End the decay: The cost of poor dental health and what should be done about it

The Brotherhood of St Laurence has released a report analysing the costs of poor dental health on the economy and those least able to afford dental care. Millions of people are financially locked out of Australia's expensive dental health system, undermining their capacity to gain and keep employment and at an annual cost to the economy of more than $1.3 billion.

End the Decay: The cost of poor dental health and what should be done about it, analysed existing data to estimate the disease burden of untreated dental conditions - and the resulting economic burden. The report's authors, Professor Jeff Richardson from Monash University and Bronwyn Richardson from Campbell Research and Consulting, found that the direct and indirect costs to the economy are significant.

Australia's mothers and babies 2009 (AIHW)

The report, Australia's mothers and babies 2009, shows that Australian women continue to wait longer to have children. The average age of women who gave birth in Australia has increased steadily from 29.0 years in 2000 to reach 30.0 years in 2009.

In 2009, 294,540 women gave birth to 299,220 babies in Australia. The increase in births continued, with 2,295 more births (0.8%) than reported in 2008.

Smoking while pregnant was reported by 14.5% of all mothers, by 37.0% of teenage mothers and almost half (49.6%) of Indigenous mothers.

In 2009, 863 women had a homebirth, representing 0.3% of all women who gave birth.

Media release

Health Statistics NSW

Health Statistics NSW is an interactive, web-based application that allows users to access data and tailor reports about the health of the New South Wales population for their own use. Health Statistics NSW is a NSW Government initiative and provides information on:

* the health status and demography of the NSW community
* health inequalities and the determinants of health
* the burden of disease and current health challenges
* trends in health and comparisons between age groups and geographic locations.

Glen's story - hospital associated infections (free video)

The Victorian Infection Control Professionals Association (VICPA) has produced a video to show how hospital associated infections can have a serious impact on a person's health outcomes. In Australia each year, it is estimated there are 200,000 hospital-associated infections and many of these infections are preventable.

The VICPA video, Glen's story, aims to support healthcare professionals in their infection prevention and control initiatives. The video was produced with the assistance and support of a family who share their experience and the impact that acquiring a hospital associated infection has had on their lives.

Health check shows we must change our aged care approach

The Australian Parliament must agree a long-term plan to reform the health and aged care system to address an unsustainable growth in demand and rising costs that will consume more than 40 per cent of most government budgets by 2050.

Business Council of Australia's Jennifer Westacott has released Preparing for a Better Future: Creating a Sustainable System of Aged Care Services for Australia - the Council's response to the Productivity Commission's final inquiry report on aged care services. "We strongly endorse the need for change and the Productivity Commission's recommendations, and we urge the parliament to agree that only major long-term reform of the sector will address the challenges ahead," Ms Westacott said. "Business has a stake in this debate because a poorly managed approach to the ageing population will dramatically reduce the scope of governments to provide other essential services such as education and infrastructure."

2010 Australian national infant feeding survey: indicator results (AIHW)

The 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey is the first specialised national survey of infant feeding practices in Australia. The survey also collected information on attitudes towards, and enablers for and barriers against breastfeeding.

2010 Australian national infant feeding survey: indicator results provides baseline data on key infant feeding indicators, including: most babies (96%) were initially breastfed, but only 39% were exclusively breastfed for less than 4 months, and 15% for less than 6 months; overall 35% of infants were introduced to solid foods by 4 months of age and 92% by the recommended age of 6 months; around 7% of infants drank cow's milk by 6 months, with most not starting until the recommended age of 12 months.

Media release

Alcohol, pregnancy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder : new website

The Alcohol, pregnancy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) site from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research provides general information on alcohol, pregnancy and FASD, as well as showcasing current research projects and achievements in the field. Resources are available for health professionals, researchers, parents, carers, teachers, and others working with children with FASD, as well as members of the general public. Resources include booklets, fact sheets, and an extensive publications bibliography.

Neural tube defects in Australia: prevalence before mandatory folic acid fortification (AIHW)

Neural tube defects in Australia: prevalence before mandatory folic acid fortification describes the prevalence and trends of neural tube defects (NTD) in Australia during the past decade. Characteristics and outcomes of the births and pregnancy characteristics of mothers are presented for the period 1999-2008. The purpose of compiling this national report is to provide baseline prevalence of NTD, before implementation of mandatory folic acid fortification of bread flour in September 2009.

Neural tube defects, the most common of which is spina bifida, are a group of major congenital anomalies that result from very early disruption in the development of the brain and spinal cord. There is strong evidence of substantial reductions in NTD-affected pregnancies among women who consume folic acid around the time of conception.

Media release

Ambulance to Emergency Department Handover Project

New to the resources on ARCHI is the NSW Ambulance to Emergency Department Handover Project. The project has been established to develop a protocol for handover that promotes the safe transfer of pre-hospital care to Emergency Department clinicians. The IMIST-AMBO protocol uses a mnemonic to give structure to the way paramedics organise information and supports standardisation of the processes used in handover.

Supporting resources include a downloadable explanatory DVD, posters, triage sheets and project report.

Misaligned values: why NSW rural nurses resign ?

Dr Susan Bragg recently explored the persistent problem of nursing workforce shortages due to challenges in retaining staff, especially in rural areas, in her CSU PhD thesis, "Degree of value alignment : why nurses resign: a grounded theory study of rural nurses' resignations." She based her study on previous research that indicated job dissatisfaction is implicit in nurse resignations from rural hospitals, however the identification of the underlying reasons that contribute to job dissatisfaction has remained elusive.

"My findings indicate that nurses resign from NSW rural hospitals when hospital values change and nurses are unable to realign their values to the hospitals. The main value held by the nurses I interviewed was to provide a high standard of patient care, but nurses found it increasingly difficult to do so due to changes in rural hospitals."

"These changes included rural area health service restructures, centralisation of budgets and resources, cumbersome hierarchies and management structures that inhibit communication and decision making, outdated and ineffective operating systems, insufficient and inexperienced staff, bullying, and a lack of connectedness and shared vision between nurse and hospital."

Dr Bragg explained that the theory emerges around the core category of "conflicting values" which explains the conflict between nurses' personal values - how nurses perceive nursing should occur, and organisational values - how the hospital enables nurses to perform their duties.

Press release

Full thesis

Aged care reform information sheets (NACA)

The National Aged Care Alliance has published a number of information sheets designed to inform health professionals and the public about changes recommended by the Productivity Commission. Titles of the sheets are:

Aged Care and Access to the Gateway
Aged Care Services - Access and Consumer
The Aged Care Workforce
Dementia and Aged Care Reform
Entitlement to Aged Care Services and Greater Choice
Health Reform and Aged Care
Paying for Aged Care
Quality Aged Care Services
Special Needs Groups - Access and Consumer Protections

Institute fights to beat dementia

The Brain and Mind Research Institute in Sydney is investigating whether early intervention programs promoting mind health can reduce cognitive decline.


Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating [Drafts for public comment]

Drafts of the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating are now available for public comment.

