A bright future for rural health

Professor David Lyle of the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health and Associate Professor Ann Larson of the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, Geraldton have co-edited "A bright future for rural health : evidence-based policy and practice in rural and remote health care," the latest publication by the Australian Rural Health Education Network.

The book presents a number of case studies of evidence-based innovative solutions for pressing problems in rural health. The case studies cover scenarios from clinical services, indigenous health, mental health, service delivery and workforce development.

Along with ARHEN's earlier publications "A textbook of Australian Rural Health" (2008) and "Opportunities as vast as the landscape - working in rural and remote health"(2006) this is an important contribution to the rural health literature.

Also available in hard copy from ARHEN.

Improving patient medication safety in Australia

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has launched, with the participation of 28 hospitals across Australia, a program to improve the safety of patients receiving medicines in hospitals.

Under the program, the participating hospitals will introduce standardised procedures to collect and check information about each patient's medicines much more rigorously and accurately, starting from when the patient is first admitted to hospital and continuing through each stage of the patient's hospital treatment when medicines may change. The procedures are also designed to make sure that when the patient is finally discharged, they and their doctor will also get an accurate and comprehensive list of the medicines they may need to take once they are back in the community.

Medication charts and other resources are available from the website.

Press release

The Australian Medical Student Journal (AMSJ)

A new biomedical, scientific journal for Australian medical students has been launched in an Australian first. The Australian Medical Student Journal (AMSJ) is the brainchild of a group of NSW medical students with aspirations to build the next generation of medical researchers.
The inaugural issue features guest authors, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Australian of the Year Prof. Patrick McGorry and Australian Medical Association President, Dr Andrew Pesce.
First issue features several articles including :
The Internet as a health information source for students
Respiratory disease in Indigenous communities
Ovarian cancer classification
Minimally invasive mitral valve repair (By Adelaide and Broken Hill medical student Eamon Raith)
The AMSJ is calling on students and doctors to submit, critique and get involved. The AMSJ is distributed free of charge to 14,000 medical students across the country via print and online editions.

National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement (COAG)

The COAG agreement on health reform will fundamentally change hospitals' role within the health system, according to the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association. The historic COAG health agreement represents a major restructure of the health system. One central proposed change is the establishment of Local Hospital Networks (LHNs) to link hospitals with community-based health care services in the one region.

AHHA response

Australian Health Ministers' Joint Communique following COAG agreement

National Performance Report 2008-09 - rural water service providers (National Water Commission

This is the third annual performance report and publishes comprehensive data for 12 rural water service providers (approximately 90% of the rural network)across Australia.

This report shows that drought conditions continue to impact the operations of many rural water service providers, with irrigation supply providers being the most affected.

Media report

Public dental care and the Teeth First trial: A history of decay

This report examines the implications of the lack of timely dental treatment for people on low incomes. Based on the state of dental services available to low-income Australians, the costs of not providing timely treatment, and the findings of the Teeth First trial, recommendations are made for changes to the public dental scheme, including:

* Fully incorporated dental care within Medicare;
* Offer dental scholarships with similar conditions to those of the Commonwealth Bonded Medical Places Scheme and Increase remuneration for public sector dentists and ancillary staff;
* Launch a government-funded national dental health campaign.

The prevalence of child abuse and neglect in Australia

This paper provides an overview of Australian studies that have estimated the prevalence of the different forms of child maltreatment (i.e., physical abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, the witnessing of family violence, and sexual abuse.

Emerging issues in domestic/family violence research

This paper by Lorana Bartels of the Australian Institute of Criminology presents an overview of some of the key emerging issues in Australian domestic and family violence (D/FV) research. In particular, the paper considers research in the context of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) communities; among the elderly; those with disabilities and people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds; violence in rural & remote communities; family violence and Indigenous communities; the relevance of homelessness; the impact of D/FV on children; and issues around perpetrator programs. The paper has a large bibliography of relevant research.

