ageing, there was a need to find credible information based on scientific evidence.

"All of us want to age well. But what does ageing well actually mean?" he said. "There is a large body of evidence related to healthy ageing out there but no single place draws all that information together. That's what we did with this report and it will help people assess their lifestyle choices and give them tips to age well."

The tips don't just include topics such as exercise, weight and diet but also chronic conditions, sleep, stimulating your mind, social connections and optimism.

"Understanding the factors underpinning healthy ageing will help governments, researchers and health professionals to develop strategies to maximise the quality of life for older people," Mr. Matwijiw said.

"Older people will also be able to understand the facts on ageing and practice the behaviours that will add years to their life."

Census of surgical workforce reveals looming challenge to health systems

The latest census of the Australian and New Zealand surgical workforce by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has revealed a looming challenge to health systems across both countries, with nearly a quarter of surgeons intending to retire from public on-call work within the next five years.

The President of the College, Mr Ian Civil, said that this will put a huge strain on those surgeons left in the system. "While the pressure will be felt more in some specialties than others, governments and the College need to work together to address this problem before it becomes
a crisis" he said.

"The drift towards subspecialisation is another complicating factor. As surgeons narrow their scope of practice, health systems are having to cope with a declining number of generalists within a given specialty."

Despite the increase in surgeon numbers, more than a third of Fellows found the level of on-call work in the public sector to be heavy or extremely heavy. In particular, 57.8 per cent of Paediatric, 47.0 per cent of Cardiothoracic and 45.0 per cent of Vascular Surgeons found the level of on-call public sector work heavy or extremely heavy. Mr Civil called for greater investment in hospital based training posts.

The College's census of the surgical workforce addresses key issues of current and future work practices, in both the public and private sectors. Providing a comprehensive picture of the surgical workforce, the census offers findings across the nine surgical specialties and across the Australian states and New Zealand.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Australia's health 2010 (AIHW)

Australia's Health 2010

Australia's health 2010 is the 12th biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It is a premier source of statistics and informed commentary on: determinants of health and keys to prevention; diseases and injury; how health varies across population groups; health across the life stages; health services, expenditure and workforce; the health sector's performance. An essential reference.

Media release


Australia's Health 2010 : in brief


Australia's health 2010 - in brief presents key points and trends from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 12th biennial report card about the nation's health, Australia's health 2010.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Schizophrenia Library

The Schizophrenia Library is a free online one stop shop for a wide range of information on schizophrenia. The brainchild of Professor Vaughan Carr, the Library was given full support and funding of over $1M from NSW Health to the Schizophrenia Research Institute to develop

Launching with the reviews of the first 100 topics, on completion the Library will allow the general public, researchers, clinicians and policy makers to search from over 400 topics to discover more information on treatment, risk factors and course and outcomes of the illness.

The wide range of topics will be grouped into nine different categories, including treatment, signs and symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, course and outcome, physical factors, comorbid conditions, population perspective and families. Each topic has a fact sheet for the general public, but researchers and clinicians can drill down to detailed reviews.

A useful developing site worth watching

Monday, 21 June 2010

Improving workforce retention in rural health services.

High turnover of health workers in rural and remote areas leads to avoidable recruitment costs, according to a study released today from the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) at The Australian National University.

The research found that many small rural and remote communities experience high levels of staff turnover, but describes a range of retention strategies that will help services hold on to staff.

The study, led by APHCRI network researchers Professors John Humphreys and John Wakerman, investigated the pattern of workforce retention for small rural and remote primary health care services.

It found that the money spent on recruiting new staff can be better used on retention packages that prevent existing staff from leaving. The report recommends adapting retention packages to suit the geographic location and local health needs of staff.

Professor Humphreys, who heads rural health research at Monash University in Bendigo, said the costs of replacing staff, conservatively estimated, equated to: $20,000 for a nurse, $74,000 for a doctor, $22,000 for an allied health professional, $14,000 for an Indigenous health worker and $30,000 for a health service manager.