The Guidelines are based on the best available scientific evidence linking diet and health. They provide information for health professionals and the general population to reduce the risk of diet-related disease. The Dietary Guidelines encourage healthy dietary patterns to promote and maintain the nutrition-related health and wellbeing of the Australian population.

The revised Australian Dietary Guidelines have been updated with recent scientific evidence about the relationships between food, dietary patterns and health outcomes. They are based on foods and food groups, rather than nutrients as in the 2003 edition.

The evidence base has strengthened for:

* The association between the consumption of sugar sweetened drinks and the risk of excessive weight gain in both children and adults
* The health benefits of breastfeeding
* The association between the consumption of milk and decreased risk of heart disease and some cancers
* The association between the consumption of fruit and decreased risk of heart disease
* The association between the consumption of non-starchy vegetables and decreased risk of some cancers
* The association between the consumption of wholegrain cereals and decreased risk of heart disease and excessive weight gain.

Evidence suggests Australians need to eat more:

vegetables and legumes/beans; fruits; wholegrain cereals; low fat milk, yoghurt, cheese ; fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes and beans (including soy), and nuts and seeds; and red meat (young females only)

Evidence suggests Australians need to eat less:

starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes); refined cereals; high and medium fat dairy foods ; red meats (adult males only); food and drinks high in saturated fat, added sugar, salt, or alcohol (e.g. fried foods, most take-away foods from quick service restaurants, cakes and biscuits, chocolate and confectionery, sweetened drinks).

Supporting documents to the guidelines include : the Evidence report, Literature Review on Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women and A Modelling System to Inform the Revision of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

Submissions are invited on the guidelines. The Public Consultation is open until Wednesday, 29 February, 2012.

Alcohol and other drug treatment services, 7 state and territory bulletins (AIHW)

In New South Wales in 2009-10, 258 government-funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies and outlets provided 35,202 treatment episodes. This was an increase of eight treatment agencies and 309 episodes compared to 2008-09. Alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern, rising from 51% of episodes in 2008-09 to 54% in 2009-10. Cannabis accounted for 18% and heroin for 10% of episodes. The proportion of amphetamine-related episodes fell slightly from 9% to 7%. Counselling was the most common form of main treatment provided (34% of episodes), followed by withdrawal management (20%) and assessment only (16%).

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in New South Wales 2009-10

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Victoria 2009-10

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Queensland 2009-10

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in South Australia 2009-10

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in the Northern Territory 2009-10

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Western Australia 2009-10

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in the Australian Capital Territory 2009-10

The Child Dental Health Surveys Australia, 2005 and 2006 (AIHW)

The Child Dental Health Surveys Australia, 2005 and 2006 describes the state of oral health of Australian children attending a school dental service in 2005 and 2006. Dental decay remains relatively prevalent among Australian children, affecting the deciduous teeth of more than half of all 6 year olds, and the permanent teeth of nearly half of all 12 year olds.

Media release

Dads' depression breeds emotional problems in children (UON Research)

Infants with depressed fathers are three times more likely to have emotional and behavioural problems than children with happier dads, according to new research by the University of Newcastle Family Action Centre’s Dr Richard Fletcher.

A study of more than 2600 families found that paternal depression during infancy could and have a negative impact on a child’s behaviour and development and cause ongoing emotional problems. Dr Fletcher and his team found that infants with depressed fathers were more likely to have continuing behavioural problems at ages four and five than those with happier fathers.

Research reveals the daily struggle with psychotic illness (Sane Australia)

A comprehensive study of thousands of people with psychotic illness provides compelling evidence of the need to provide more support and better-coordinated community mental health services in Australia.

The People Living with Psychotic Illness 2010 study, the largest of its kind ever undertaken in Australia, found that psychotic illness affects around one in every 200 Australians every year and that 90% of people affected report a deterioration in their ability to function in their daily life – be it cooking, cleaning, managing their finances or working.


Australian guideline for treatment of problem gambling

The Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre (PGRTC) at Monash University has developed the first guideline to address problem gambling in Australia - Guideline for screening, assessment and treatment in problem gambling. It has been developed in response to the need for problem gambling services, practitioners and policymakers to have evidence-based guidance in the design and delivery of treatments for people with gambling problems. The growing availability of a research base in problem gambling has helped make this possible.

An abridged outline of this guideline has been published by MJA. MJA
Online First, 22 November 2011 : doi: 10.5694/mja11.11088

Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2011 (AIHW)

Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2011 summarises the most up-to-date information available in Australia today on the oral health and dental visiting of the Australian population. Data have been sourced from surveys managed by the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) and administrative data sets managed by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Domestic violence in Australia: an overview of the issues 2011

This background note by Liesl Mitchell of the Parliamentary Library is a guide to research and resources on domestic violence in Australia. It includes an overview of research on the prevalence of domestic violence, attitudes and risk factors, at risk groups and communities and the costs of domestic violence to communities and to the economy. It also covers policy approaches designed to prevent domestic violence, a survey of current Australian Government programs and initiatives and a review of future directions in domestic violence prevention. Appendix A contains extensive links to sources of further information on domestic violence in Australia.

Cancer in adolescents and young adults in Australia (AIHW)

Cancer in adolescents and young adults in Australia presents the latest available incidence, survival and mortality statistics on cancer in young Australians aged 15 to 29. The incidence of cancer in this age group has become steady since the mid-1990s while cancer mortality has fallen between 1983 and 2007. Survival from cancer in adolescents and young adults has been relatively high and has improved with time, although cancer outcomes vary across population groups.

Media release

The Critical Decade: Climate Change and Health

The Climate Commission has released its second major report, The Critical Decade: Climate change and health. The report is a comprehensive and up to date synthesis of the expected impacts of climate change on the health of Australians.

Climate change is harming our health in Australia, and poses a significant threat for the future. Our health, and the health of our families and communities is the foundation for our way of life, our society and our economy. Health is one of the top priorities for Australians. Every year we collectively invest more and more in our health, and in 2008-09 this reached $112.8 billion.

Our health depends on the natural environment for our basic requirements: safe water, clean air, sufficient food, tolerable temperatures and protection from the elements. A changing climate is already putting pressure on the natural, economic and social systems that sustain good health. Climate change will lead to more injuries, disease and deaths in decades to come. Sustained action by Australia and other nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can help prevent the worst impacts.

NRHA reaction

Deaths from heatwaves to rise 'without emission cuts' (Sydney Morning Herald)

Commentary : Australians can’t ignore the health impacts of climate change

Australian hospital statistics 2010-2011: emergency department care and elective surgery waiting times; and staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia in Australian public hospitals (AIHW)

Australian hospital statistics 2010-2011: emergency department care and elective surgery waiting times

This report presents information relating to emergency department care in major public hospitals and public hospital elective surgery waiting times for the period 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011. In 2010-11: over 6.2 million emergency department presentations were provided by major public hospitals, with 70% of patients receiving treatment within an appropriate time for their urgency (triage category); about 621,000 patients were admitted to Australian public hospitals from waiting lists for elective surgery, with 50% of patients admitted within 36 days.

