Mean streets: homeless youths from Orange feature in academic report

Twelve young people in Orange who have experienced homelessness before they turned 18 have been interviewed as part of an Australia-wide survey being conducted by university academics.

One of the authors of The Cost of Youth Homelessness in Australia study, Professor Adam Steen of Charles Sturt University, said of the 12 young people interviewed who had experienced homelessness, half identified as having a mental health issue.

“We surveyed 400 young people Australia-wide and when our final report is collated later this year it will have major implications for policy makers and service providers,” Professor Steen said.

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Regional health needs regional policies

The State government needs to recognise the policy measures required for rural and remote healthcare are distinct from urban needs, according to the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA).  "Whoever wins must listen and consult with people, rather than impose things from Macquarie Street," said NRHA chief executive Gordon Gregory.  There are workforce shortages and the more remote the community the more the shortages are," he said. "The more specialised the service is, the greater the shortage - but that is to be expected in a smaller community.

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Handling the heat on ice

Rural towns in NSW are calling for an increase in rehabilitation centres to facilitate the escalating number of crystal methamphetamine users.  Community leaders across the State candidly admit their regions have a problem, and call on local people and the State government to help tackle the growing scourge.

 Moree Mayor Katrina Humphries and Coonamble Mayor Alan Karanouh both said the ice problem had been prominent in the community for a few years and had caused an increase of robberies throughout the region.  Problems have been highlighted in Brewarrina, and, in the south of the State, Griffith has identified drug and alcohol misuse as an issue and is surveying the community.

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Health coaching significantly improves risk outcomes for chronic disease sufferers

Health coaching could improve the recovery of people with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

A program in Queensland coached patients by telephone after they were discharged from hospital.

A review of the program published in the Medical Journal of Australia today has found that patients who received the coaching significantly reduced their risk factors, as Rachel Carbonell reports.
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Closing the Gap dashboard to help indigenous health outcomes

The Improvement Foundation (IF) has added a new Closing the Gap dashboard to its online quality improvement portal qiConnect .

The new dashboard, combined with IF's Closing the Gap: Measure and Act initiative, is available for free to general practice users.

The dashboard enables GPs to see at a glance how many of their patient population are recorded as identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as well as a range of other data relating to the patient group.

This data includes the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who have had a health assessment in the last 12 months, how many have a diagnosis of diabetes recorded, and how many with diabetes have had a blood sugar result recorded in the past 12 months.

GPs can also see a comparison to the practice's non-indigenous data, and to a national average achieved through the other practices participating in IF's qiCommunity.

The idea is to identify where services can be improved for indigenous patients using established and reliable measures developed through IF's Australian Primary Care Collaboratives program, which is focused on diabetes and health checks.

The dashboard supports IF's Closing the Gap: Measure and Act initiative which is aimed at helping general practices to better respond to specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues.

The initiative is open to any general practice or Aboriginal community controlled health organisation.

The hidden harm: Alcohol’s impact on children and families

Funded by FARE and undertaken by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research(CAPR),the new report The hidden harm: Alcohol's impact on children and families, reveals the full extent of alcohol-related family and domestic violence in Australia.

The 2015 study examined the prevalence and effects of heavy drinking on families and children, and the extent to which they persisted or changed over time. It paints a concerning picture of the prevalence of alcohol-related family and domestic violence in Australia, shedding new light on a hidden dimension of alcohol harms that occurs largely behind closed doors.

Key findings:

The hidden harm draws on 2 national surveys of alcohol's harm to others, service system data and qualitative interviews with families, providing for the first time a detailed and valuable insight into the magnitude of the problem and the large numbers of Australian children who are being put at risk.

  • In 2011 there were 29,684 police-reported incidents of alcohol-related domestic violence in Australia, and that's just in the four states and territories where this data is available.
  • Children are being verbally abused, left in unsupervised or unsafe situations, physically hurt or exposed to domestic violence because of others' drinking. Many were also witnessing verbal or physical conflict, drinking or inappropriate behaviour.
  • Over a million children (22% of all Australian children) are estimated to be affected in some way by the drinking of others (2008). 142,582 children were substantially affected (2008), and more than 10,000 Australian children are in the child protection system because of a carers drinking (2006-07).

Density of liquor licences linked to domestic violence in NSW study

Researchers have identified a "tipping point" linking rapid rises in the rate of domestic violence to the number of liquor outlets in an area.