Indigenous students are six years behind in literacy and numeracy, report says

Indigenous students are trailing mainstream students by six years, according to analysis of their performance in national literacy and numeracy tests. The report from the Centre of Independent Studies, shows indigenous students in year 9 achieved similar scores last year to non-indigenous students in year 3.

The data from the federal government's My School website confirmed that indigenous education failure was concentrated in schools attended mainly by Aboriginal children. The report's authors, Helen Hughes and Mark Hughes, ranked the performance of about 9500 primary and secondary schools across Australia based on NAPLAN results. The bottom 150 schools were filled with mostly indigenous students.

The report also examines the reasons why schools fail, and investigates a number of positive initiatives which address literacy standards in indigenous communities.

SMH commentary by Anna Patty

DVDs and other resources from BeyondBlue

The national depression initiative, beyond blue has several new DVDs and many other resources available for free distribution..Amongst the recent DVD title on offer are :

* Carers stories of hope and recovery
* Depression and Parkinson's disease
* Depression yarns : tackling depression and anxiety in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
* Tackling depression in schools

Also available are many books, booklets, practice guidelines, and even fridge magnets! There are also a number of resource packs in languages other than english (Greek, Arabic, Chinese, Italian and many others).

AMA releases patient general practice survey

The first comprehensive national survey of general practice patients has found that 88 per cent of people have a usual family doctor and 83 per cent of people are very satisfied or satisfied with the medical care they receive.

Press release

Adversity to advocacy: the lives and hopes of mental health carers.

The Mental Health Council of Australia has recently released Adversity to advocacy: the lives and hopes of mental health carers. This report outlines the difficulties and concerns of Australians caring for someone with a mental illness and is Australia's first ever comprehensive national survey of mental health carers. It reveals 15 key issues identified by mental health carers, which are all based directly on the stories,experiences and ideas from over 1500 carers who attended a series of workshops delivered by the Council.

Report on government services 2010: Indigenous compendium

The Productivity Commission's annual Report on Government Services devotes particular attention to mainstream services delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This Compendium makes these data readily accessible in one publication. This edition of the Compendium, like the 2010 Report, contains additional reporting in a number of areas, including achievement of VET qualifications and access to Extended Aged Care at Home.

Also available :
Full Report on Government Services 2010
Includes many fact sheets on health topics

Health system expenditure on disease and injury in Australia, 2004-05 (AIHW)

Health system expenditure on disease and injury in Australia, 2004-05 provides a systematic analysis of health system expenditures associated with specific disease and injury groups in Australia in 2004-05. Expenditure on cardiovascular disease is compared with expenditure on cancer, injuries, nervous system disorders and other diseases. Health expenditure for each age group ranges from $2,223 per year for girls/boys aged 5 to 14 years to $8,030 per year for women/men aged 75 to 84 years. This report also discusses the changes in expenditure by disease between 2000-01 and 2004-05.

What is a systematic review?

Systematic reviews have increasingly replaced traditional narrative reviews and expert commentaries as a way of summarising research evidence. Read more about systematic reviews in this article published in Bandolier, an
independent journal about evidence-based healthcare from Oxford.

This article is a recent addition to the very wide variety of special articles in Bandolier Extra covering a host of topics including waste in healthcare, healthy pregnancy, needlestick injuries, acute pain, cannabis & flying, QALYs and health economics. Worth a look.

Cardiovascular disease mortality : trends at different ages (AIHW)

Despite a dramatic reduction since the late 1960s, cardiovascular disease remains the largest cause of death in Australia. Cardiovascular disease mortality: trends at different ages examines recent data to determine if the observed decrease in cardiovascular disease deaths since the 1960s is shared across disease sub-types and among different population groups. This report includes information on the past and recent trends of key cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke, and describes how trends vary on the basis of age group and sex. International trends are also presented for comparison. The analyses presented in this report help to better understand what is driving the observed decrease in cardiovascular disease deaths, and are a useful resource for policy makers, researchers and health professionals interested in cardiovascular diseases.

