Showing posts with label health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label health. Show all posts

Friday, 2 March 2018

Family, Domestic & Sexual Violence in Australia: "On average, 1 woman a week and 1 man a month is killed by a current or former partner"

“Family violence refers to violence between family members, typically where the perpetrator exercises power and control over another person. The most common and pervasive instances occur in intimate (current or former) partner relationships and are usually referred to as domestic violence. Sexual violence refers to behaviours of a sexual nature carried out against a person’s will. It can be perpetrated by a current or former partner, other people known to the victim, or strangers.” [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; Family,domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018]

 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, media release, 28 February 2018: 

New national statistical report sheds light on family violence

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released its first comprehensive report on family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia.
The report brings together, for the first time, information from more than 20 different major data sources to build a picture of what is known about family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. It also highlights data gaps and offers suggestions to help fill these gaps.
The report, Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018, covers family violence (physical violence, sexual violence and emotional abuse between family members, as well as current or former partners), domestic violence (a subcategory of family violence, involving current or former partners), and sexual violence (a range of nonconsensual sexual behaviours, perpetrated by partners, former partners, acquaintances or strangers).
‘Women are more likely to experience violence from a known person and in their home, while men are more likely to experience violence from strangers and in a public place,’ said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.
1 in 6 women (aged 15 or above) —equating to 1.6 million women—have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner, while for men it is 1 in 16—or half a million men. Three in 4 (75%) victims of domestic violence reported the perpetrator as male, while 1 in 4 (25%) reported the perpetrator as female.
Overall, 1 in 5 women (1.7 million) and 1 in 20 men (428,800) have experienced sexual violence. Most (96%) female victims of sexual violence reported the perpetrator as male, while male victims reported a more even spilt (49% female and 44% male perpetrators).
On average, 1 woman a week and 1 man a month is killed by a current or former partner.
While overall the data show that women are at greater risk, certain groups are particularly vulnerable, such as Indigenous women, young women and pregnant women.
Children who are exposed to violence experience long-lasting effects
‘Children can be victims of or witnesses to family violence—and this early exposure can heighten their chances of experiencing further violence later in life,’ Ms York said. 
Children who were physically or sexually abused before they were 15 were around 3 times as likely to experience domestic violence after the age of 15 as those children who had not experienced or witnessed violence earlier in life.
Women who, as children, witnessed domestic violence towards either their mother or father were more than twice as likely to be the victim of domestic violence themselves, compared with women who had not witnessed this violence.
Men who witnessed violence towards their mother by a partner were almost 3 times as likely to be the victim of domestic violence compared with men who had not, while men who witnessed violence towards their father were almost 4 times as likely to experience domestic violence compared with those who had not.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of family violence
The report shows that Indigenous women were 32 times and Indigenous men were 23 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence as non-Indigenous women and men respectively, while Indigenous children were around 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be the victims of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect.
Two in 5 Indigenous homicide victims (41%) were killed by a current or former partner, compared with 1 in 5 non-Indigenous homicide victims (22%).
A significant toll on victims and society
The report also shows that family, domestic and sexual violence can have a profound effect on people’s ability to work, health and financial situation.
‘People who experience domestic violence are likely to need time off work as a result, and women affected by domestic violence experience significantly poorer health and mental health than other women,’ Ms York said.
For women aged 25–44, domestic violence causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor, such as smoking, alcohol use, being overweight, or being physically inactive.
Domestic violence is a leading cause of hospitalised assault, particularly among women. In 2014–15, 2,800 women and 560 men were hospitalised after being assaulted by a spouse or partner.
‘Family and domestic violence is also a leading cause of homelessness. In 2016–17, 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought homelessness services due to family and domestic violence,’ Ms York said.
The financial impacts are also substantial, with violence against women and their children estimated to cost at least $22 billion in direct (healthcare, counselling, child and welfare support) and indirect (lost wages, productivity and potential earnings) costs in 2015–16.
The importance of evidence, data gaps and looking forward
AIHW CEO Barry Sandison said the report was a significant piece of work for the AIHW—and one with a real human impact. But there’s more to be done.
‘We know that family, domestic and sexual violence is a major problem in Australia, but without a comprehensive source of evidence and analysis, tackling such a complex issue will continue to be difficult,’ he said.
He noted that while the report was certainly a step in the right direction, its development had highlighted several areas where future work is needed. For example, inconsistent definitions of violence in data collections pose a challenge, as does the limited information available on specific at-risk groups (such as people with disability), childhood experiences, the characteristics of perpetrators and the service responses for both victims and perpetrators.
‘It’s important to note that while looking only at the numbers can at times appear to depersonalise the pain and suffering that sits behind the statistics, the seriousness of these issues cannot be overstated,’ Mr Sandison said.
‘This work is an excellent example of organisations working together to build the evidence on an important issue. It was achieved through financial support and collaboration from several Australian Government and state government departments.’
If the information presented raises any issues for you, these services can help:
1800RESPECT (1800 737 732,
Lifeline (13 11 14,
Kids Helpline (1800 551 800,
Men's Referral Service (1300 766 491,
Further information: Elizabeth Ingram, AIHW: Tel. 02 6249 5048, mob. 0431 871 337
                                       Elise Guy, AIHW: Tel. 02 6244 1156, mob. 0468 525 418

