Working together for rural health

Prospective health professionals have seen the value of teamwork in rural and remote Australia in a project led by Charles Sturt University (CSU).

Students aiming to become dietitians, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and podiatrists in central and southern NSW last year took part in The Right Start training program, funded by the the Clinical Education and Training Institute (CETI).

“The Right Start program was developed and trialled by Charles Sturt University and its partners sought to make health students ready to work in rural and regional environments and retain them in rural areas, while also meeting the needs of local communities,” said program team leader Dr Megan Smith from CSU’s School of Community Health .“The program highlighted the different ways rural health workers need to work in regional areas.”

The pilot program, which ran in late 2011 and included staff and final year students from CSU, Western and Murrumbidgee Local health Districts and the University of NSW, consisted of two teams of eight students located around southern and central NSW. CETI funded the program to give new graduates the ‘right start’ to work in the NSW public health system. NSW patients perceived that how well doctors and nurses work together was the most important factor for patient care in NSW public hospitals.

Mental health patients lose out under new funding plan

Mental health patients would be seriously disadvantaged under hospital funding arrangements to be introduced in July, health authorities have warned. The architect of a system of hospital funding to be introduced in NSW this year says it cannot be applied to mental health care.

Leading psychiatrists have also raised serious concerns the new system of "casemix" funding will dismantle mental health services and encourage patients to use hospital emergency departments instead of community care.

Men at work... Check out beyondblue's interactive online program

Research shows that even when men are depressed or anxious, they are still reluctant to ask for help or information, or talk to their colleagues at work about how they're feeling. They may feel embarrassed or may believe that people will think they are weak if they feel they can't cope. We also know that 53% of men say if they wanted information about depression they would search online.

In order to reach out to men in the workplace, with funding from the Federal Government, beyondblue has developed a new FREE online interactive awareness program about signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety - and how to get help for yourself or a colleague.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, said the new program was part of the Government's commitment to raise awareness of mental health issues in men who are traditionally harder to reach, less likely to seek help and therefore, at greater risk of suicide.

Family estrangement: adult children asked for their experiences (University of Newcastle)

A University of Newcastle academic is taking her research into family estrangement to the next level, examining the experiences of adult children who are not in contact with their parents. Dr Kylie Agllias is beginning part two of a research project investigating the impacts on individuals and families of rifts and estrangement.

Dr Agllias will work with people aged over 30 who are estranged from at least one parent, to try to find why their relationships are broken and how the adult children are affected.
“The first phase of this project focused on people aged 60 and over who were estranged from an adult child,” Dr Agllias said. “The second phase is seeking the perspective of adult children, to develop a more holistic understanding of family conflict.”

New national standards now published for Indigenous Health Workers

Indigenous Health Workers can now find out exactly what is required of them in order to meet the new national standards for their profession. The standards were published by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia on 16 January 2012.

From July 1 2012, the standards will apply to any person in Australia who wishes to be known, or whose employer wishes them to be known, as one of the following:

* an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner
* an Aboriginal Health Practitioner
* a Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner.

Health workers who are not required by their employer to use these protected titles will not be required to be registered, and will be able to keep working using their existing titles (e.g. Aboriginal Health Worker, Drug and Alcohol Worker and Mental Health Worker).

The new standards set out what is required of workers in terms of professional development, criminal history, English language skills, professional indemnity insurance and recency of practice.

To register on time, workers are advised to complete their application by 30 March 2012.

New standards online

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia

News Coverage Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet

Comorbidity of mental disorders and physical conditions (AIHW)

Comorbidity of mental disorders and physical conditions 2007 investigates the prevalence of mental illness in association with common chronic diseases and shows that in 2007: 12% of Australians aged 16-85 had a mental disorder and a physical condition at the same time; the most common comorbidity was anxiety disorder combined with a physical condition, affecting around 1.4 million (9%) Australian adults; people living in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia were 65% more likely to have comorbidity than those living in the least disadvantaged areas.

IPTAAS overhaul to benefit country patients

Patients across NSW who access the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), will benefit from a significant overhaul announced by the Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner. Last year, the NSW Government announced a significant boost of $28 million, over 4 years, to the IPTAAS. The increase in funding means a 30% boost in accommodation subsidies and a 25% boost in petrol subsidies.

Some of the key improvements that will be delivered over coming weeks are:

- A new online claiming system, where patients can complete and claim their subsidy online;
- A simpler, shorter application form;
- A "one-off" recording of claimant details, to avoid unnecessary paperwork;
- The ability for patients to monitor the progress of their claims online; and
- The ability for patients to change their personal details (ie: bank details)

Health Care in Australia: Prescriptions for Improvement

The Australian Centre for Health Research has launched a book of essays Health Care in Australia: Prescriptions for Improvement (free to download) to celebrate six years of contribution to the health dialogue in Australia.

Topics covered include :

The Impact and Cost of Health Sector Regulation
Sustaining Medicare, maintaining solidarity
Obstacles to Health Reform
E-Health and the Transformation of Health Care
Evaluating Health Outcomes
End-of-Life care
Persistent Pain after Breast Cancer Surgery

...... and several others

Wind power a safe and healthy alternative to fossil fuels

The Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), has released its Position Statement on wind turbines and human health, rejecting the claims of anti-wind groups that wind power poses a threat to health. The Statement underscores the fact that renewable energy generation such as wind power provides a safe and healthy alternative to fossil fuels.

"There is no credible peer reviewed scientific evidence that demonstrates a link between wind turbines and direct adverse health impacts in people living in proximity to them," CAHA Convenor Fiona Armstrong said. "In contrast, Australia's current energy generation that relies on the burning of fossils fuels such as coal and gas is not only contributing to climate change but (particularly in the case of coal) also poses significant threats to human health."

Report on Government services 2012

The Report on Government Services 2012 has been released. Gary Banks, Chairman of the Productivity Commission, observed that the Report promotes awareness about the performance of government services and helps drive
improvements. 'Everyone relies on government services at different stages of their lives, and the services in this Report are particularly important for the more disadvantaged members of society. Improving government services is important socially, but also economically."

Governments spent over $164 billion on the services covered in this year's Report, equivalent to around 12.5 per cent of Australia's national income. Chapters include the health sector, public hospitals, primary & community health, mental health, aged care, disability, early childhood and emergency services.

Diabetes indicators in Australia (AIHW)

Diabetes has increased significantly among the Australian population over the past 20 years, however the rate of diabetes-related deaths is falling, according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Diabetes indicators in Australia. The report shows the prevalence of diabetes in the Australian population increased from 1.5% to 4.1% over the 20 years to 2007-08.

"While increasing numbers of Australians are developing the disease, there is some good news in relation to diabetes complications," said AIHW spokesperson Lisa McGlynn. Diabetes-related deaths dropped by 18% between 1997 and 2007 and hospitalisations for lower limb amputations among people with diabetes fell between 2001 and 2007-08, from 4.8 to 4.1 per 1,000 people with diabetes.

Certain population groups are also at increased risk of developing diabetes. The rate of diabetes among Indigenous Australians was more than 3 times that of non-Indigenous Australians, and Indigenous Australians had higher rates of diabetes-related deaths than the general population - 46 per 100,000 among Indigenous Australians in 2006 compared to 33 per 100,000 among all Australians in the same year. The prevalence of diabetes was also slightly higher among those born overseas and people living in regional and remote areas.

The AIHW has also released a new diabetes dashboard, providing easily accessible and navigable facts and figures on diabetes.

Media release