Hospital statistics 2010-2011: staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia in Australian public hospitals

In 2010-11: all states and territories had rates of hospital-associated SAB below the national benchmark with rates ranging from 0.9 to 1.4 cases per 10, 000 patient days; there were 1,873 cases of hospital-associated SAB reported for Australia. The reported SAB cases occurred during approximately 17 million days of patient care.

Media release

The Draft Basin Plan for consultation (Murray-Darling Basin Authority)

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released The Draft Basin Plan for consultation. The Plan is now open for 20 weeks for submissions and public comment.

Submissions may be made online using the Basin Plan Submissions form, emailed to submissions@mdba.gov.au , faxed to (02) 6279 0558 or mailed to :

Proposed Basin Plan
Murray-Darling Basin Authority
GPO Box 3001
Canberra City ACT 2601

Press release and 10 key points.

Expert reactions to the Draft Plan

Australia's welfare 2011 (AIHW)

Australia's welfare 2011

Australia's welfare 2011 is the 10th biennial welfare report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It is the most comprehensive and authoritative source of national information on welfare services in Australia. Topics include: children and young people; disability and disability services; ageing and aged care; informal carers; homelessness; housing assistance; community services workforce; welfare expenditure; indicators of Australia's welfare.

Australia's welfare 2011 in brief presents selected highlights from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 10th biennial report on welfare services in Australia.

Media release

General practice activity in Australia 2010-11 and A decade of Australian general practice activity 2001-02 to 2010-11.

General practice activity in Australia 2010-11. General practice series no.29

This report provides a summary of results from the 13th year of the BEACH program, a continuing national study of general practice activity in Australia.

From April 2010 to March 2011, 958 general practitioners recorded details about 95,800 GP-patient encounters, at which patients presented 149,005 reasons for encounter and 146,141 problems were managed. For an 'average' 100 problems managed, GPs recorded: 69 medications (including 56 prescribed, seven supplied to the patient and six advised for over-the-counter purchase); 11 procedures; 23 clinical treatments (advice and counselling); six referrals to specialists and three to allied health services; orders for 30 pathology tests and six imaging tests.

A subsample study of more than 31,000 patients suggests prevalence of measured risk factors in the attending adult (18 years and over) patient population were: obese - 27%; overweight - 35%; daily smoking - 15%; at-risk alcohol consumption - 25%. One in five people in the attending population had at least two of these risk factors.

A decade of Australian general practice activity 2001-02 to 2010-11. General practice series no. 30

This report highlights changes in general practice activity in Australia over the most recent decade (April 2001 to March 2011) of the BEACH program, a national cross-sectional study of general practice activity. Over this time 9801 participating GPs provided details of 981,000 GP-patient encounters. The report highlights changes that have occurred in the characteristics of general practitioners and the patients they see, the problems managed, and the treatments provided. Changes in prevalence of overweight and obesity, smoking status and alcohol use, are also described for subsamples of more than 30,000 adults and 3,000 children each year.

Previous years' reports are available from the AIHW website.

Mental health policy to be run by those who have fought the battle

A new Mental Health Commission is set to become one of the most powerful bodies in the state – and it will be run by someone who has had, or has, a mental illness. Every government agency will be compelled to co-operate with the Commission's implementation of a plan to fix mental healthcare in NSW, under landmark legislation to be introduced to parliament today by the Minister for Mental Health, Kevin Humphries.

Either the commissioner or a deputy commissioner must have personal, lived experience of mental illness, and a common clause dictating appointees can be removed if they become incapacitated by mental illness will not be in the bill.

Read more:

More needed for Australians with psychotic illness: report

About 64,000 Australians have a psychotic illness and a survey being released today shows most are unable to work full time, they suffer physical health problems and are prone to loneliness.

This is the second national survey of psychotic illness. The first was done 12 years ago. Nearly 2000 people with an illness like schizophrenia were surveyed, making it one of the biggest studies of its kind in the world. Barbara Hocking, the executive director of the mental health charity SANE Australia was an advisor to the study.

People living with psychotic illness 2010 [Full report]

People Living with Psychosis: A SANE Response [SANE Australia]

More needed for Australians with psychotic illness[ABC interview with Barbara Hocking]

Substance use + mental health comorbidity consumer resources

NDARC has launched a series of new resources for those living with both substance use and mental health issues. The resources are targeted at consumers of mental health and alcohol and other drug services Australia-wide and include an explanation of mental health conditions, how these are linked to substance use, the interplay between the two disorders, how to recognise and manage symptoms, and where to go for help. The 5 booklets are :

Anxiety + Substance use.
Mood + Substance use
Personality + Substance use
Psychosis + Substance use
Trauma + Substance use

The booklets may also be ordered in hard copy.

The NDARC site also has several other resources available.

Online Remote Primary Health Care Manuals

Online Remote Primary Health Care Manuals brings together 5 highly respected manuals used in Indigenous and remote primary health care in Australia.

CARPA Standard Treatment Manual, 5th Edition

Minymaku Kutju Tjukurpa Women's Business Manual, 4th edition

Clinical Procedures Manual for remote and rural practice, 2nd edition

Medicines Book for Aboriginal Health Workers, 2nd edition

Reference Book for the 5th edition of the CARPA Standard Treatment Manual

The organisations which collaborated to make this combined content available online are: Central Australian Rural Practitioner's Association Inc (CARPA), CRANAplus Inc, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Alukura Branch, and the Centre for Remote Health.

These manuals are produced for primary health care workers including doctors, Aboriginal health workers, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals and should not be used as a substitute for professional qualified advice.

Access to the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals content is free of charge but does require registration and login.

The E-Health Revolution - easier said than done

The Parliamentary Library has released a Research Paper providing an introductory overview of some of e-health's critical aspects. The paper concentrates on the evolution of e-health policy in Australia, but also looks briefly at the overseas experience of e-health policy development and considers some practical application case studies.

NPS launches a new online information hub on World Diabetes Day

Why learn about
type 2 diabetes?

On World Diabetes Day (14 November 2011), National Prescribing Service launched an online information hub to help people with type 2 diabetes be medicine-wise about their condition.

The online hub is a comprehensive source of information about type 2 diabetes, including its causes, diagnosis and treatment. The theme for World Diabetes Day is education and prevention, and in line with this, the new NPS diabetes hub offers information on the vital role of healthy eating and physical activity, as well as in-depth information on the diabetes medicines available in Australia, how they work and their possible side effects and interactions.

The type 2 diabetes online hub is the first in a series of information hubs to be launched on a range of conditions and health topics, including depression, vaccines and respiratory tract infections.

National Evidence-Based Clinical Care Guidelines for Type 1 Diabetes for Children, Adolescents and Adults

The National Evidence-Based Clinical Care Guidelines for Type 1 Diabetes for Children, Adolescents and Adults has been developed by the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group and the Australian Diabetes Society.

This guideline is an update of the NHMRC approved Clinical practice guidelines: Type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents (2005). The scope of the guideline has been extended to address the needs of adults and the transition period from adolescence to adulthood, including pregnancy. This is the first Australian evidence-based guideline for type 1 diabetes that addresses clinical care across the whole lifespan.

