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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Deakin University professor to unveil study into managing the stress of farming in difficult times

A Deakin University professor is to unveil study into managing the stress of farming in difficult times. Some of the strategies used by farmers to help them cope with the stresses of tough times on the land are being documented in a new research project led by a Deakin University Warrnambool Campus academic.

Deakin’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Rural and Regional) Professor Sue Kilpatrick is the lead researcher in the project that covers fishing, mixed farming, cotton, grains and sugar and involves case studies from around Australia. Preliminary findings from her study, ‘I feel like I’m dancing on the Titanic’ – managing the stress of farming in difficult times, which takes its title from a quote from a farmer interviewed as part of the research, will be presented at the National Centre for Farmer Health’s conference in Hamilton on 12 October.

We’re still in denial, says report (Rural Mental Health)

IT’S the elephant in the room that many still tiptoe around, even deny outright – the stigma of mental illness, most obviously of chronic depression, still lives on in the bush, if now in more straightened circumstances.

The federal Senate report into mental health last month, in its reference to rural and remote communities, says the related matters of stigma and lack of information about mental illness is one of two outstanding issues affecting rural areas (the other being poor access to GPs and carer and community support services).

The inquiry says while the closeness of rural communities and their support networks can help some who aren’t coping, stigma against mental illness, underpinned by strong cultural pressures to be independent and resilient in the face of adversity, still means many of those affected will continue to “suffer silently”.

Oxy: The Hidden Epidemic (Four Corners report)

This week on Four Corners, Oxy - the Hidden Epidemic - a story that reveals how the misuse of powerful prescription drugs is creating a new generation of addicts.

For much of the past three decades, authorities have waged war against the importation and sale of illegal drugs. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on law enforcement and drug rehabilitation programs. Now, reporter Matthew Carney reveals that while illegal drugs remain a major problem, many experts believe the widespread use and abuse of legally prescribed opioid-based drugs could create a new and devastating drug epidemic across the suburbs of Australia.

But now there's another problem, with profound consequences for ordinary Australians. People who take these drugs for legitimate reasons are becoming addicted. Some have died, others have seen their lives destroyed.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Health lies in wealth : Call for greater social reform as health gap widens

The Rudd government's health reforms failed to focus on what a new report shows is the biggest factor in death and disease in Australia - social and economic disadvantage.

An analysis commissioned by Catholic Health Australia has found that the 20 per cent of Australians on the lowest incomes died on average three years earlier than others because of illness caused by unhealthy lifestyles. The most disadvantaged people were in some cases four or five times more likely to suffer chronic illness than the comfortably-off, the report found.

Martin Laverty, the group's chief executive, called on the new Parliament to press for renewed focus on improved early childhood support, education and welfare for disadvantaged people.

''Health reform in the last term of government focused on hospitals, not the drivers that cause people to end up in hospitals,'' Mr Laverty said. ''The then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, missed a major opportunity and left many health professionals disappointed with the health reforms. 'If this Parliament does not act on preventive and social determinants of health, health reforms will not be achieved.''

The analysis by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at Canberra University found the health gaps between the poor and well-off were often very large. Up to 65 per cent of people in public housing had long-term health problems compared with only 15 per cent of home owners. More than 60 per cent of men in jobless households reported having a long-term health condition or disability, and more than 40 per cent of women.

Obesity rates were about three times higher among those in public housing than home owners. High-risk drinking among early school leavers was double the rate of those with a tertiary qualification. ''This is not about access to health services,'' Mr Laverty said. ''There is strong evidence that social determinants of health - such as income level, housing status and education level - are the factors more responsible for health inequities.'' The close links between low socio-economic status, illness and harmful lifestyles like smoking and unhealthy diet showed that more preventive health television campaigns would not solve the problem. ''This report shows that policies targeting behavioural change do not work,'' Mr Laverty said.

The health reforms now being implemented by the Gillard government needed to use the proposed new structures such as the local hospital networks and ''Medicare local'' organisations to assess health needs and advocate improvements in early childhood services, schooling and welfare support where necessary, he said. Any suggestion that the health reform was complete was wrong. ''It is far from it,'' Mr Laverty said.

The report, supported by the St Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Social Services Australia, showed that thinking on health equity had to change, said Father Frank Brennan of the Australian Catholic University and Tony Wheeler, chairman of Catholic Health Australia's stewardship board.