A study by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics shows the frequency of domestic assaults jumps rapidly in local government areas where there are more than two hotels per 1,000 residents.The statewide research also found that non-domestic assaults "increased markedly" in such areas, while violence was also linked to the number of other liquor outlets such as clubs.

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Report exposes problems of youth homelessness

The extreme difficulties faced by homeless young people have been highlighted in a new report steered by a leading Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic.

The Cost of Youth Homelessness in Australia Study report is the first study of its kind in Australia and the largest ever undertaken internationally. The study was funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant with chief investigators from three institutions including Professor in Finance Adam Steen, at CSU's School of Accounting and Finance in Bathurst.

"This three-year study of nearly 400 young people around Australia, including some from Orange in central western NSW, has major implications and challenges for policy-makers and service providers," Professor Steen said.


New booklet shows what can improve the wellbeing of older people

beyondblue has identified and rated the best activities for improving and protecting the mental health of older Australians, in a new booklet specifically for aged care workers, but also helpful for other carers

Based on La Trobe University research, the booklet rates activities on a scale of zero to three for how effective they are at improving older people’s mental health.

Activities identified in the booklet include playing computer games, interacting with clowns, spending time with animals and singing in a choir, among others.

Most activities featured are accompanied by case studies from across Australia, providing real examples of how activities have been implemented and the impact they have had.

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Information paper: evidence on wind farms and human health [NHMRC]

Wind farms have been promoted as a viable and sustainable alternative to traditional, non-renewable forms of energy production. Since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act 2000, the number of wind farms in Australia has grown substantially. At the end of 2013, there were 68 wind farms across the country and more were being constructed or planned.

The current investigation of the potential health effects of wind farms builds upon NHMRC's previous work in this area. In 2010, NHMRC's Public statement: Wind turbines and health was published, with supporting evidence from Wind turbines and health: A rapid review of the evidence. The 2010 NHMRC Public Statement concluded that there "is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects". Due to the limited amount of published scientific literature, NHMRC committed to carrying out a more extensive search for evidence.

This Information Paper provides an update to NHMRC's previous work in this area. It is based on a comprehensive review of the available scientific evidence following well-established systematic review principles, which provide the most rigorous process for identifying and critically appraising evidence.

Medical clinics promote ketamine injections as treatment for depression

Medical clinics are marketing experimental ketamine injections directly to the public as a treatment for severe depression.

The hallucinogen, well known as a horse sedative and party drug, is being promoted as a "path breaking treatment option" available at Aura Medical Corporation clinics in Sydney and Melbourne.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has clinically approved the use of ketamine as an anaesthetic and for pain control but not for treating depression, except in the context of a clinical trial.

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Artist draws you into the soul of region's Aboriginal history

An exhibition about Wellington's Aboriginal history has reached so many people that many locals believe it might actually change Wellington's future.

Sydney-based artist and former local, Asher Milgate began Survivors in late 2009, interviewing local elders in an attempt to preserve the rich oral history of the Aboriginal community at Nanima, the Common, Bushranger's Creek and Curra Creek from between the 1920s to 70s.

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Helping your mates - rural mental health event

A new training program developed by the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program will help get rural and remote communities started.

The Lions Club of Wellington and the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) have teamed up to deliver the program in Wellington this Friday the 20th February.

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NDIS to help 60,000 people with a mental illness with $1.8 billion funding boost

Nearly 60,000 people with a severe mental illness will share an extra $1.3 billion in funding — the single biggest boost under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The states and the commonwealth currently spend $450 million a year on community mental health services. When the NDIS becomes fully operational in July 2016 that will increase to $1.8 billion a year, News Corp Australia can reveal.

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Drug toll: Teenage girls overdosing on paracetamol

A generation of teenage girls riddled with fear and anxiety is overdosing in record numbers.

Authorities believe paracetamol poisoning, rather than illicit party drugs, is the leading cause of overdoses of girls aged 15-19 and has spiked in ­recent years.

Exclusive figures gathered from the 2014 Health of Children and Young People in NSW report show 1407 girls attended emergency departments in 2013 for illicit drug use, overdose or poisoning — a huge jump from 951 in 2011.

NSW Health head psychiatrist Dr Murray Wright said while every young person’s death or serious injury from illicit drug abuse was a catastrophe, the primary problem was in the home rather than on the street. “The numbers are more about the prescription and non-prescription drugs than they are about the illicit drugs,” he said.