Allergic rhinitis ('hay fever') in Australia (AIHW)

Hay fever is a term commonly used to refer to allergic rhinitis caused by seasonal exposure to pollen. Allergic rhinitis can cause significant irritation and interference in a sufferer's daily activities, considerably reducing their quality of life. It is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions in Australia, affecting around 15% of Australians or 3.1 million people. The amount of money paid by community pharmacies to wholesalers for medications commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis doubled between 2001 ($107.8 million) and 2010 ($226.8 million).

Media release

Dancing your falls away

Ballroom dancing robots being used
as a partner for the elderly in Japan.
By Third Uncle on Flickr.

Foxtrot, salsa, rumba! Twice weekly ballroom dancing classes for senior citizens could bring back the balance and strength needed to prevent falls in elderly Australians, according to University of Sydney researchers. Dr Dafna Merom says it is widely acknowledged that falls are one of the most common health problems among older people, and a NHMRC funded study has the potential to reduce the incidence of falls for elderly Australians by as much 37%. "We know that formal exercise programs, particularly those that include balance challenging training, can help prevent falls, but formal training exercises may not be the best way to optimise results. There are promising alternatives," she says. Dr Merom is aiming to introduce classic ballroom dance routines as twice-weekly recreational activities at 13 aged care centres and retirement villages across Sydney. Often described as "old time dancing", Merom says these classic dances have the right moves and more.

The multi-centre study will include researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, Australian National University, and the University of Hong Kong. The researchers are aiming to recruit 450 older adults who will be engaged in the dance program, which will run for a year.

Dementia: Osborne Park Hospital Guide for Occupational Therapists in Clinical Practice

The Occupational Therapy Department of Osborne Park Hospital (WA) has published a resource called Dementia: Osborne Park Hospital Guide for Occupational Therapists in Clinical Practice which is available freely online (there is no print version).

Contents include : definitions and natural course of dementia, occupational therapy guidelines and standards for dementia care, occupational therapy strategies for aspects of dementia care (Driving, ADL, wandering etc), and a section on the caring role of families.

Women's Health Study reveals resilient rural women are still short-changed in health

A special report, Rural, remote and regional differences in women's health from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH), based at the Universities of Newcastle and Queensland, highlights the resilience of rural women during drought. Rural women have poorer health in general and worse access to health services than those in cities - and the health care they get is inadequate.

The risk and prevalence of diabetes and hypertension are much higher for women (of all ages) with increasing distance from major cities. Rural women were more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and ischaemic heart disease than women in urban areas. The report shows that women in rural areas have higher levels of risk factors for heart disease. Obesity, which is strongly associated with increased risk of diabetes and hypertension, is much higher for country women of all ages.

Australians' life expectancy among the highest in the world

Australian life expectancy for both males and females continues to be amongst the highest in the world, according to Deaths, Australia, 2010 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). A boy born today can expect to live an average of 79.5 years, while a girl can expect to live to 84.0 years. Having survived to age 60, men could expect to live another 23 years and women another 26 years. Since 1990, life expectancy has increased by 6 years for men and just under 4 years for women, reflecting the decrease in death rates over time.

The increase in life expectancy is one of the factors contributing to the ageing of Australia's population. Death rates have continued to decline over the past 20 years. In 2010, the standardised death rate was the lowest on record at 5.7 deaths per 1000 people. In 1990, the standardised death rate was 8.6 deaths per 1000 people. The infant mortality rate decreased slightly, from 4.3 deaths per 1,000 births in 2009 to 4.1 in 2010.

While there are serious issues with the quality of data, a special chapter on Indigenous mortality indicates that the mortality level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians remains substantially higher than that of the total Australian population.

Australian's life expectancy among the highest in the world - Media release.

Navigating the maze of private health insurance (new website)

The growing number of Australians covered by private health insurance will find it easier to make informed choices about their level of cover with handy new tools available on www.privatehealth.gov.au from this week. "The new online tutorials will make it easier for consumers to navigate their way through the 20,000 private health insurance products available in Australia and make a choice that best suits their needs. Being able to compare policies quickly and easily will be even simpler with the new online tutorials," Minister Nicola Roxon said.

The website enables ready comparison of health insurance policies, and features include videos, brochures, and an inquiry service.

Drugs in Australia 2010: tobacco, alcohol and other drugs (AIHW)

Drugs in Australia 2010: tobacco, alcohol and other drugs provides a comprehensive summary of Australians' consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and use of treatment services, drawing on the latest statistics from major national collections. It also includes information about drug-related health issues, and drugs in the context of crime and law enforcement.

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2009-10: report on the National Minimum Data Set (AIHW)

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2009-10: report on the National Minimum Data Set reports on the approximately 170,000 treatment episodes for alcohol and other drug use which were provided in Australia in 2009-10. Almost half were for treatment related to alcohol use-the highest proportion observed since the collection began in 2001. As with previous years, counselling was the most common type of treatment offered. 1 in 10 episodes involved more than one type of treatment.

Media release

Rural and Regional Health Australia

Rural and Regional Health Australia (RRHA) has now released its new website. The website provides details of existing and forthcoming Government programs and initiatives aimed at improving health services in regional, rural and remote Australia. Its interactive map shows health services in specific locations in all states and territories, and it will be upgraded over time to hold more place-based health information. In the same way more resources will be added to the website as it develops, making it a valuable tool both for the rural population and for health professionals.

Rural and Regional Health Australia (RRHA) started operation on 1 July 2011 in the Department of Health and Ageing. It provides a single entry point for information about health and aged care programs with a regional, rural and/or remote focus.

RRHA has 3 contact points for regional health consumers and providers:

The website

The Call Centre 1800 899 538 (Toll free)

infoRRHA@ruralhealthaustralia.gov.au An email service

Press release

NRHA reaction

Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand 2009 (AIHW)

Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand 2009 reveals that in 2009, there were 70,541 assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment cycles undertaken in Australian and New Zealand. Of these cycles, 17.2% resulted in a live delivery (the birth of at least one liveborn baby). In total, 13,114 liveborn babies were born following ART treatment in 2009. The most important trend in ART treatment has been the increase of single embryo transfer, from 48.3% in 2005 to 69.7% in 2009. This trend has resulted in significant reduction of multiple delivery rate from 14.1% in 2005 to 8.2% in 2009.

Media release

Lung cancer in Australia in 2011: an overview (AIHW)

The rate of new cases of lung cancer among women has risen while the rates for men have fallen, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Cancer Australia. Lung cancer in Australia in 2011 : an overview is the first comprehensive summary of national statistics on lung cancer in Australia.

"The report shows the number of new lung cancers increased markedly in both sexes between 1982 and 2007," said AIHW spokesperson Chris Sturrock. "But when the age structure and size of the population are taken into account, lung cancer incidence fell by 32%in men but rose by 72% in women."

The differing directions in lung cancer incidence rates in men and women may be attributed to historical differences in smoking behaviour, with smoking rates in men decreasing since the 1960s but rates not decreasing until the 1970s for women.

Data in this report provide a comprehensive picture of lung cancer in Australia including how lung cancer rates differ by geographical area, socioeconomic status, Indigenous status and country of birth.