The report may be downloaded from :
http://www.cha.org.au/policy

Commentary from "The Australian",

Commentary from "Sydney Morning Herald".

Friday, 24 September 2010

Indigenous child and family resources (SNAICC Resource Centre)

The SNAICC Resource Service (SRS) works across the family and children's services sector with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-based services and those other services working directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The SRS seeks to fill resource gaps identified across the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and children's services sector and provide a central information sharing clearinghouse. The site contains a large number of resources, both for order and, in many cases for free download.

An excellent site for resources in indigenous child development, family violence, and family issues.

Is Life in Australia Getting Better?

The ABS publication 'Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010' is designed to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?' Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) provides a selection of statistical evidence in answer to this question. Broad areas covered include health, population, society, economics, and the environment.

Reposted from NCAHS Library Clippings

Monday, 20 September 2010

When musculoskeletal conditions and mental disorders occur together (AIHW)

Musculoskeletal conditions and mental disorders cause few deaths but much pain, disability and distress. Both are common and are recognised as major health concerns.

Their occurrence together in the same person (comorbidity) complicates their treatment and management. When
musculoskeletal conditions and mental disorders occur together
maps the extent of their relationship in the Australian population.

In 2007, over 1.5 million people (10% of Australians aged 16-85) had at least one musculoskeletal condition and one mental disorder in the preceding 12 months.The number of females experiencing this comorbidity (862,000) was greater than the number of males (671,000).The extent of comorbidity increased sharply in each successive age group until 45-54 years, after which it decreased sharply.

Overall, 25% of people with a musculoskeletal condition also had a mental disorder, the most common of which were anxiety disorders. The clear association between musculoskeletal conditions and mental disorders found in this study emphasises the need for health-care providers to be aware of and provide for a multidisciplinary approach to the management of this comorbidity.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Atlas of Productive Ageing

The Productive Ageing Centre provides the online Atlas of Productive Ageing to help recognise and promote productive ageing in Australia. The Atlas provides statistics on the population, health, finance, housing and activity of older Australians. The data are available by state and regional areas.

The Future of Aged Care in Australia

Providing for quality care in later life is a key concern of Australians as they age. To ensure the provision of accessible and sustainable high quality care in the future however, requires both informed debate about the aged care system and considered policy planning. To stimulate this debate National Seniors has commissioned a report from Access Economics on the future of aged care in Australia. The report covers current issues in aged care such as quality of care, infrastructure requirements and alternative models of funding.

The major findings of the report revealed 3 major areas of concern

1. The current system is not working well, with quality of care perceived as declining over the last five years. As demand is growing rapidly, tinkering with the system is not a long-term answer.

2. Significant investment in aged care is needed, particularly for new facilities and in developing a skilled workforce to deliver age care. The current system is not sustainable without higher tax.

3. We need to find new ways of financing aged care. A survey of more than 3,200 seniors found that many people would be prepared to pay for high quality aged care, while wanting a safety net for those who cannot afford to pay.

Commentary from the ABC 7.30 report

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Cost effectiveness of complementary medicines

A National Institute of Complementary Medicine study into the cost effectiveness of complementary medicine in Australia has found millions in healthcare costs could be saved without compromising patient outcomes if complementary medicine is more widely used.

NICM commissioned Access Economics to undertake a series of cost effectiveness studies of selected CM interventions where a reasonable body of scientific evidence for efficacy and safety of the intervention was available. An expert Reference Group was convened and from a range of CM interventions that were considered for analyses, five were chosen. These included:

* Acupuncture for chronic non-specific low back pain;

* St John's wort for mild to moderate depression;

* A proprietary herbal medicine for pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis;

* Omega-3 fish oils for secondary prevention of heart disease;

* Omega-3 fish oils to reduce non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in rheumatoid arthritis.

The study found that the first 4 of these were extremely cost-effective, with huge potential savings to the nation's medical costs.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Indigenous eye health resources

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne has produced a large number of resources on trachoma, and other indigenous eye health topics.

Feature items include :


The Trachoma Resource Book
which includes health promotion material and education material for use in clinics and schools. It is designed as a resource for regional leaders of health services dealing with trachoma and professional staff who want to know more about trachoma and how it spreads and is controlled.

The Trachoma Story kit comes in 3 versions for communities, schools & clinics. It includes flip charts, posters and other health promotion material.