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The Science of climate change : questions and answers

The Science of climate change : questions and answers from the Australian Academy of Science aims to address confusion created by contradictory information in the public domain. It sets out to explain the current situation in climate science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist. The document is structured around 9 questions:
  • What is climate change?
  • How has climate changed?
  • Are human activities causing climate change?
  • How do we expect climate to evolve in the future?
  • How are extreme events changing?
  • How are sea levels changing?
  • What are the impacts of climate change?
  • What are the uncertainties and their implications?
  • What does science say about options to address climate change?
  • Jury in on climate change, so stop using arguments of convenience and listen to experts (The Age)

    Menindee elder 'disturbed' by lack of progress in lifting Indigenous literacy and numeracy outcomes

    There is disappointment about the slowing progress being made on Indigenous literacy levels in the far west of New South Wales.

    Ngiyampaa elder Beryl Carmichael has worked for more than 50 years in Aboriginal education around the Menindee and Broken Hill regions.

    Dr Carmichael said she was disturbed by the latest Closing the Gap report, citing no improvement in Indigenous reading and numeracy since 2008.

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    Closing the Gap : Prime Minister's report 2015.

    The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has released the the Closing the gap report. This is the seventh annual report card on the progress made toward meeting the nation's targets to close the gap in life expectancy, early childhood, health, education and employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

    'This seventh Closing the gap report is in many respects profoundly disappointing,' Mr Abbott told parliament. 'Despite the concerted efforts of successive governments since the first report, we are not on track to achieve most of the targets.'

    Mr Abbott said the government would work more closely with Indigenous communities, business, police, the health sector and schools to improve school attendance, create jobs and training, reduce violence fueled by drugs and alcohol and deal with key health issues.

    The report showed Australia was on track to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 20 to 24. The target to halve the gap in mortality rates looks achievable by 2018. Mr Abbott said the new target of closing the school attendance gap within five years should be achievable.

    Targets the report shows have not been met or not on track to be met include:

    • closing the gap in life expectancy by 2031
    • ensuring access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote areas by 2013
    • halving the gap in reading and numeracy by 2018
    • halving the gaps in employment outcomes by 2018.

    Report on Government Services (2015) : Health (Productivity Commission)

    The Productivity Commission has released volume E of its annual Report on Government Services (RoGS), containing valuable data on the equity, efficiency and cost effectiveness of the public healthcare sector.

    Covering primary and community health, hospitals and mental health management, the report uses published and unpublished data from a range of sources, including the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the Department of Health and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    For the first time, the report also includes some data on allied healthcare, although funding for specialist medical care is not included. Aged care is handled in a separate report.

    Overall, the report found that patients were overwhelmingly happy with the care they received from both the primary and the acute care sector, that waiting times in both sectors were relatively stable or trending down, and bulk-billing rates were stable, as was the cost of healthcare to government.

    Productivity Commission releases facts & figures on healthcare (Pulse IT)

    Indigenous groups urge government to "stay the course" on closing the gap

    Aboriginal groups have urged the Abbott government to "stay the course" in its efforts to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, warning cuts and funding uncertainty risk obstructing further improvements.

    Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker today released the 2015 Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report, to coincide with the Prime Minister’s annual report card to Parliament on progress made to reduce Indigenous disadvantage. Key recommendations from the 2015 Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report include:

    * That the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) findings are used to better target chronic conditions in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
    * That the Australian Government continues to lead the COAG Closing the Gap Strategy.
    * That the Australian Government restore the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee.

    Closing the Gap: Two decades to address Indigenous disadvantage, report 'profoundly disappointing', Tony Abbott says

    Indigenous groups urge government to "stay the course" on closing the gap

    Real solutions for improved rural and remote mental health services

    The rate of suicide in rural areas is 66 per cent higher than in major cities - stark proof that many people are not getting the mental health support they so desperately need.

    This tragic suicide rate in rural areas is in part attributable to the fact that there are fewer GPs (typically the first port of call for people experiencing mental illness) and mental health professionals. For example, the number of psychiatrists and psychologists in rural areas is, respectively, 40% and 60% of what it is in major cities.

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    Transition on track to move Bloomfield patients into the community

    The Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) will bolster the number of mental health workers as part of a plan to move patients from Bloomfield into the community.

    In July last year LHD director of operations, Lindsey Gough, announced that an independent review of mental health services had revealed that Orange had the highest concentration of acute and non-acute mental health in-patients in regional Australia.