Media release

Managing two worlds together - city hospital care for country Aboriginal people

Aiming to improve the experience of health care system for Indigenous people, Managing two worlds together by Health Care Management, Flinders School of Medicine considered Aboriginal patients from rural and remote areas of South Australia and parts of the Northern Territory. The project is based on 4 separate studies:

* Study 1-Report on Admissions and Costs analyses the patterns of admission and length of stay of country Aboriginal patients in city public hospitals
* Study 2- Staff Perspectives on Care for Country Aboriginal Patients reports the views of staff who provide care for country Aboriginal patients in city and country hospitals and health services
* Study 3-The Experiences of Patients and Their Carers is a first-hand report of rural Aboriginal patients and their carers
* Study 4-Complex Country Aboriginal Patient Journeys maps 4 journey case studies, and analyses gaps and breakpoints in those care journeys.

Obesity and injury in Australia: a review of the literature (AIHW)

Obesity and injury are major health burdens on society. Possible relationships between obesity and injury have recently been reported, but their nature and extent has been unclear.

Obesity and injury in Australia: a review of the literature presents summary information from an overview of the existing literature to investigate obesity injury relationships.

It shows that while findings are mixed, most evidence suggests that obesity increases the risk of injury. "The probability of falls, trips, or stumbles rises with obesity," said Professor James Harrison of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit. "Sleep apnoea is also strongly associated with obesity, and this condition greatly increases the risk of road injury, due to the fatigue experienced by sufferers."

The outcomes of injury are also affected by obesity. "The average length of stay in hospital is significantly longer for obese injured patients than for patients who are not obese," Professor Harrison said. "They may also have greater requirements for respiratory support, and are more likely to suffer certain complications of care, such as pneumonia, renal failure and sepsis, during their time in hospital."

Media release

Thinking about mental health (Uni of Sydney Research)

Youth depression and mental illness are growing problems but educators are beginning to find new ways to combat the problem. University of Sydney research shows more than a quarter of young Australians between the ages of 16 and 24 suffer from mental or behavioural disorders with 6500 children currently using anti-depressants. Scotch College is one school tackling the issue using a new positive education program.

Climate change and rural health: a GP’s call for action, plus an update on recent studies

The Australian Journal of Rural Health has an editorial from the ANU’s Professor Tony McMichael, who writes that rural and remote communities can expect to feel the increasing brunt of human-induced climate change: “… as global climate change progresses over coming decades, dust, smoke, flames, water and wind will impinge more damagingly on many of Australia’s rural and remote communities. Property, harvests, incomes, jobs and community vitality are at risk. More troubling, there are great risks to physical and, in particular, mental health.”

Professor McMichael outlines 4 studies including "The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program."


Policy Issue Review : new health policy series from PHC RIS

PHC RIS has released a series of Policy Issue Reviews about policy-relevant topics in primary health care. Each issue, which has been reviewed by a content expert, focuses on a particular topic that is relevant to Australian health reform. The available Policy Issue Reviews are:

Disparities in primary health care utilisation: Who are the disadvantaged groups? How are they disadvantaged? What interventions work?
Describes several sub-populations in Australia that experience poor accessibility to primary health care services; highlights the barriers to using services; and identifies the interventions that have been implemented to improve accessibility and reduce the disparities in primary health care utilisation.

Initiatives to integrate primary and acute care, including ambulatory care services
Focuses on the patient's experience of integrated care; and the strategies that have been implemented to enhance patients' experience and health outcomes.

Local community reporting models for regional primary health care organisations
Examines information about different models which overseas primary health care organisations have used for reporting to local communities.

Models of patient enrolment
Describes 7 different International patient enrolment models and synthesises information about enrolment in terms of accountability and continuity of care.

Patient experience of health care performance
Examines the mechanisms for measuring patient experience of primary health care; and identified how patient experience has been used in Australia and overseas to inform policy and practice.

Policy Issue Reviews are available on the PHC RIS website.

Bulky billing: Missing out on fair and affordable health care

Australians are paying more than $1 billion each year in out-of-pocket expenses for GP visits, pharmaceuticals, pathology and diagnostic testing despite Medicare's pledge to provide "fair and affordable" health care, a new study by The Australia Institute reveals. Bulky Billing: Missing out on fair and affordable health care examines the shortfalls in Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the role GPs can play in determining out-of pocket expenses.

The study also confirmed that many Australians are forgoing treatment, with 23% of survey respondents admitting they had postponed or avoided having a prescription filled because they could not afford to pay for it.

Research Fellow David Baker said GPs have enormous discretion over how much patients pay, not just for their consultation, but for drugs and pathology and diagnostic tests." Only 6% of survey respondents reported first hearing about generic medications from their GP, while 43% said they would not use generic medication without first checking with their doctor. Just 17% realised that it was up to their doctor to tick the bulk billing box on referral forms for pathology tests," said Mr Baker.

Media release

Expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2008-09: an analysis by remoteness and disease (AIHW)

In 2008-09, health expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people varied across remoteness areas, service types and disease groupings. The greatest difference in expenditure between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was in Remote and very remote areas where, for every dollar spent per non-Indigenous Australian, $2.41 was spent per Indigenous Australian. Expenditure on genitourinary diseases, and mental and behavioural disorders, accounted for the highest proportions of admitted patient expenditure for Indigenous Australians (11% and 10% respectively).

Additional analysis has been undertaken in the 2008-09 report to include expenditure on potentially preventable hospitalisations.

Media release

Case studies on the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program

The Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program (MHNIP) is part of the Australian Government's component of the National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006-2011. Funding of $191.6 million was allocated over 5 years, commencing July 2007. The funding allows general practices, private psychiatrists and other appropriate community providers (including general practice networks and private hospitals) to engage or retain mental health nurses to assist in the provision of coordinated clinical care for people, in the community, with severe mental health disorders. The MHNIP is intended to help community based patients with a severe mental illness get the right services at the right time, assisting to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions/readmissions.

Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program: case studies project report details a project which investigated 7 sites where the MHNIP has been implemented, covering a variety of locations, service models and employment arrangements. The case studies were intended to highlight the development, implementation and some early outcomes of the MHNIP.

Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program: seven case studies gives detailed studies on the 7 services in Longford, Clare, Bathurst, Geelong, Ipswich, Mackay and Ballarat.

Consensus-Based Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Volatile Substance Use in Australia

The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, and Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, today welcomed Australia's first Consensus-Based Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Volatile Substance Use in Australia, and a quick - reference summary, to support heath workers treating clients in this challenging area.

Volatile substance use (VSU) - inhaling solvents, gases and aerosols for intoxication - is a significant problem in some Australian communities. Mr Butler said people who use volatile substances, such as petrol or glue, often have special needs not met by conventional drug and alcohol treatment strategies.

"Health professionals working in metropolitan, rural and remote communities now have a clinical practice guideline that provides a planned approach to identify, assess and treat people who use volatile substances," Mr Butler said.