Media release

Indigenous Human Rights Network Australia

The Indigenous Human Rights Network Australia (IHRNA) is a network of Australian individuals who advocate for and promote the awareness of Indigenous human rights in Australia.

Along with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there are a number of International treaties and declarations and mechanisms under which Indigenous human rights are protected.

IHRNA facilitates access to information, expert advice, mentors and the sharing of best practice solutions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from a human rights approach.

Hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, funded by Oxfam Australia and supported by the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) at the University of New South Wales, IHRNA developed out of research undertaken in 2007 which revealed support for the establishment of a network that would allow human rights advocates access to information to strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' participation and engagement in human rights processes.

Indigenous perpetrators of violence: prevalence and risk factors for offending

Data indicates that Indigenous people are 15 to 20 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to commit violent offences. This report by Joy Wundersitz of the Australian Institute of Criminology presents results of research into victimisation of, and offending by, Indigenous people. Designed to inform and complement the work of the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force, this report draws attention to the need to investigate the characteristics of forms of violent offending, relationships between victims and offenders and the location and nature of different community settings.

A snapshot of men's health in regional and remote Australia (AIHW)

Men in rural regions of Australia may face distinct health issues because of their location, work and lifestyle. This report provides a snapshot of some of these issues and compares the illness and mortality of men in rural and urban areas. Overall, men in rural areas are more likely than their urban counterparts to experience chronic health conditions and risk factors. For example, they: are more likely to report daily smoking and risky drinking behaviour; are less likely to possess an adequate level of health literacy; have higher mortality rates from injury, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This report is a useful resource for policymakers, researchers and others interested in emerging men's health policies in Australia.

Media release

Rural Doctors Association of Australia commentary

Guides to dealing with grog

Two new guides for young Aboriginal people and their parents : Your guide to dealing with teenagers and grog, and Your guide to dealing with grog, have recently been launched.

The new guides are the latest in a variety of resources on alcohol and drug issues available.

The guides may also be ordered from drugaction@doh.health.nsw.gov.au

Beyond blue to green - Open spaces and mental health

It may be stating the obvious that getting out into the countryside or enjoying our cities' parks and gardens is good for us. However, this has now been confirmed by a review of research on the links between mental health (in particular, depression and anxiety), well-being and green spaces.

Funded by beyondblue: the national depression initiative, the study, Beyond Blue to Green: The benefits of contact with nature for mental health and well-being reviews Australian and international research, and shows there is a significant relationship between people's mental health and the greenness of their local environment.

Associate Professor Mardie Townsend of Deakin University's Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences says there is growing evidence to indicate that having access to the natural environment improves health and well-being, as well as preventing disease and helping people to recover from illness.

Perhaps it's why people work in the bush : lots of green -- and red -- in GWAHS !

Media Release

Population size, rural health and the two-speed economy (media release)

This media release discusses the national debate about the future of rural and remote communities. The vision and the plan will recognise the major contributions that rural and remote regions will continue to make to the nation, and the relationship between people’s location and wellbeing.

Governments need to watch closely the impacts on health of population decline and the loss of services, while continuing to invest in programs that support community development and communities in transition. Growth that is too rapid can also have adverse effects on families and communities.

More support for parents and early intervention and prevention programs for children (media release)

The State Government is investing $36 million in early intervention and prevention programs and conducting up to 750 home visits by child experts - as part of its Keep Them Safe program.

The funding also includes $10 million to run early intervention programs with psychologists and mental health experts for Kindergarten to Year 2 students showing disruptive behaviours. The projects will take place at Mount Druitt, Dubbo and Newcastle.

Understanding statistics

Knowing how to understand and use statistics is vital for informed decision-making. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is committed to increasing the level of statistical literacy in the community and has created a webpage that contains a variety of tools and resources to assist you to understand, interpret and evaluate statistical information. Contains links to online video tutorials, ABS courses and a statistics blog.

