Black Dog Index : measuring mental health

Australians overall are a happy bunch of people but suicidal thoughts are plaguing 4% of the population, or half a million people, according to the new Black Dog Index designed to measure mental health. The index was developed at the UNSW-affiliated Black Dog Institute and aims to calculate levels of happiness while also looking at levels of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The index shows the happiest people are older, married, tertiary educated and earning more than $90,000 a year. But depression is strongly linked with divorce. It also shows 4% of respondents were actively troubled by suicidal thoughts.

Black Dog Institute Director, Professor Helen Christensen says as well as giving a snapshot of rates of mental illness, the index will provide information about how to improve mental health and reduce suicide. "It's my hope that new programs like the Black Dog Index will improve public awareness about suicide and help those people who feel life isn't worth living to contact Lifeline, their GP or a friend or family member to talk about it because help is available," Professor Christensen says.

The Black Dog Index will be conducted by Newspoll every three months with results reporting in "The Australian".

The Black Dog Index: Measuring Australian mental health (Media release)

Doctors could face prison over drug prescriptions

A leading expert in law for the elderly says some health professionals could face legal action and even prison, following Lateline's story on how thousands of elderly people could be dying prematurely because of over-prescription of anti-psychotic drugs.

Fly-in, fly-out heath care fails remote Aboriginal communities

This is a story about two small Aboriginal communities in the Gulf region of North Queensland: Mornington Island and Doomadgee. They share two key characteristics with many other remote communities: very poor health status on every dimension and fragile permanent staffing of their health services. But they also share an increasingly common third characteristic: an abundance of fly-in, fly-out siloed health services.

Griffith hosts mental health forum for employers

A mental health expert says employers should treat people with a mental illness no differently than those with a cold, or a condition like diabetes.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is behind a forum in Griffith today, encouraging employers to consider hiring someone with a mental illness.

The Clinical Mental Health Leader Sophie Covert says at least 45% of the population at any one time will be affected by a mental health issue.

Senate Committee on the factors affecting the supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas

The Senate Committee on the factors affecting the supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas has issued its report.

Key points from the 18 recommendations of the inquiry, include:

* Replacement of the current ASGC-RA system
* Calls for increased numbers of rural generalist GPs
* More rural placement opportunities for prevocational training
* Strategies around increased intakes of rural students into training courses
* Additional support (eg locums) for rural GPs who are providing training
* Extend HECS rebates to nurses and allied health professionals relocating to rural and remote areas

Committee report

Committee page

Senate inquiry findings vindicate rural doctor stance (AHHA)

Senate report ticks the right boxes on rural health (Rural Health Workforce Australia)

Chronic Disease Management (cdmNet)

A new online service, known as Chronic Disease Management-Net (cdmNet), has been developed to enable patients, their GPs and allied healthcare professionals to manage chronic disease through sharing medical histories, test results, up-dates on patients' conditions, send referrals and set appointment reminders.

More than 10,000 chronic care patients, 1000 GPs and 3000 allied health practitioners have trialed the national service and indicated higher quality care, enhanced productivity of the GP practice and expanded participation of allied health and other care providers.

The project was launched by Victorian Minister for Health Mr David Davis, in conjunction with Precedence Health Care (PHC).

National Health Services Directory

The National Health Services Directory (NHSD) is a convenient and accessible new resource. The NHSD covers the nation, provides access to reliable information, and will assist you to choose and connect with the most appropriate health services for your current needs. The NHSD will be freely available and will include both public and private health sector providers from all Australian states and territories.

Service information for GPs, Pharmacies, Hospitals and Emergency Departments is currently available

Future enhancements include :

* Late 2012 : Increased secure and detailed information on services and practitioners for primary care, mental health and local hospital network services.
* 2013 Extensions to allied health and human services.

Overview brochure.

Face the Facts - Youth Overweight & Obesity

Youth obesity is an important and sometimes overlooked subject, but one that must be addressed. The briefing package from the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies (ACYS) Face the Facts - Youth Overweight & Obesity explores this critical issue and points towards solutions. Each package includes a Snapshot - a short, sharp overview of the issues and facts, a Briefing paper - (a more detailed look at the factors involved, their policy implications and what lies ahead for these particular issues) and links to supporting websites and other online resources.