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

There is no good news when it comes to climate change

University of Colorado Boulder, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), media release, 5 February 2018:
Scientists find massive reserves of mercury hidden in permafrost
Researchers have discovered that thawing permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere stores twice as much mercury as the rest of the planet's soils, atmosphere, and oceans. The finding has significant implications for human health and ecosystems worldwide.
In a new study, scientists measured mercury concentrations in cores of frozen ground—or permafrost—from Alaska and used the data to estimate how much mercury has been trapped in Northern Hemisphere permafrost since the last Ice Age.
They found that Northern Hemisphere permafrost regions contain 1,656 gigagrams of mercury (32 million gallons, or enough to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools), making them the largest known reservoir of mercury on the planet. This amount is nearly twice as much mercury as all soils outside of the northern permafrost region, the ocean, and the atmosphere combined.
The researchers also found that of the 1,656 gigagrams of mercury, 863 gigagrams lie in the surface layer of soil that freezes and thaws each year (27 Olympic-sized swimming pools), and 793 gigagrams are frozen in permafrost (23 Olympic-sized swimming pools).
"This implies permafrost regions contain roughly 10 times the total human mercury emissions over the last 30 years," said NSIDC scientist Kevin Schaefer, a co-author of the study published today in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
"Previous studies assumed little or no mercury in permafrost regions, but we find the opposite is true," Schaefer said. "This completely changes our view of how mercury moves through the land and ocean."
"This discovery is a game-changer," said Paul Schuster, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado and lead author of the study. "We've quantified a pool of mercury that had not been done previously with confidence, and the results have profound implications for better understanding the global mercury cycle."
This diagram shows the modern mercury cycle with major reservoirs in white (gigagrams of mercury) and exchanges between reservoirs in black (gigagrams of mercury per year). Northern Hemisphere permafrost contains 863 gigagrams of mercury in the Active Layer, the layer of ground that is subject to annual thawing and freezing. About 793 gigagrams of mercury is found in Northern Hemisphere permafrost. Credit: Schuster et al./GRL/AGU. High-resolution image
Permafrost is permanently frozen ground and occurs in approximately 22.79 million square kilometers, or about 24 percent of the Northern Hemisphere land surface surrounding the Arctic ocean. 
Mercury naturally occurs in the Earth's crust and typically enters the atmosphere through volcanic eruptions. The element cycles between the atmosphere and ocean quickly. However, mercury deposited on land from the atmosphere binds with organic matter in plants. After the plants die, soil microbes eat the dead organic matter, releasing the mercury back into the atmosphere or water.
In permafrost regions, however, the organic matter gets buried by sediment before it decays and becomes frozen into permafrost. Once frozen, the decay of organic matter stops, and the mercury remains trapped for thousands of years unless liberated by permafrost thaw.
"As long as the permafrost remains frozen, the mercury will stay trapped in the soil," Schaefer said. Higher air temperatures due to climate change could thaw much of the existing permafrost, allowing the decay of organic matter to resume and releasing mercury that could affect Earth's ecosystems. The released mercury can accumulate in aquatic and terrestrial food chains and cause harmful neurological and reproductive effects on animals.
"Although measurement of the rate of permafrost thaw was not part of this study, the thawing permafrost provides a potential for mercury to be released—that's just physics." Schuster said.
Climate models predict a 30 to 90 percent reduction in permafrost by 2100, depending on actual fuel emissions.
The researchers determined the total amount of mercury locked up in permafrost using field measurements. Between 2004 and 2012, the study authors drilled 13 permafrost soil cores at various sites in Alaska and measured the total amounts of mercury and carbon in each core. They selected sites with a diverse array of soil characteristics to best represent permafrost found around the entire Northern Hemisphere.
These images show soil mercury content (in micrograms of mercury per square meter) in Northern Hemisphere permafrost zones for four soil layers: 0 to 30 centimeters, 0 to 100 centimeters, 0 to 300 centimeters, and permafrost. The permafrost map represents mercury bound to frozen organic matter below the active layer and above a depth of 300 centimeters. Credit: Schuster et al./GRL/AGU. High-resolution image
Schuster, Schaefer, and their colleagues found their measurements were consistent with published data on mercury in non-permafrost and permafrost soils from thousands of other sites worldwide. They used their observed values to calculate the total amount of mercury stored in permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere and to create a map of soil mercury concentrations in the region.
The researchers believe their study gives policymakers and scientists new numbers to work with and calibrate their models as they begin to study this new phenomenon in more detail. The researchers intend to release another study modeling the release of mercury from permafrost due to climate change.
"Permafrost contains a huge amount of mercury," Schaefer said. "We need to know how much mercury will get released from thawing permafrost, when it will get released, and where."