There is also a substantial collection of full-text journal articles and research reports on Indigenous eye health topics.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services Report, 2008-09: OATSIH Services Reporting - Key Results (AIHW)

The main findings from the 2008-09 OATSIH Services Reporting data collection show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander: - primary health care services provided 2.1 million episodes of health care to around 375,000 clients - substance use specific services provided treatment and assistance to address substance use issues to about 23,200 clients - Bringing Them Home and Link Up counselling services provided counselling to about 8,400 clients.

Media release

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Prevention report

ACE (Assessing Cost-Effectiveness) Prevention is a large, 5-year study that was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The overall aim of this project was to provide a comprehensive analysis of the comparative cost-effectiveness of preventive intervention options addressing the non-communicable disease burden in Australia, with a specific focus on Indigenous Australians. ACE Prevention is the most comprehensive evaluation of health prevention measures ever conducted world-wide, involving input from 130 top health experts. The research team assessed 123 illness prevention measures to identify those which will prevent the most illness and premature deaths and those that are best value for money. For comparison purposes 27 treatment interventions were included.

The final report provides a comprehensive overview of the findings of ACE Prevention. Many results can also be accessed in the form of Pamphlets, Briefing Papers and publications on a range of topics.

Financial and externality impacts of high-speed broadband for telehealth

High-speed Broadband, especially for rural and regional Australia, has become a much-discussed national issue in the last month. Tele-health via Broadband offers the potential for significant gains to Australia's population, especially for people who are elderly or who live in rural or remote communities. Unfortunately, however, despite a myriad of tele-health studies, it is difficult to measure such benefits. Tele-health studies to date have been constrained by poor economic and health data and methods. Most studies have, however, shown that tele-health is cheaper and faster (and at least equally effective) compared to transporting patients or health care providers over large distances. Thus, it should be possible to estimate time and money savings at a national level, if not health gains.

The report, Financial and externality impacts of high-speed broadband for telehealth prepared by Access Economics and commissioned by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, analyses the potential impacts of telehealth under a National Broadband Network. The report incorporates qualitative discussion of tele-medicine for remote consultations, remote home-based monitoring of chronic-disease patients and the aged, and remote training of medical professionals; together with high-level quantitative analysis of their associated costs and benefits.

Using a combination of a national level United States (US) study into one aspect of tele-health (tele-consulting) and a national level Australian study that was mostly based on electronic health records but had tele-health components, Access Economics estimates that steady state benefits to Australia from wide scale implementation of tele-health may be in the vicinity of $2 billion to $4 billion dollars per annum.

Improving responses to depression and related disorders: evaluation of a innovative, general, mental health care workers training program (Australian)

Australian General Practitioners have been beneficiaries of extensive training in mental health care delivery over the last few years but less so other workers who support those with mental illness. Training is needed as it is widely recognised that the most effective interventions to prevent and treat mental disorders are often not readily available.

The Mental Health Aptitudes into Practice (MAP) training package is a broad, innovative,interdisciplinary, general mental health training aimed at improving responses to individuals with depression and related disorders. The modular structure of this training program meant that such training could be targeted at those with varied backgrounds.

271 days of free MAP training was delivered across Victoria in 2004/2005. The evaluation reported here assessed whether changes occurred in the trainees’ confidence, mental health literacy, attitudes towards effective treatments, mental health knowledge and skills and community mental health ideology following training.

Mental health care needs a new approach

According to Patrick McGorry, mental health issues account for more than 60 per cent of the total burden of ill-health in young Australians today. A recent report by Access Economics has estimated that in 2009, the cost of mental illness in Australians aged between 12 and 25 years was $10 billion, with 70 per cent of this due to the costs of lost productivity as a result of lower employment rates, absenteeism and premature death.

There are huge benefits from investing in early intervention and evidence-based care: the Access Economics report also showed that the $10-$30 billion of costs a year associated with mental ill-health in young people could be reduced dramatically by the national implementation of cost-effective early intervention models that would very quickly pay for themselves.

Report measures rural-city inequity

The extent of rural-major city inequity can be judged by a summary report produced by the National Rural Health Alliance. It shows that on just one single measure, access to Medicare, there is an annual deficit of about $1 billion (and growing) between major cities and rural, regional and remote areas.

The report also provides detail of the rural-city inequities in life expectancy, access to health professionals, health status and risk factors, the effectiveness of health promotion, cancer survival rates, education and educational outcomes, community infrastructure, communications and the cost of accessing essential services.