Face the Facts - Youth Obesity is the second in the ACYS briefing package series and follows the successful Youth disability in Australia.

Multiple causes of death in Australia (AIHW)

Multiple causes of death data are useful for describing the role of all diseases involved in deaths. Multiple causes of death in Australia: an analysis of all natural and selected chronic disease causes of death 1997-2007 is the first comprehensive application of multiple causes of death statistics to natural causes of death and specific chronic diseases of public health importance in Australia. It may be useful for guiding and improving policy for reducing deaths from these chronic diseases and for targeting future investment in health prevention. When describing patterns of causes of death using only the underlying cause, important cause information is overlooked. Analyses using multiple cause data complement routine descriptions of mortality that use only the underlying cause and offer broader insight into the disease processes occurring at the end of life.

Media release

End-of-Life Care during the Last Days and Hours

The End-of-Life Care During the Last Days and Hours clinical best practice guidelines of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO),focuses on recommendations for adults, aged 18 years and older, who have reached the part of the illness trajectory that includes the last days and hours of life.

RNAO also offers guidelines on Nurse Fatigue, Self-Management in Chronic Conditions and Healthy Adolescent Development.

Hear Our Voices : Empowering Aboriginal communities the key to suicide prevention

Report Cover © Image by
Kathleen Cox, Goombaragin Images, 2012
A comprehensive research report into the high rates of suicide in the Kimberley has called for a major change in the way prevention programs are designed and delivered that will both empower and heal Aboriginal communities.

The Hear Our Voices Report   found that Aboriginal communities had a clear desire to lead their own healing initiatives, based on the value of life, culture and community. Report co-author and study leader Professor Pat Dudgeon said this report goes beyond the statistics and listens to the wisdom within the Aboriginal communities.

"The Kimberley communities want to take ownership of finding a solution," Professor Dudgeon said. "People spoke of the overwhelming need to heal at an individual, family and community level and the need to help young people reconnect with their culture, their family and themselves. This fits with evidence we have from other studies and also from Canada that fostering a secure sense of personal and cultural identity is a powerful protective factor against the threat of self-harm."

Look after your brain : A guide to dementia for Aboriginal people

Look after your brain : A guide to dementia for Aboriginal people is specifically written for and by Indigenous people to confront the issues of dementia with knowledge and dignity.

This is one of a number of specific resources for Aboriginal people available from Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Department of Family and Community Services .

The longitudinal study of Australian children: Annual statistical report 2011

As part of the ongoing series Growing Up in Australia, this second Annual Statistical Report provides policy-makers, researchers, practitioners and others with a valuable introduction to the information collected by the study.

Chapters and papers include : Parental mental health ; Fathers' involvement in children's personal care activities ; Families with a child with disability: Joblessness, financial hardship and social support ; Turned on, tuned in or dropped out? Young children's use of television and transmission of social advantage ; Access to preschool education in the year before full-time school ; Housing characteristics and changes across waves ; Children's numeracy skills ; and Children's body mass index: Cohort, age and socio-economic influences

Insulin pump use in Australia (AIHW)

Insulin pump use in Australia explores the number, characteristics and experiences of insulin pump users, using information from the National Diabetes Services Scheme and the first national survey of insulin pump users, conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. In 2011, the proportion of Australians with Type 1 diabetes using an insulin pump was approximately 10%, representing an increase over previous years. Pump use was more common among females and people under 25 years, and for most pump users the benefits of pump use outweighed the problems.

Media release

Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action

Actions that cut carbon pollution can improve Australians' health and could save billions of dollars and thousands of lives each year, a new report finds.

Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action is jointly produced by the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), a national coalition of health groups, and The Climate Institute. The report is supported by the AMA and the AHHA. The report draws together a large and growing body of evidence from health and medical research showing substantial health benefits linked to measures to cut emissions.