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Is the Turnbull Government spending veterans mental health funding wisely?

On the Line Limited state that it is a professional social health business that provides counselling support, anywhere and anytime, primarily via telephone, web chat and online support through the rather bluntly named  MensLine Australia, Suicide Call Back Service, SuicideLine Victoria, a Department of Defence All Hours Support Line After Hours Service and other geographically specific services.

On the Line Limited also provides tailored counselling services for corporate, member and community organisations.

According to its 2016-17 Annual Report On the Line Limited is doing very nicely thank you, with an income of over $11.3 million and $6.2m in new tenders, grants, and business opportunities.

However, it appears that this company may be falling down on the job……

The New Daily, 9 January 2018:

The government is refusing to reveal how often vulnerable veterans are unable to reach its crisis helpline for ex-service members in order to protect the bottom line of a private contractor, The New Daily can exclusively reveal.

The refusal comes as veterans’ advocates warn of a suicide epidemic among ex-service members, with support group Warrior’s Return estimating at least 84 veterans took their own lives in 2017.

The Department of Veterans Affairs claims that disclosing the call abandonment rates and wait times for the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service would adversely impact the company that manages the service outside of normal business hours.

In response to a freedom of information request by The New Daily, the DVA said the disclosure would give the contractor’s business rivals information that could be used to out-compete the company.

The New Daily has appealed the decision on public interest grounds.

The DVA has awarded Melbourne-based company On the Line contracts worth at least $2 million to operate the after-hours counselling service since 2010, according to government procurement website AusTender.