"High workforce turnover also results in significant indirect costs such as loss of skills and experience, restricted access to health services and compromised quality of care," he said. "Increasing the length of service for rural and remote health workers through financial incentives alone is unlikely to adequately address the problem."

Report co-author, Professor Wakerman, Director of the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs, said a comprehensive workforce strategy is needed. "To have any chance of success, a strategy needs to consider effective management, governance and leadership, sustainable and flexible funding and well supported information management systems and infrastructure," he said.

"Appropriately targeted incentives such as paid housing could result in a greater length of service for health workers and consequently improved patient care without additional cost to health services."

Mining Family Matters

The many health professionals in GWAHS who deal with mining families, may find the support website Mining Family Matters of interest. The site contains many health and lifestyle resources, including an online psychologist and online social worker (even an online personal trainer). Free registration gives access to regular newsletters, chat rooms and other advanced features. Recent postings include dealing with the stresses of the "fly in, fly out" lifestyle affecting many remote mining communities.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, Summary Booklets and Posters

The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey summary booklets are intended for use by Indigenous Engagement Managers while visiting Indigenous Communities. They present a shorter summary of the results from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, on a wide range of topics.

Australian hospital statistics, 2008-09 (AIHW)

Australian hospital statistics, 2008-09

Australian hospital statistics 2008-09 presents a detailed overview of Australia's 1,317 public and private hospitals. In 2008-09, there were 8.1 million separations from Australia's hospitals including: 4.5 million same-day acute separations; 3.3 million overnight acute separations; almost 300,000 non-acute separations. There were 7.2 million presentations to public hospital emergency departments, with 70% of patients seen within the recommended times for their triage categories.

Media release

Australian hospitals 2008-09 at a glance


This publication is a companion summary to the annual Australian hospital statistics 2008-09 publication.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Healthy River, Healthy Minds: the mighty Murray and mental health (media release)

A free community forum to celebrate three-years of the Mental Health Support in Drought Affected Communities Initiative will be held at the Ginkgo Mine Site, Pooncarie on Thursday, June 17 at 6pm.

The Mental Health Support for Drought Affected Communities Initiative (Drought Initiative) is a collaborative project between the Australian General Practice Network, its Network Members and beyondblue: the national depression initiative. The Drought Initiative is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, and aims to build the capacity of rural, regional and remote communities to respond to the psychological impact of the drought.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Multicultural Mental Health Australia

Multicultural Mental Health Australia (MMHA) has launched its new, more user-friendly website to help reduce stigma around mental illness in Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The new website will make it easier for people living with a mental illness and their carers to access fact sheets about suicide prevention and mental health in 21 languages. The website also contains information about relevant government policies, as well as opportunities to lobby and raise awareness through consumer and carer groups.MMHA's Chair Professor Abd Malak says online communication strategies make it possible to connect with vulnerable community members.

Media release

Monday, 7 June 2010

'E-mental health' to assist rural areas

Professors Helen Christensen and Ian Hickie have joined forces to call for a major expansion of "e-mental health" in Australia.

Web-based mental health services could attain new reach into rural Australia while also placing help only mouse clicks away from the nation's internet savvy teens, they write.

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/emental-health-to-assist-rural-areas-20100606-xmnc.html

Healthcare, housing, Indigenous reform and disability progress assessed by COAG Reform Council

The first reports assessing the performance of governments against National Agreements in healthcare, housing, Indigenous reform and disability have been released by the COAG Reform Council.

Chairman of the Council, Paul McClintock, said the four reports present some stark findings that governments must address-particularly in relation to Indigenous disadvantage. "The overwhelming disadvantage of Indigenous Australians is an alarming theme that runs through all of the National Agreement reports", Mr McClintock said. "While Australians have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, for Indigenous Australians the rate is the same now as it was for other Australians in the 1950s."

Another common thread running through each of the reports is the lack of quality data available to measure progress against the performance indicators. "Despite these data limitations, the reports are significant because they are a comprehensive snapshot of the performance of each government in these areas".