Press release

Cervical screening in Australia 2008-2009 (AIHW)

The National Cervical Screening Program aims to reduce incidence, morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer. Cervical screening in Australia 2008-2009 presents national statistics monitoring the NCSP using new performance indicators. For women in the target age group, 20-69 years, participation in the program was around 59%, with more than 3.6 million women screened over the 2 years 2008-2009. Cervical cancer incidence remains at an historical low of 9 new cases per 100,000 women, and deaths are also low, historically and by international standards, at 2 deaths per 100,000 women.

Media release

Health expenditure Australia 2009-10 (AIHW)

Health expenditure in Australia in 2009-10 increased to $121.4 billion. As a percentage of GDP it was 9.4% of the GDP, 0.4% higher than in 2008-09. Public hospital services accounted for under one-third (31%) of the total increase in 2009-10, while medications accounted for over one-fifth (21%) of the total growth. 2009-10 marks the first year of the transition to the National Health Care Agreement, a new health care funding arrangement between the Australian government and state and territory governments.

Media release

Testing Treatments: better research for better healthcare (New edition)

Medicine shouldn't be about authority, and the most important question anyone can ask on any claim is simple: "how do you know?". The 2nd edition of "Testing treatments" is about the answer to that question.

This is not a "best treatments guide" to the effects of individual therapies. Rather,it highlight issues that are fundamental to ensuring that research is soundly based, properly done, able to distinguish harmful from helpful treatments, and designed to answer questions that matter to patients, the public, and health professionals.

There is expanded coverage of the benefits and harms of screening in a separate chapter (Chapter 4) entitled 'Earlier is not necessarily better.' and in 'Regulating tests of treatments: help or hindrance?' (Chapter 9) the authors describe how research can become over-policed to the detriment of patients. In an important chapter (Chapter 12) it is asked: "So what makes for better healthcare?" and shows how the lines of evidence can be drawn together in ways that can make a real difference to all of us. The last chapter gives a blueprint for a better future and an action plan (Chapter 13)

Free download

P plate road safety research targets Dubbo & Forbes (Drivers wanted)

The P Drivers Project is a large scale road safety research project to develop and implement a behaviour change program for young P plate drivers aged between 17 to 22 years.

This project is one of the largest and most complex scientific research studies undertaken in the area of driver education in the world. The research will focus on current behaviour, decision making and risk-taking that will help reduce the number of crashes and fatalities involving young, inexperienced drivers and promote their safe driving behaviour.

The NSW trial will be held in four regions including Western Sydney, Tamworth/Armidale, Dubbo/Forbes and Lismore/Tweed Heads. The project involves assessment, education and driver training sessions.

For more information visit pdriversproject.com.au or phone 1800 019 806.

For participant information and to sign up, visit mylivetribe.com.au or call 1800 454 133

Press release by N.S.W. Minister for Roads and Ports, Duncan Gay.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services report 2009-10: OATSIH Services Reporting - key results (AIHW)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services report 2009-10: OATSIH Services Reporting - key results

In 2009-10, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander:

* primary health care services provided 2.4 million episodes of health care to about 456,000 clients, a 14% increase in episodes of care : a 22% increase in the number of clients reported compared with 2008-09.

* substance use services provided treatment and assistance to about 26,300 clients, an increase of 14% compared with 2008-09.

* Bringing Them Home and Link Up services provided counselling to about 10,700 clients, an increase of about 27% compared with 2008-09.

Media release

Half of detained teens are indigenous

Almost half of all young people locked up in juvenile detention centres are indigenous despite the fact they make up just 5% of the population, a new report shows. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study, Juvenile justice in Australia 2009-10, shows that 7250 young people were under some kind of supervision on an average day in 2009/10.

About 86% were in the community while 14% were being held in detention. Indigenous Australians make up just 5% cent of young people, but comprise 38% of juveniles under supervision.

Report from "The Australian"

Caring in the community, Australia (ABS) ... counting the cost of caring

Being the main carer of an elderly or disabled person exacts a huge personal toll on hundreds of thousands of Australians, new data shows, and 19 per cent of the nation's primary carers have reported a "strained relationship" with the person in their care. A quarter of the 771,400 primary carers say they have also lost contact with their friends.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics report Caring in the community, Australia shows that the longer the caring role occupies each day, the more emotionally taxing it becomes, with 40 per cent of carers doing 40 or more hours a week saying they are frequently worried or depressed compared with 27 per cent for those who put in 20 hours or less.

But the snapshot of life for carers isn't all depressing news. One in three primary carers reports that the caring role had brought them closer to the person for whom they are caring.

Data cubes and other data are also available from the links page.

Links page

Media Release

Report in "The Australian"

Australia's national clinical indicator program results for 2003-10 released

The Australasian Clinical Indicator Report 2003-2010: Determining the Potential to Improve Quality of Care (12th ed.) has been released by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) and presents a detailed analysis of clinical indicators on a national basis.

ACHS Chief Executive, Brian Johnston, said the analysis of each indicator set for the last 8 years means the data is statistically more relevant than ever before, due to the increasing input from healthcare organisations (HCOs) nationwide. "With a wide range of HCOs contributing to the Report, we are receiving a wealth of rich data that point to key trends across the 22 clinical indicator sets, ranging from Adverse Drug Reactions to Surgery," he said.

Media release

The Science Museum's History of Medicine website

Palfijn obstetrical forceps,
Europe 1720-130 from
"Brough to life"
'Brought to Life', is a website provided by the Science Museum, London. It offers access to images of thousands of fascinating objects from the Museum's great medical collections. The site also incorporates detailed descriptions, introductions to major themes in the history of medicine and engaging multimedia.

This site is not only a valuable resource for teachers and student working on the history of medicine, and related subjects, in schools and universities, but it also engages people of all ages and interests in the story of medicine.

Example of interactives:

The Black Death
Try to manage an epidemic

Trends in palliative care in Australian hospitals and Identifying palliative care separations in admitted patient data: technical paper (AIHW)

Trends in palliative care in Australian hospitals

Trends in palliative care in Australian hospitals provides an overview of the nature and extent of palliative care separations in public and private hospitals across Australia for the 10-year period from 1999-00 to 2008-09. These separations may have occurred in a dedicated palliative care ward, a hospice or in other admitted patient beds in a hospital. The report indicates that there has been a substantial increase in the number of palliative care separations in admitted patient settings over time.

Media release

Identifying palliative care separations in admitted patient data: technical paper

This technical paper explores the most appropriate method of identifying those separations that occurred in Australian hospitals for which palliative care was a substantial component of the care provided. Coding and collection rules are considered, as well as national admitted patient data for 1999-00 to 2008-09.

Asthma in Australia 2011: with a focus chapter on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AIHW)

Asthma is an important health problem in Australia. Asthma in Australia 2011 brings together data from a wide range of sources to describe the current status of asthma in Australia. It includes information on the number of people who have asthma and who visit their general practitioner, are hospitalised or die due to asthma. Time trends and profiles of people who receive various treatments for asthma are also presented, along with information on those who have written asthma action plans. In addition, comorbidities and quality of life among people with asthma are also investigated. This report also includes a chapter that focuses on chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases in Australians aged 55 years and over.