The department also revealed to The New Daily that it does not collect data on the call abandonment rates and wait times for its regular hours service, which is managed in-house.

Doug Steley, an ex-service member who works with a number of veterans’ advocacy groups, said the department’s attitude was “totally unacceptable” and typical of its lack of transparency.

“Their service should be so excellent that they should be willing to boast about how good it is, and they should have absolutely no fear that a private contractor would be able to match the service to those who served Australia,” he said.

“There is no transparency in this department,” he added. “It operates on secrecy and hiding everything from the public.”

The DVA has faced repeated controversy over its treatment of veterans, with an official inquiry last year ruling it had failed to provide adequate support to 32-year-old Afghan war veteran Jesse Bird before he took his own life last June. In August, more than 100 people protested outside DVA headquarters in Melbourne to call for the establishment of a royal commission into the department’s failure to halt suicides among ex-service members.

Opposition spokeswoman for veterans’ affairs Amanda Rishworth accused the department of putting the welfare of a private firm above that of veterans.

“We expect DVA to act in the best interest of veterans – and not in the best interest of a private contractor,” Ms Rishworth told The New Daily.

“Labor thinks it is unacceptable that DVA is withholding any information that will provide greater transparency on services which directly affect those veterans and family members. It is also deeply concerning that DVA is not even collecting data on how the VVCS is performing during business hours.”

Thursday, 18 January 2018

That 'very stable genius' in Washington DC has a few health issues

Well Donald John Trump had an official medical exam on 12 January 2018 and the spin began almost immediately.

First for media consumption he grew one inch taller reaching 6ft 3in in height and he became yugely healthy.

A more honest assessment is found in the written medical summary prepared by the senior naval doctor who examined him, Rear-Admiral Ronny L. Jackson.

This reveals that at 71 years of age, 75 inches or 6 foot 3 inches (190.5cm) tall and weighing 239 pounds or 17.07 stone (108.4kg) Trump has an estimated body mass index of between 29.9 to 30.9 BMI (when adjusted to height recorded on current drivers licence), which means he is at least 3 stone (19kg) over a healthy weight level.

Or to put it more baldly – he is obese.

His cholesterol level is too high even though he is taking medication, Crestor 10mg daily. 

He also takes Aspirin 81mg daily as a blood thinner for what has been describd as non-clinical coronary atherosclerosis and, uses an invermectin cream for acne rosacea.

The medication, Propecia 1mg daily, he takes for prevention of male pattern baldness is known to have a side effect of impotence or other sexual dysfunction in some individuals.

While the medication, Ambien, his doctor states he occasionally takes to help him sleep can lead to episodes of confusion, loss of coordination, balance problems, mood change, nasal irritation, dry mouth, sore throat and other possible side effects.

Trump underwent a basic cognitive test and his result score was 30 out of 30 points.

No psychiatric examination was included in the range of tests that have been made public.

The medical information Trump consented to release…….

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Forecasting a dangerous present and devastating future for Australia

“Background warming associated with anthropogenic climate change has seen Australian annual mean temperature increase by approximately 1.1 °C since 1910. Most of this warming has occurred since 1950.” [Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Annual Climate Statement 2017]

Bloomberg, 10 January 2018:

The road-melting heatwave that made Sydney the hottest place on Earth at the weekend may just be a taste of things to come. 

Temperatures in Australia are set to rise until around 2050 due to greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere, according to the country’s weather bureau

“Australia is one country where you really can see the signal of global warming,” Karl Braganza, the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate monitoring, told reporters on a call. “We’ve locked the degree of warming in until mid-century and that means it’s likely that one of the next strong El Nino events in the coming decade or two will set a new record.”

Western Sydney touched 47.3 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday and 2017 was Australia’s third-hottest year on record. Heat and drought risk devastating crops in Australia, the world’s third-largest exporter of cotton where farm production is forecast to be worth A$59 billion ($46 billion) this financial year.