"Evidence from around the world suggests we're missing out if we don't cash in on the big health dividend that cutting emissions can deliver," report author and CAHA Convenor Fiona Armstrong said.

"Cleaner energy, cycling and walking, protecting bushland, energy efficient buildings and low-carbon food choices all contribute to less chronic illnesses, including heart and lung disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, and depression. One recent global study, for instance, found that for every tonne of carbon dioxide they avoid countries could save an average of $46 in health costs - around twice Australia's starting price for carbon."

AMA welcomes new report on climate change and health

Snapshot of Australian primary health care research 2012

Snapshot of Australian primary health care research 2012 is the fifth in a series of national publications showcasing outstanding primary health care (PHC) research funded under the Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development (PHCRED) Strategy.

Snapshot 2012 showcases 11 primary health care research projects covering a wide spectrum of health priorities. These include prevention, health literacy, chronic disease care, integrative health care, smoking cessation, and caregiver needs, as well as the needs of hard to reach groups such as refugees, youth and indigenous people. Research findings are also presented from randomised controlled trials on infection control and cardiovascular risk reduction.

Further information on each featured researcher and research project can be accessed via their ROAR project ID link on each story page. Snapshot 2012 can be viewed on-line in pdf or html versions, or FREE hard copies can be ordered.

R U OK ? at school suicide prevention program launched

The R U OK? Foundation is taking suicide prevention to the schoolyard, launching the R U OK? at School program. Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler today launched the program, developed in partnership with online youth mental health initiative, with Member for Grayndler Anthony Albanese at Canterbury Boys High School to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Mr Butler said the program will help Australian teenagers better support each other in the schoolyard and in the community. "Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people so clearly we have to find ways to help teenagers talk about the issues affecting them before those issues escalate."

In the past five years, an average of 2,100 Australians have died by suicide each year, accounting for more than one fifth of all deaths in teenagers, and more than transport accidents during the same period.

R U OK?Day falls on Thursday 13 September 2012. For more information and resources, visit the R U OK? at School program.

Press release

TOOTH program finds high levels of tooth decay in outback communities

A report has found the levels of dental decay in children in some western communities is significantly worse than the national average.

It has been four months since the Royal Flying Doctor Service launched the TOOTH program, a dental outreach service to Bourke, Collarenebri, Goodooga and Lightning Ridge.

Doctor Hendrik Lai says more than 400 patients have used the service and have received more than 1000 treatments including root canals, fillings and extractions.

He says the level of tooth decay among children has been shocking. "I guess the most significant statistic which was a big surprise to us was the level of unmet need and the very poor dental health which existed in the communities," he said. "Certainly what we found with our statistics was the dental health of the children in these communities was approximately five times worse than what we see in the rest of the Australian community."

Dental outreach program success (ABC News)

Dental health report for rural towns paints shocking picture (Central Western Daily)

Respect and choice: A human rights approach for ageing and health

Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan, has released the Australian Human Rights Commission's paper, Respect and choice: A human rights approach for ageing and health.

"Australia's health system and aged care sectors are about to expand dramatically, to take account of the longer lives we are living," said Commissioner Ryan. "Our position paper outlines a human rights approach for the implementation the federal government's new aged care reform package, Living Longer Living Better."

While welcoming this new package with its increases in assistance, particularly for home based care, Commissioner Ryan said it was important that these new arrangements were built on a human rights approach. "By adopting a human rights approach, we will be able to expect services that are available, accessible, appropriate and of good quality," Commissioner Ryan said. "We also want to see effective monitoring mechanisms and ensure accountability."

Potentially avoidable hospitalisations in Australia: Causes for hospitalisations and primary health care interventions

Potentially avoidable hospitalisations in Australia: Causes for hospitalisations and primary health care interventions reviews the available research evidence on the impact of initiatives to reduce potentially avoidable hospitalisations (PAHs).

This review identified several promising programs to reduce PAHs in chronically ill Australians. Common characteristics of effective initiatives included:

Þ early identification of patients who are at risk of hospitalisation
Þ care coordination and integration of services
Þ enhanced access to primary health care and focus on equity
Þ multidisciplinary care teams
Þ disease management, particularly for medium to long-term.