Media release

Essentials of Care

Essentials of Care is a framework to support the development and ongoing evaluation of nursing and midwifery practice and patient care. Using transformational practice development methodologies healthcare teams are engaged in the evaluation and development of the clinical care provided.

The aims of the project are to improve patient safety and outcomes through the implementation of a NSW state-wide framework that focuses on the essentials of clinical care, and to enhance the experiences of patients, families and carers as well as staff involved in the delivery of care. You can watch the introductory video on EOC or read about the structure or facilitation of the program.

You can also visit the NSW Health EOC site.

Senate Inquiry : The factors affecting the supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas

Rural doctors have welcomed the setting up of a Senate Inquiry into the factors affecting the supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas. Rural incentives which classify many smaller rural towns in the same category as some large rural centres, have made recruitment of medical practitioners for small towns very difficult.

The terms of reference of the Inquiry are quite wide-ranging, encompassing all health professionals and alternative methods of incentive programs. They are as follows :

* to determine the factors limiting the supply of health services and medical, nursing and allied health professionals to small regional communities as compared with major regional and metropolitan centres.
* to enquire into the role and effectiveness of the current incentive programs for recruitment and retention of doctors, particularly in smaller rural communities,
* the appropriateness of the delivery model for the incentive programs,
* whether the current Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness Areas classification scheme ensures appropriate distribution of funds and delivers intended outcomes, and
* other related matters

Submissions are currently being accepted, but a closing date for submissions has not yet been announced.

Information, Terms Of Reference, and submission guidelines

Rural doctors welcome Senate Inquiry on health services in the bush (The Land)

Health boost in bush: grants available

Rural and remote health professionals, clinics and rural private hospitals have been invited by the Australian Government to apply for grants of up to $500,000 to improve their local health equipment or build new facilities.

Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon this week invited applications for grants under the Government's 6th round of its National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Program(NRRHIP), which will remain open for almost 10 weeks. Over the past 3 years NRRHIP has funded 217 local projects valued at more than $43 million. The funding is available in three streams : for capital works or refurbishments worth up to $500,000; for equipment worth up to $250,000; and for strategic service planning for small rural private hospitals, worth up to $50,000.

Information about eligibility requirements and application material can be found at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/Listing+of+Tenders+and+Grants-1

Parents warned not to share beds with infants : safe infant sleeping standards

New guidelines in South Australia advise parents not to sleep with their infants. They stem from coronial findings on the deaths of five babies who were crushed to death by sleeping adults in SA since 2008. SA Health will now advise parents against sleeping with their young children. South Australian Health Minister John Hill says babies also should be put to sleep on their backs, rather than side or stomach. "Obviously families like to be close and parents like to be doing the right thing and they think sometimes putting the baby in the bed with them is a safe practice, but of course large adult bodies can crush a small child or the child can get lost in the bed and suffocate," he said. An infant health researcher at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital Dr Susan Beal hopes the clearer guidelines will make a difference. "Get rid of bedclothes out of beds, get rid of big soft toys and [cot] bumpers," she advised.

The South Australian Safe Infant Sleeping Standards were developed by a core group of experts from Government and non-Government sectors in South Australia under the direction of the South Australian Safe Sleeping Advisory Committee.

Mental Health Services in Australia website [AIHW]

The objectives of the Mental Health Services in Australia website, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, are to establish comprehensive, timely and regular national reporting on the progress of mental health reform in Australia; make Australian mental health services data available to all stakeholders in an interactive, graphical format; and publish Australian mental health services data progressively each year as it becomes available.

Mental Health Services data is available in four broad subject areas (Background; Services; Resources; and Additional topics), and reported in sixteen specific topic areas as per the previous hard copy reports.

Mental health and suicide

Mental Health and Suicide "Let's Talk About It" forum will be a special 3 hour live to air and online streamed broadcast, which aims to engage the community in conversation and to talk openly about the topic, tackle the issues head-on and to discuss strategies for dealing with mental illness and for teaching resilience in young people.

With special guest Professor Patrick McGorry the program will feature leading experts in the mental health field, including beyondblue Deputy CEO Dr Nicole Highet and Lifeline's Director Chris Wagner, to discuss depression, anxiety and suicide.

Changing the mental health blame game

THE ''blame and shame'' era of linking mental illness to early life events is fading as medical science identifies biological disorders in the brain as triggers, says leading mental health scientist Tom Insel.

Dr Insel, who heads the National Institute of Mental Health in the US, said scientific breakthroughs connecting brain activity with illnesses such as depression were transforming thinking about how to treat such disorders.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/changing-the-mental-health-blame-game-20111011-1lj1z.html#ixzz1acYVfzFY

Climate change blamed for health problems

More mental health problems and suicides are expected on the Monaro due to climate change.

According to a recent report ‘A Climate of suffering’ released by the Climate Institute, people living in rural Australia will feel the effects of climate change more than their city counterparts.

People living in rural communities are particularly exposed in a deteriorating climate with severe weather events, which will add to the chronic difficulties and inequities already experienced by many rural communities.

According to the Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW co-ordinator of mental health promotion and prevention Brad Moore, climate change affects whole communities and there is evidence of an increased risk of suicide in rural areas compared to metropolitan areas.

Mental health services - in brief 2011 (IHW)

Mental health services - in brief 2011 provides an overview on the characteristics and activity of Australia's mental health services, the availability of mental health resources, and the changes that have occurred in these over time. It is designed to accompany the more comprehensive data on Australia's mental health services available online at <http://mhsa.aihw.gov.au>.

Media release

Art competition for rural Australia

An art competition is being conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in partnership with the National Rural Health Alliance to source cover art for the AIHW's forthcoming publication Australia's health 2012. The theme for the artwork is the health and wellbeing of Australians. Eligible entrants are people located in rural, regional and remote Australia. A prize of $1,000 will be offered to the winning artist, with additional prizes of $500, $300 and $200 for the runners up. Entries close 5.00 pm (EDST) Friday 6 January 2012.

Entry form

Competition details

The nine current priorities in rural and remote health

At its recent face to face meeting, Council of the Rural Health Alliance has confirmed the organisation's 9 current priorities in rural and remote health.

The Alliance will throw its weight behind moves to improve oral health services in rural areas. It is proposing a pathway to help students from rural areas to access and complete health professional training, and expects the new body responsible for leading on rural health, Rural Health Australia, to report to the public on progress towards better access and greater equity. High- speed broadband access, realistic aged care funding, and mental health services in areas where specialist staff are in short supply also feature.

Online OCD treatment works (Swinburne Uni)

Preliminary results for a new online psychological treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) show it is effective in managing symptoms and improving quality of life. Developed at Swinburne University of Technology by a team of researchers led by Professor Michael Kyrios, OCD STOP (http://www.swinburne.edu.au/lss/bpsyc/clinical-and-health-research/ocd/) is a comprehensive web-based treatment.

Learning tool designed for autistic kids (Curtin Uni)

A COMPUTER-BASED interactive tool is providing parents and therapists of autistic children with high-performance early intervention learning capabilities.