The Heat is On
Australia has had just one cooler-than-average year since 2005
Since 2005, Australia has notched up seven of its 10 warmest years, the weather bureau said in its annual climate statement.

More heatwaves could stress a power grid that’s struggled to cope with demand as people crank up air-conditioning during the scorching summer months.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology Annual Climate Statement 2017, issued January 2018.

Visible impacts in 2018.................

The Guardian, 9 January 2018:

More than 400 animals have died in one colony alone as temperatures soar above 47C, causing exhaustion and dehydration

Mounds of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown suburb of Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Joining historic 'medical' research which looked at the incidence of legume anorexia amongst children comes a ground-breaking article 'The science behind "man flu"'

Following on the very successful research behind The Etiology and Treatment of Childhood first published sometime last century comes the British Medical Journal’s release of more recent research articulated in The science behind “man flu” (11 December 2017).

In which women find out that:

The concept of man flu, as commonly defined, is potentially unjust. Men may not be exaggerating symptoms but have weaker immune responses to viral respiratory viruses, leading to greater morbidity and mortality than seen in women. There are benefits to energy conservation when ill. Lying on the couch, not getting out of bed, or receiving assistance with activities of daily living could also be evolutionarily behaviours that protect against predators. Perhaps now is the time for male friendly spaces, equipped with enormous televisions and reclining chairs, to be set up where men can recover from the debilitating effects of man flu in safety and comfort.

Ah, the hardships of the male condition are manifold.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Turnbull Government's data retention privacy blunder just rolls on and on...

“If data can be re-identified with no more than SQL, there's no "if" about a leak, and the "when" is history.” [Journalist Richard Chirgwin, Twitter 18 December 2017]

“But why are medical records so attractive? Well, it turns out that there’s a metaphorical holiday feast of enticing data served up in your average health record. Family history, demographic data, insurance information, medications, etc. means there’s enough information to completely steal an individual’s identity and commit medication fraud, financial fraud, insurance fraud and a wide array of other crimes. When this very private, unchangeable information gets into the wrong hands, devastation can ensue.” [Robert Lord writing in Forbes, 15 December 2017]

First the Australian general public were told that patient data was well protected and data breaches wouldn't happen as a result of government's drive to collect, cross-match and retain as much information about each and every Australian citizen/permanent resident as possible.

Then when the inevitable day came where poor data security was laid bare - as the personal histories of 550,000 blood donors were placed on an insecure computer and accessed, as Medicare details began to be offered for sale on the Internet's dark web and Medicare itself became careless with its encryption -  the public was told in the first instance that misuse was unlikely, in the second instance that personal medical information couldn't be accessed and that patients couldn't really be individually identified in the third instance where a billion line encrypted data set was publicly released.

After that the Turnbull Government assured the population that it would create legislation which would make it illegal for anyone to de-encrypt anonymised data and create a Notifiable Data Breaches scheme.

We were all going to be safe once more in the arms of the Turnbull Government.

Now the cat is out of the bag, because that billion-line 30 year's worth of personal health information about est. 3 million people just won't stay in the back of the ministerial cupboard where Greg Hunt shoved it.

 [Fairfax journalist Ben GrubbTwitter 18 December 2017]

The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 December 2017:

One in ten Australians' private health records have been unwittingly exposed by the Department of Health in an embarrassing blunder that includes potentially exposing if someone is on HIV medication, whether mothers have had terminations, or if mentally unwell people are seeing psychologists.

A report, published on Monday by Dr Chris Culnane, Dr Benjamin Rubinstein and Dr Vanessa Teague from the University of Melbourne's School of Computing and Information Systems, outlines how de-identified historical health data from the Australian Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) released to the public in August 2016 can be re-identified using known information about the person to find their record.

The study reveals unique patient records matching the online public information of seven prominent Australians, including three (former or current) MPs and an AFL footballer. While a unique match may not always be accurate, Dr Rubinstein said there was the possibility to improve confidence by cross-referencing other data.