Some key findings:

* In 2007-08, two million people went to hospital emergency departments with illnesses or injuries that could be treated by GPs.
* In 2007-08, smaller jurisdictions on average had longer waiting times for elective surgery. The ACT had the longest waiting times (73 days), followed by the Northern Territory and South Australia (43 and 42 days respectively). Queensland had the lowest waiting times (27 days) of all jurisdictions.
* In 2007-08, at least 60 per cent of home sales in each State and Territory were unaffordable to moderate incomes households. Perth and Brisbane were the least affordable of the capital cities, and Melbourne was the most affordable.
* Indigenous Australians are more likely to live in unacceptable conditions. In 2008, almost 26 000 Indigenous households across Australia were overcrowded.
* The unemployment rate was four times higher for Indigenous Australians in 2008.
* One in five Australians has a disability. In 2003, over 40 per cent said they needed more assistance.

Friday, 4 June 2010

WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2009: Implementing smoke-free environments

The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2009 is the second in a series that tracks the status of the tobacco epidemic and the impact of the interventions that are being implemented to stop it.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of the evidence base for protecting people from the harms of second-hand tobacco smoke through legislation and enforcement. There is a special focus on the status of implementation of smoke-free policies, with detailed data collected for the first time ever on a global basis at both the national level and for large subnational jurisdictions. Additional analyses of smoke-free legislation were performed, allowing a more detailed understanding of progress and future challenges in this area.

Also available is the first report in the series : WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 - The MPOWER package. This landmark report presents the first comprehensive worldwide analysis of tobacco use and control efforts.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Better hospital care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing heart attack

The Heart Foundation and Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association report "Better hospital care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing heart attack" is now available.

This report addresses the disparities in hospital care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with acute coronary syndromes (ACS) and makes practical recommendations to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heart health.

The report was developed in response to the 2006 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare findings that, compared with other Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had:

* three times the rate of major coronary events, such as heart attack
* 1.4 times the out-of-hospital death rate from coronary heart disease(CHD)
* more than twice the in-hospital death rate from CHD
* a 40% lower rate of being investigated by angiography
* a 40% lower rate of coronary angioplasty or stent procedures
* a 20% lower rate of coronary bypass surgery.

"Better hospital care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing heart attack" aims to raise awareness of these issues among governments, hospitals, clinicians and other interested parties.

Stocktake of Primary Health Care Research in Australia

Since the commencement of the Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development (PHCRED) strategy in 2000, research targeted on Primary Health Care services, and on the health care system as it relates to Primary Health Care has been a focus for many academic and clinical primary health care researchers. Over that period, 46 research grants have been awarded through the competitive grant system led by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) and 166 projects through the National Health and Medical Research Council. In addition, the Research Capacity Building Initiative has focused on developing capacity within the primary health care researcher community through education, awareness raising, mentoring, and research. Of particular note has been the development of the Practice Based Research Networks, which have provided opportunities for clinicians to become active in research and for collaborations between academic and clinical practitioners.

In light of the development of primary health care research over the past 10 years, and the current agenda for reform, this work by APHCRI and the Primary Health Care Research and Information Service (PHC RIS) provides a stocktake of the current state of primary health care research in Australia. It identifies the current strengths and weaknesses of Australian primary health care research in light of current health priorities and ways in which current research gaps might be addressed.

Trialspotting : New Free On-line service to help Australian health and medical researchers fill clinical trials

A new service launched 28 May gives Australians, for the first time, direct access to a wide range of medical research studies needing volunteers. The free on-line service has the support of leading Australian research institutes because it releases researchers from the time consuming process of trying to find volunteers. Now researchers can concentrate on scientific discoveries and treatments, while Australians interested in volunteering for important medical research can use the new trialspotting service to search for trials and studies by location, key health words or research centres.

Measuring what matters: Do Australians have good access to primary health care?

This study from the Australia Institute shows the majority of Australians would be willing to see a nurse practitioner for a wide range of services now commonly provided by doctors.