A team from Curtin University's Institute for Multi-Sensor Processing and Content Analysis has developed the Toby Playpad software, which could also be used as an early stage learning tool for any child under 10.

Women with breast cancer continue to smoke, drink

New research shows that Australian women are prepared to make lifestyle changes, such as altering their diet, following diagnosis with breast cancer, however they are unwilling to give up alcohol and cigarettes - increasing their risk of further cancers. Associate Professor Robin Bell, Deputy Director of the Women's Health Group at Monash University led the research.

The longitudinal study surveyed 1500 Victorian women about their smoking and drinking habits on two occasions. The first time was between 2004 and 2006, when women were asked about smoking and drinking at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis. The participants were surveyed again two years later. Findings showed that two out of three women who were smokers when their breast cancer was diagnosed continued to smoke cigarettes. Alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for breast cancer and women already diagnosed with breast cancer are at risk of both recurrence and development of another primary breast cancer. However, one in 12 study participants continued to drink more than four drinks per occasion, at least once a week.

Physical changes to sexuality and body image are women's greatest concerns after breast cancer

Leading women's health researchers from the University of Western Sydney have completed a study of the changes to sexual wellbeing and quality of life that women experience following breast cancer. The study involved surveys with 2210 individuals as well as 159 health professionals working in the field.

The results of the study, published in Sexual wellbeing and breast cancer in Australia: experiences of people with breast cancer and health professionals, indicate that, following breast cancer 73% of the surveyed women felt less desirable; 51% felt unattractive; 44% felt uncomfortable exposing their body; and 38% experienced a loss of self-confidence. The women also experienced a number of physical effects including tiredness (in 71% of the respondents), vaginal dryness (63%) and hot flushes (51%).

Professor Jane Ussher, the lead researcher from the UWS School of Psychology, says it was these physical changes - followed by body image and physical attractiveness - that the women considered to be the most important personal issues in their post-cancer lives.

Media release

Executive summary

Communicating in Hospital Emergency Departments

Ineffective communication has been identified as the major cause of critical incidents in public hospitals. Critical incidents are adverse events leading to avoidable patient harm. This project, by examining spoken interactions between health-care practitioners and patients in hospital emergency departments, identified and analysed causes of misunderstandings and breakdowns.

The Emergency Communication Project was conceived in response to the increasing realisation of the central role of communication in effective healthcare delivery, particularly in high stress contexts such as emergency departments. Over the last decade, as critical incidents have increased, growing attention has been paid to the relationship between communication (in particular, communication breakdowns) and patient safety. The research presents a detailed picture of the critical importance of communication in the delivery of effective and patient-centred care, and provides a detailed analysis of the way in which communication occurs and, at times, fails.

Executive summary

Full final report

The Clinical Ethics Resource : helping health professionals with the difficult questions

The University of Sydney has launched a new website to help health professionals deal with the wide range of challenging ethical and legal issues they constantly encounter in their work.

The site, the Clinical Ethics Resource, was developed by the University and is funded by NSW Health. With over 500 links to resources this comprehensive website provides an extensive range of material addressing the ethical and legal issues experienced by the thousands of people working in clinical environments in the NSW health system. The site includes guidelines, tools, legislation, policy, reports, articles, books and examples of legal cases. The 19 categories covered on the Clinical Ethics Resource include genetics, health care management, ethics committees, Indigenous Australians, mental illness, end of life, organ and tissue donation, consent, reproductive health, confidentiality, research, negligence and standards of care and communication.

It is the sister-site to the highly successful Ethics and Health Law News Service developed by the same two University of Sydney centres and launched in 2009.

The use of health services among Australians with disability (AIHW)

The use of health services among Australians with disability is the second in a series about the health of people with disability. It examines the use of health services among Australians with disability based on national population health survey data.

Compared with people without disability, people aged 15-64 years with severe or profound disability were:

* 10 times more likely to have check-ups with general practitioners (GPs)
at least once a month (29% versus 3%)
* 3.5 times more likely to consult specialist doctors in the 12 months before the survey period 2007-08 (56% versus 16%)
* 5 times more likely to consult both specialist doctors and other health professionals in the 12 months before the survey period 2007-08 (41% versus 8%).

The high use of health professional services was particularly related to services provided by specialist doctors, occupational therapists, and social workers or welfare workers.

Media release

A prospective study of diet quality and mental health in adolescents

An unhealthy diet can be the cause of mental health problems in adolescents, a new study has found. Three quarters of lifetime psychiatric disorders will emerge in adolescence or early adulthood. The National Comorbidity Survey Replication recently reported that more than 22% of adolescents aged 13 to 18 yrs had already experienced a clinically significant mental health problem, with ages of onset ranging from 6 yrs for anxiety disorders, to 13 years for mood disorders. In the last 18 months there have been a number of published studies identifying an inverse associations between diet quality and the common mental disorders, depression and anxiety, in adults and two prospective studies suggesting that diet quality influences the risk for depressive illness in adults over time. While two recent studies have also demonstrated cross-sectional associations between diet quality and emotional and behavioural problems and depression in adolescents, there are no existing studies that examine this association in adolescents prospectively, limiting inferences regarding possible causal relationships.

This study aimed to investigate relationships between measures of diet quality and adolescent mental health, both cross-sectionally and prospectively. It also aimed to examine the temporal relationships between diet quality and mental health and the associations between change in diet quality and change in psychological symptoms.

Australia's New Health Crisis - Too Many Doctors

It is taken as given within Australia's health bureacracy that there is a shortage of General Practitioners (GPs). According to Australia's New Health Crisis - Too Many Doctors by Bob Birrell from the Monash Centre for Population and Urban Research, this view is incorrect.

As a result of measures to encourage the employment of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) and to expand the number of domestic medical graduates, Australia is now awash with doctors. This shows up in statistics indicating a sharp improvement in the ratio of doctors to population throughout Australia and record high levels of bulk billing for GP services.

PubMed Health - A Growing Resource for Clinical Effectiveness Information

Now containing over 5,000 items, PubMed Health has developed further as a resource for clinical effectiveness research with its recent releases. PubMed Health has also begun a collection focused on helping people understand systematic reviews and their results. PubMed Health goals are helping users find the evidence that could answer their questions about effects of health care and helping them understand what they find.

Systematic reviews which identify and interpret studies on the effects of health care form an essential research basis for informed decision-making. Systematic reviewing has been growing, especially with the advent of The Cochrane Collaboration and the increasing incorporation of this methodology in health technology assessment by public agencies and clinical practice guideline development.

Systematic reviews (including health technology assessments) are often lengthy and highly technical. Their evolution has been accompanied by a growth in knowledge translation activity. Along with traditional abstracts, various forms have been developed to help people use systematic reviews: executive and policymaker summaries, summaries or other forms for patients/consumers and summaries for clinicians.

However, these materials have been scattered widely on content providers' Web sites without being collected centrally. Many of the systematic reviews undertaken by public health technology assessment agencies have also remained outside the National Library of Medicine system. The PubMed Health initiative is gathering them together within a single searchable resource.

PubMed Health contains systematic reviews and summaries of systematic reviews undertaken or updated in roughly the last ten years.

Read more