"Because only 10 per cent of Australians are included in the sample data, there can be a coincidental resemblance to someone who isn't included," he said.

"We can improve confidence by cross-referencing with a second dataset of population-wide billing frequencies. We can also examine uniqueness according to the characteristics of commercial datasets we know of, such as bank billing data."…….

Privacy analyst and Lockstep consultant Stephen Wilson said the breach damaged public confidence in health policy makers and data custodians.

"It's a huge breach of trust," he said.

"Promises of 'de-identification' and 'anonymisation' made by health officials, and ABS too in connection with census data releases, have been shown to be erroneous.

"The ability to re-identify patients from this sort of public release is frankly, in my view, catastrophic. Real dangers are posed to patients with socially difficult conditions.

"It beggars belief that any official would promise 'anonymity' any more. These promises cannot be kept."

Computer security researcher Troy Hunt said re-identification of anonymised records was attractive to researchers and nefarious parties alike.

"In this case, clearly more work needs to be done to protect individuals' identities,' he said. "My hope is that the government embraces responsible research like this and strives to improve confidentiality rather than penalise those seeking to report deficiencies such as this."

The federal Department of Health was notified about the issue December last year.

"The Department of Health takes this matter very seriously and had already referred this to the Privacy Commissioner," a Department of Health spokesperson told Fairfax Media......

Meanwhile, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which houses Australia's privacy commissioner, said it was investigating the publication of the datasets.

"The investigation was opened under section 40(2) of the Australian Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) in late September 2016 when the Department of Health notified the OAIC that the datasets were potentially vulnerable to re-identification," a spokesperson said.

"Given the investigation into the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) datasets is ongoing, we are unable to comment on it further at this time.

However, the commissioner will make a public statement at the conclusion of the investigation."

The OAIC said it continued to work with Australian government agencies to enhance privacy protection in published datasets.....

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

U.S. court directs four American tobacco companies to publicly set the record straight on the dangers of their products

World Health Organisation (WHO), Statement, 29 November 2017:

GENEVA - In major victories for tobacco control efforts, four U.S. tobacco companies are publishing court-ordered “corrective statements” to set the record straight on the dangers of their products, while a major French bank has announced it will divest its interests in the tobacco industry.

Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Prevention on Noncommunicable diseases department, says these moves reinforce to the world the need for accelerated action to protect people from tobacco.

“The tobacco control community has been saying for decades that tobacco kills, is addictive and that its manufacturers have known this, while profiting from the suffering of millions of their customers,” says Dr Bettcher. “But by being ordered by the courts to issue these corrective statements in American newspapers and on TV stations, the industry itself has been forced to come clean and acknowledge once and for all that its tobacco products kill.”

The publication of the corrective statements, which started 26 November 2017, follows a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department in 1999 under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law. The Federal Court first ordered tobacco companies to implement these corrective statement adverts in 2006, but years of tobacco industry appeals blocked their publication.

But last month, a U.S. court directed that four American companies, Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard and Altria, publish the corrective statements on the health effects of tobacco use, second-hand smoke, the false sale and advertising of low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes, that smoking and nicotine are highly addictive, and that they have designed cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine.

The statements, appearing in advertisements paid for by the tobacco industry, were ordered to appear in more than 50 U.S. newspapers, as well as on American television stations.

Also, on 24 November, French bank BNP Paribas announced that it would stop its financing and investment activities related to tobacco companies, including producers, wholesalers and traders.

In its announcement, the bank acknowledged the efforts by WHO, and the focus of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), to ensure people have access to the highest standard of health and “the importance of measures regarding the reduction of demand and supply in order to meet this objective.”

BNP is the latest financial institution to declare it is ending its association with the tobacco industry, including Axa SA and the Bank of New Zealand.