Media release

2010 Pandemic Vaccination Survey: summary results (AIHW)

This report presents results from the 2010 Pandemic Vaccination Survey conducted in January and February 2010 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The survey showed that the swine flu vaccine uptake as of February 2010 was estimated at 18.1% (or about 3.9 million people). Some of the reasons why people wanted to get vaccinated include the seriousness of swine flu (24.7%), doctor's advice (16.8%), employment-related reasons (13.7%) and being in an 'at risk' group (10.9%).

Media release.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services website

A new and very interesting new website is the Hunter & New England Health Service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services website. This has an impressive range of material on Indigenous communities within the health service, with links to key indigenous health documents, resources, and aboriginal health services, as well as specialist subject pages. Useful resources and a good template for those contemplating developing similar web resources.

Depression and obesity link revealed in new Australian study

The first Australian study into links between weight and quality of life has found that excess weight is associated with poor mental health. Study co-author, Professor Brenda Happell, said that the study is the first to demonstrate a link between excess weight and poor mental health in the Australian population. The research was undertaken among the general adult population in Queensland and in this population sample, excess weight was associated with poorer physical health. In addition, significant associations were observed between excess weight and poor mental health for particular age groups. Obesity had a significant association with poor mental wellbeing for individuals who are aged 45 to 54 years.

Tele-health benefits rural Australians - new evidence

A new study has found that tele-health has delivered some gains to rural and remote communities through improved access and quality of clinical care, as well as providing benefits to health professionals. The study found that there were a range of reported benefits of tele-health to rural and remote Australians. These include: reduced expense and inconvenience when compared with having to travel long distances to access a service; the improved access to services that a locally-provided specialist service offers and the improved quality of the existing clinical services.

Search Your Hospital

A new facility on the NSW Health Internet site is a "Search Your Hospital" tool. The hospital profiles give location maps, contact details, a list of services provided, and basic operating statistics for NSW public hospitals.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Between two worlds : understanding the Stolen Generations

Between two worlds : understanding the Stolen Generations/ a guide for health and human services professionals aims to educate non-Aboriginal service providers about the challenges faced by members of the Stolen Generation. A good plain language guide to the issues involved, with a discussion of implications for professional practice. Published by Stolen Generations Victoria.

Industrial Deafness report

Occupational noise-induced hearing loss (ONIHL) is a significant health and economic problem in Australia. Between July 2002 and June 2007 there were about 16 500 successful workers' compensation claims for industrial deafness involving permanent impairment due to noise.

Safe Work Australia has published a report, Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Australia : Overcoming barriers to effective noise control and hearing loss prevention.

"Ultimately, solving the ONIHL problem requires behaviour change among managers and others who make decisions about the adoption of noise controls."

Stroke Management Guidelines

The NHMRC has just approved an updated Clinical Guidelines for Stroke Management from the National Stroke Foundation. They provide a series of evidence-based recommendations to promote improved treatment for stroke and TIA.

You can download the whole document, or just the recommendations. There is also a handy fact sheet which lists 10 things you should know about the guidelines.

Monday, 6 September 2010

What's needed to Close the Gap?' Tom Calma

The 2010 Chalmers Oration was delivered by Dr Tom Calma on 15 August 2010 at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Dr Calma's presentation concerned the groundbreaking roles that he and the Close the Gap Campaign have played in making a difference to the health of Indigenous Australians, especially those who live in rural and remote Australia. The text of his speech will be required reading for all those who are concerned about the health disadvantage of Indigenous Australians, and to those with an interest in Australian Indigenous health policy.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Improving the identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in mainstream general practice

Better identification of Indigenous patients in general practices would improve their access to Medicare benefits such as health checks that could help "Close the Gap", yet many GPs don't consider ethnicity to be relevant to quality of care, according to Improving the identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in mainstream general practice, a study from The Australian National University.

The study reviewed the effectiveness of strategies that aim to improve the identification of Indigenous people. National data and research evidence indicate that less than one third of general practices routinely collect information on the Indigenous status of patients. Improved identification would support new "Closing the Gap" initiatives to extend the delivery of routine health checks and chronic disease management services. Extensive consultations and interviews with Indigenous people, general practice staff and other stakeholders were undertaken as part of the study, as well as case studies of 10 general practice networks.