Safe and supportive Indigenous families and communities for children: A synopsis and critique of Australian research

Safe and supportive Indigenous families and communities for children reviews the research on building safe and supportive families and communities for Indigenous children in Australia. Based on assessments of 22 research and evaluation reports, it examines the evidence base in the areas of:

*building safe and supportive Indigenous communities for children and families;
*support for vulnerable and at-risk Indigenous families; and
*prevention of child abuse and neglect in Indigenous families and communities.

Men's places: literature review

Men's places: literature review examines the prevention of and response to family violence, focusing on the engagement of Indigenous men in remote communities and includes information on:

*barriers to engaging men
*service paradigms
*social exclusion
*changing the orientation of services to engage and support men
*exploring the potential role of a men's space.

The report highlights the:

*need to work with Indigenous men
*limitations of mainstream law and order approaches to family violence
*lack of an evidence base for community-based approaches to family violence
*need to use models which represent men's attitudes to violence, health, service delivery and changes to behavior.

'The influence of motivation in recruitment and retention of rural and remote allied health professionals

The influence of motivation in recruitment and retention of rural and remote allied health professionals: a literature review is new article in Rural and Remote Health

In order to understand the complexity of rural and remote allied health professions' recruitment and retention, this international review assessed positive and negative motivating factors intrinsic to the work. The result is accessible, evidence-based advice for rural health organisations wanting to recruit and keep its allied health staff.

Communities working to reduce Indigenous family violence

This brief from the Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse describes some of the promising efforts to reduce Indigenous family violence in Australia and overseas, including both government and community initiatives, as well as support mechanisms and measures for victims.

Available evidence clearly establishes that there is a multitude of interrelated factors that contribute to the occurrence of family violence in Indigenous communities. Significant attention has been drawn to the relationship between the disruption and distress attributable to colonisation, dispossession and the removal of Indigenous children from their families, and Indigenous experiences of violence. In addition, Indigenous people are much more likely to experience socio-economic disadvantage including unemployment, welfare dependency and overcrowding in households. Physical and mental health issues, low self esteem, a sense of powerlessness, and destructive coping behaviours including substance abuse, may be further contributing factors to the incidence of family violence. All of these experiences, separately but especially in combination, are risk factors for family violence.

Improving health literacy in seniors with chronic illness

Improving health literacy in seniors with chronic illness examines health literacy in detail. How do patients and carers learn about disease management? How do they develop their self-management abilities and learn to navigate complex health systems? What is the patient and carer experience of managing chronic disease?

The ageing population means there are more people faced with the slow decline of physical and mental function, and the distress and bewilderment that can bring. Consequently, the health system and the community generally need to focus on social support as well as medical problems. One health policy response has been to call for stronger patient engagement.

This means patients know more about their condition and have the confidence to manage their illness at home and make informed decisions. Patient engagement is recognised as a central point in most chronic care models, often described under self-care, self-management programs and self-management support. It makes sense for governments trying to keep health systems financially viable, and for patients and carers wanting more control over their lives and health.

People with bad backs found more likely to develop mental disorders

The 1.8 million Australians with dodgy backs are more likely to experience psychological distress and mental disorders, new figures show.

The figures were revealed today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in a web-based snapshot of back problems.

One in 11 Australians, or 1.8 million people, had back problems in 2007-08 and were 2.5 times more likely to experience affective disorders such as depression, the data showed.

"People with bad backs more likely to develop mental disorders" - Herald Sun

MHPN virtual networks connect rural practitioners

People working in primary mental health care in rural and remote locations now have greater opportunities for peer support and professional development through online technology.

The Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) has established and now supports 450 interdisciplinary community mental health networks across Australia. These locally driven networks aim to improve consumer outcomes by promoting collaborative practice amongst clinicians.

While networks predominantly meet face to face, this can exclude clinicians who are most isolated and would value increased interaction with other clinicians. MHPN aims to expand the reach of networks to Australia’s more remote clinicians with the use of online technology such as videoconferencing and webconferencing platforms.