“The message we must take from all this is that the industry cannot be trusted, not now, and not in the future when it tries to market new products as less harmful, like heat not burn, and by funding new organizations that purport to be working for a smoke-free world,” says Dr Bettcher.

The admissions by the U.S. tobacco companies that its products kill and are designed for addiction should strengthen national tobacco control efforts, including implementation by governments of commitments in the WHO FCTC.

To assist in country-level implementation of the WHO FCTC, WHO has introduced the MPOWER package of technical measures and resources, each of which reflects one or more of the demand reduction provisions of the Convention.

These include monitoring tobacco use and the impact of prevention policies; protecting people from tobacco smoke by introducing smoke-free public and workplaces; offering people help to quit tobacco use; warning about the dangers of tobacco use, including by implementing graphic health warnings and plain packaging; enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raising excise taxes on tobacco.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Australians with lower incomes are dying sooner from potentially preventable diseases than their wealthier counterparts

The Conversation, 28 November 2017:

Australians with lower incomes are dying sooner from potentially preventable diseases than their wealthier counterparts, according to our new report.

Australia’s Health Tracker by Socioeconomic Status, released today, tracks health risk factors, disease and premature death by socioeconomic status. It shows that over the past four years, 49,227 more people on lower incomes have died from chronic diseases – such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer – before the age of 75 than those on higher incomes.

A steady job or being engaged in the community is important to good health. Australia’s unemployment rate is low, but this hides low workforce participation, and a serious problem with underemployment. Casual workers are often not getting enough hours, and more and more Australians are employed on short-term contracts.

There’s a vicious feedback loop – if your health is struggling, it’s harder to build your wealth. If you’re unable to work as much as you want, you can’t build your wealth, so it’s much tougher to improve your health.

Our team tracked health risk factors, disease and premature death by socioeconomic status, which measures people’s access to material and social resources as well as their ability to participate in society. We’ve measured in quintiles – with one fifth of the population in each quintile.

We developed health targets and indicators based on the World Health Organisation’s 2025 targets to improve health around the globe.

The good news is that for many of the indicators, the most advantaged in the community have already reached the targets.

The bad news is that poor health is not just an issue affecting the most vulnerable in our community, it significantly affects the second-lowest quintile as well. Almost ten million Australians with low incomes have much greater risks of developing preventable chronic diseases, and of dying from these earlier than other Australians.

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Have our expectations in relation to medical treatment risen steadily or is NSW health service delivery getting worse?

The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2017:

The Health Care Complaints Commission's annual report shows it was hit with 6319 complaints, which largely related to questionable treatments, misconduct and poor communication…..

Complaints surge

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission was hit with 6,319 complaints in 2016-17 - leading to a 132 per cent growth in complaints over the past decade.

Prosecuting complaints

The Commission referred 198 investigations to its Legal Division, compared with 139 in the previous year. This is an increase of 42.4%.

In the same period, the Director of Proceedings made 104 determinations whether or not to prosecute a complaint, 76 of which recommended prosecution before NCAT and 20 before a Professional Standards Committee. In eight complaints, the Director of Proceedings determined not to prosecute…..

The overall success rate of prosecutions before Professional Standards Committees and NCAT was 96.2%.

In 2016-17, the registration of 38 health practitioners was cancelled or disqualified. Three practitioners were suspended and had conditions placed on their registration. A further 31 health practitioners had conditions placed on their registration and were reprimanded or cautioned……

The proportions of complaints for each category of health service provider have remained consistent during the period. Individual health practitioners continue to make up the highest proportion of all complaints. Over the period 2012-13 to 2016-17 an average of 62.5% were about registered health practitioners, 35.1% of complaints received were about health organisations, and 2.4% were about non-registered health practitioners and practitioners whose registration status was unknown…..

Friday, 24 November 2017

Can anyone believe anything Australian Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and his motley crew say?