This paper presents the first data collected for the Measuring what Matters indicators; access to primary health care. The paper begins by presenting new data on why people say they wish to see a doctor and then reports the degree of difficulty that Australians experience as to their ability to make appointments with doctors at a time that is appropriate. The paper concludes with new data suggesting that the majority of Australians would be willing to see a nurse practitioner for a wide range of services now commonly provided by doctors.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Health Strategy

The first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Health Strategy was launched on 19 May 2010 at the Australian Women's Health Conference in Hobart. The strategy was developed by the Australian Women's Health Network (AWHN) Aboriginal Women's Talking Circle, and involved consultations with over 400 women working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women's health.

The aim of the strategy is to address the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women's health.

Tackling chronic disease in Europe. Strategies, interventions and challenges

Chronic conditions and diseases are the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in Europe, accounting for 86% of total premature deaths, and research suggests that complex conditions such as diabetes and depression will impose an even greater health burden in the future ... not only for the rich and elderly in high-income countries, but increasingly for the poor as well as low and middle-income countries. Epidemiologic and economic analyses suggest that policy-makers should make chronic disease a priority.

Tackling chronic disease in Europe. Strategies, interventions and challenges highlights the issues and focuses on the strategies and interventions that policy-makers have at their disposal to tackle this increasing challenge.

Strategies discussed include (1)prevention and early detection, (2)new provider qualifications(e.g. nurse practitioners) and settings,(3) disease management programmes and (4)integrated care models. But choosing the right strategies will be difficult, particularly given the limited evidence on effectiveness and cost effectiveness.

The book also outlines and discusses institutional and organizational challenges for policy-makers and managers: (1) stimulating the development of new effective pharmaceuticals and medical devices, (2) designing appropriate financial incentives, (3) improving coordination, (4) using information and communication technology, and (5)ensuring evaluation. To tackle these challenges successfully, key policy recommendations are made.

The health of Australia's prisoners 2009 (AIHW)

The health of Australia's prisoners 2009 is the culmination of several years' development of national indicators in relation to prisoner health in Australia. This first national report shows that prisoners in Australia have poor health compared to the general community. A week-long snapshot of prison entrants in Australia during 2009 showed: · 25% had a chronic condition (such as asthma, cardiovascular disease or diabetes) · 81% were current smokers; 52% consumed alcohol at risky levels; and 71% had used illicit drugs during the previous 12 months · 37% of prison entrants reported having received a mental health diagnosis at some time; 43% had received a head injury resulting in a loss of consciousness; and 31% had been referred to prison mental health services.

The report also contains data relating to communicable diseases, educational attainment, deaths in custody, the use of health services and the types of medications used by prisoners.

Media release

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Women and heart disease : Cardiovascular profile of women in Australia (AIHW)

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released a new report and summary today:

Women and heart disease Cardiovascular profile of women in Australia
Cardiovascular disease is Australia's biggest killer. This report focuses on its impact on the health of Australian women - a group who may not be aware of how significant a threat this disease is to them. The report presents the latest data on prevalence, deaths, disability, hospitalisations, services, treatments, risk factors and expenditure, as well as comparisons to other important diseases among women. This report is a useful resource for policy makers, researchers, health professionals and anyone interested in cardiovascular disease in Australian women.
Media release


Women and heart disease summary

Cardiovascular disease is Australia's biggest killer. This report provides a summary of cardiovascular disease and its impact on the health of Australian women. Women and heart disease: summary presents the key findings of its companion report, Women and heart disease: cardiovascular profile of women in Australia and looks at prevalence, deaths, disability, hospitalisations, medical services, treatments, risk factors and health care expenditure, as well as comparisons with other important diseases among women.
Media release

Private Hospitals, Australia, 2008-09 (ABS)

This publication presents statistics about the operation of private hospitals, private acute and psychiatric hospitals, and free-standing day hospital facilities in Australia. Information is included about facilities (beds available, special units), activities (patient throughput, days of hospitalisation provided, bed occupancy rates), patients (types of admitted patients, outpatients and operations performed), staffing and finances.