    Peter Gotzsche, founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, visits Australia to talk about dangers of prescription drugs

    Many of our most commonly used drugs, from painkillers to antidepressants, are dangerous and are killing us off in large numbers, says a leading researcher visiting Australia next week.

    Peter Gotzsche, a co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, the world's foremost body in assessing medical evidence, arrives in Australia on Monday for a whirlwind speaking tour warning Australians about their use of prescription medications.

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    Consolidated HIV guidelines from WHO

    The World Health Organisation has recently published Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations.

    Here the authors have brought together existing guidelines related to five key population groups: men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and other closed settings, sex workers and transgender people.Selected guidance and recommendations have been updated with thorough literature reviews in order to provide a comprehensive packaged of evidence-based HIV-related recommendations.

    Reposted from HealthInfo Blog

    CriSTAL : end-of-life screening tool

    Researchers from the University of NSW have developed a screening tool that uses an algorithm to help identify elderly patients who are likely to die within a three-month period to potentially avoid harmful and futile treatments. While the tool, called the Criteria for Screening and Triaging to Appropriate aLternative care (CriSTAL), is predominantly being developed for emergency department triage or hospital discharge, it also has the potential to be used in other healthcare settings to initiate discussions with the elderly person and their families about end-of-life care planning.

    In a paper published last week in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, the researchers write that the 29 data points can be easily extracted from existing electronic or paper clinical notes, and that automation of CriSTAL and its scoring would facilitate its use at the time of admission.

    "Potential uses include as a clinical support tool for decision-making on triage to appropriate end–of-life care facilities; to prevent death in some cases; and to examine variation in risk-of-death levels, differences in admission practices, and inform triage policies across hospitals as a first step into cost-effectiveness and patient satisfaction studies," they write.

    Further information.

    Cocaine addiction treatment: new study targets immune system response in beating drug dependency

    An international team led by Australian and US universities has studied a new treatment for cocaine addiction that could also have implications for all types of drug addictions. Australians rank fourth in the world when it comes to cocaine abuse.

    Lead author Dr Alexis Northcutt from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Adelaide's Professor Mark Hutchinson had initially been researching neuropathic and chronic pain.
    They discovered the immune receptor known as toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) amplified the addictive properties of morphine.

    "Our previous studies have shown that TLR4 is responsible for amplifying addiction to opioid drugs such as heroin, but this is the first time we've discovered it has a key role to play in cocaine addiction," Professor Hutchinson said.

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    The state of mental health in the Bush

    Mental health challenges in rural and remote Australia are widespread and serious, but it's not all bad news. The latest National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) Fact Sheet describes some of both the good news and the bad, and there is also a Rural Mental Health Help Sheet with valuable information on where to find advice and support.

    Tragically, a higher proportion of people in rural and remote areas pay the ultimate price of mental illness and related concerns. Suicide occurs there at one-and-a-half times the rate in the major cities. Self-harm is particularly prevalent among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

    For more information see the following link:

    beyondblue to support farmers at country field days

    beyondblue will embark on a tour of country field days this year, starting with the Sungold Field Days in Allansford on 11 February.

    beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said the Rural Field Days Roadshow would reach an important audience. “We know farmers can be hard to reach – not only for geographical reasons, but also due to the long hours they put in on the farm,” she said.

    “Families who work the land are often resilient and resourceful, but depression and anxiety affects even the toughest people. We want everyone to know that if you’re struggling, help and information is available.

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    Guidelines for the Management of Substance Use During Pregnancy Birth and the Postnatal Period

    Guidelines for the management of ssubstance abuse during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period support and provide best practice advice to health professionals in the management of drug use during pregnancy, birth and early development years of the newborn.

    The guidelines emphasise the importance of establishing a sound therapeutic relationship with the woman based on respect and non-judgmental attitudes, of engaging the woman into adequate antenatal care through this relationship, and of maintaining continuity of care and of carers throughout the pregnancy and postnatal period.

    The guidelines recommend that pregnant women with significant problematic substance use will benefit from an appropriate referral for specialist drug and alcohol assessment in addition to midwifery and obstetric care), appointment of a consistent and continuous case manager and care team who use effective communication systems, and specific treatments for their substance use, which may include counselling, pharmacotherapies and relapse prevention strategies

    Social identity underpins views on climate change

    Strategies for building support for climate change mitigation policies should go beyond attempts to improve the public’s understanding of science, according to new research.

    The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, found that when it came to human-induced climate change, the actions and beliefs of both sceptics and believers could be understood as integrated expressions of self, underpinning specific social identities.

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