New National Alliance formed to reduce harm from alcohol

A new national coalition of health and community organisations from across Australia has been established to reduce alcohol-related harm. Comprising an initial 26 major organisations with a focus on public health and alcohol, the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA) will focus on reducing alcohol problems in the community.

Access, online magazine of the AIHW

Access is an online magazine published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, profiling the Institute's work and its people. This month's issue features Chronic disease prevention; Homelessness, and Understanding juvenile justice, including links to recent AIHW research and publications on these topics.

National best practice guidelines for collecting Indigenous status in health data sets (AIHW)

Despite improvements in recent years, there have been continuing problems in establishing and maintaining standard practice in the collection of Indigenous status, resulting in the under-identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in key national health data sets. All clients of health services should be asked if they are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in the process of routine data collection.

The National best practice guidelines for collecting Indigenous status in health data sets have been developed to ensure the standard Indigenous status question is asked correctly and consistently of all clients of health services, and that this information is correctly recorded.

Media release

Health Reform Notes (National Rural Health Alliance)

The National Rural Health Alliance has produced a series of Health Reform Notes to inform discussion as to how the Federal Government's health reform agenda may impact on rural health. Topics covered to date are :

Note 1: Should the Commonwealth be responsible for all primary care?
Note 2: Comprehensive primary care centres and services
Note 3: Should regional primary healthcare organisations (PHOs) be established to undertake primary care service coordination and planning?
Note 4: E-health and broadband in rural and remote communities
Note 5: Voluntary enrolment with a primary care health service and performance based incentive payments
Note 6: Rural equivalence funding
Note 7: Patient Assisted Travel Schemes (PATS)
Note 8: Improving oral health and oral health care for all Australians
Note 9: Development and distribution of the health workforce

The NRHA will soon be updating these Health Reform notes in the light of recent further announcements made by the Government.

Peer review: a guide for researchers

This new guide provides researchers with an understanding of how peer review works and highlights some of the issues surround the current debates about the peer review process.

The growth in the size of the research community and of the volumes of research being undertaken in the UK and across the world means that the amount of time and effort put into the peer review system is growing too, and that it is coming under increasing scrutiny. The guide looks at how effective peer review is in selecting the best research proposals, as well as in detecting misconduct and malpractice.

It also looks at how fair the system is, and at the different levels of transparency involved in the process: from completely closed systems, where the identities of reviewers and those whose work is being reviewed are kept hidden from each other, and reports are not revealed, to completely transparent systems where identities and reports are openly revealed.

Easter eggs and heart health

If you want to justify eating chocolate over Easter, remember don't eat too much and stick to dark chocolate.

Free online mental health services

The e-hub research and development group at the Australian National University provides a number of free and anonymous online evidence-based mental health programs. These are of special interest to rural mental health professionals and consumers where access to specialist services may be difficult. The rapidly developing range of sites include :
Beacon: information for consumers and professionals about e-health online applications for mental health and physical health disorders.
BluePages: about depression and anxiety and their treatments.
BlueBoard: An online support group for people affected by depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.
BrolgaNet: Consumer participation in mental health research.
e-couch: includes modules for self-treatment of social anxiety, generalised anxiety and depression, including cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal and relaxation and exercise.
MoodGym: An interactive program which teaches cognitive-behaviour therapy skills for preventing and coping with depression.
MulgaNet: A set of resources for rural mental health professionals including a bulletin board, resource library, events listing and employment pages.

Rural health in New Zealand

The National Health Committee has released a report on the challenges faced in delivering sustainable and comprehensive health and disability services in rural New Zealand. The report, entitled Rural health : challenges of distance, opportunities for innovation, highlights the need for improvement in three key areas : service delivery; system performance and planning, data collection and research. Many of the problems highlighted, such as inferior Internet and telecommunication provision, difficulties in access to specialists, gaps in life expectancy, and community governance in health services will resonate with Australian rural health professionals.