The New Daily,  21 November 2017:

The Department of Human Services flagged the illegal sale of Medicare details on the dark web almost a fortnight before the illicit trade was exposed in a bombshell media report, The New Daily can exclusively reveal.

Internal emails, obtained under freedom of information laws, reveal that department officials discussed the security issue as early as June 22 – nearly two weeks before revelations that Medicare numbers were being sold online.

On July 4, The Guardian revealed that a dark web vendor was advertising the sale of any Australian’s Medicare number for the bitcoin equivalent of just $22 after exploiting a government system vulnerability.

In the wake of the revelations, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said that he and his department had only learned of the illicit trade when contacted by a Guardian journalist on July 3.

However, high-priority correspondence within DHS shows that senior officials discussed the trade on the dark net, which is only accessible through a customised browser, nearly two weeks before it made the news.

On June 22, Rhonda Morris, national manager for serious non-compliance, raised the issue with Kate Buggy, national manager for internal fraud control and investigations, and Mark Withnell, general manager of business integrity, as well as several unnamed officials.

In a later email on July 3, Mr Withnell apparently connected The Guardian’s inquiries to the department’s earlier discussions on the issue, writing to colleagues: “This is the one I was mentioning last week.”

It is unclear exactly what DHS knew about the sale of Medicare details on the dark web prior to July’s media report.

Citing exemptions related to law enforcement and criminal investigations, the department redacted most of the content of the emails released to The New Daily.

It refused to release numerous other related emails entirely.

A DHS spokesman denied the department had knowledge of a specific breach in June and said its internal discussions had only related to general matters……

In September, DHS told the Senate that as many as 165 people may have had their Medicare numbers sold to unknown parties, although there had been no unauthorised access of any Australian’s health records.

Last month, a seperate review commissioned by the department recommended beefing up the authentication procedures required to access the online database used by healthcare professionals.

Although the AFP is continuing to investigate the source of the breach, the government has said it was likely the result of “traditional criminal activity” rather than a cyber attack.

In February, DHS was embroiled in controversy after it released the personal information of a Centrelink recipient to a journalist in order to diffuse claims she made in the media.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Indigenous Health 2017: "We are failing because the government is focusing only on the tipping point of suicide when we need to be looking at the causal narrative also"

IndigenousX, September 2017:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today released its 2016 Causes of Death data which includes annual national suicide information. Analysis provided by Mindframe revealed that 162 (119 male, 43 female) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died by suicide, which is slightly higher than the 152 recorded in 2015.

Suicide was the 5th leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across NSW, QLD, SA, WA and NT, compared to the 15th leading cause of death for non-Indigenous people in these states. In these states, the standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (23.8 per 100,000) was more than twice the non-Indigenous rate (11.4 per 100,000).

Limited data is available for VIC, TAS and the ACT due to relatively small numbers in comparison to the other states.

According to Gerry Georgatos, a suicide prevention researcher and prison reform advocate, the data fails to take into account deaths classified as “Other”, which are often through drug or alcohol use, overdose or misadventure. The data, if it truly reflected the reality on the ground, would depict the real number as 1 in 10 Indigenous deaths is by suicide, not 1 in 18 as the national data suggests.

Georgatos says: “We are failing because the government is focusing only on the tipping point of suicide when we need to be looking at the causal narrative also. The causal narrative, of course is the deep, deep poverty and inequality.” He says that the government is doing next to nothing to address the fact that there is gross inequality not only between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, but even within Indigenous communities themselves.

“We need to not only address suicide and trauma, but we need to give people something to live for by lifting them out of entrenched poverty and support them through addressing their trauma with treatment from a place of opportunity,” he says.

Georgatos is of the view that the systemic failures are translating as clear toxic racism: “When you see remote non-Indigenous communities provided with services and infrastructure, but Indigenous communities a mere 50km away with nothing – it is a clear indication that racism is at play.”

Georgatos says that the crisis is not improving, as many governmental advisers and stakeholders tend to suggest, but worsening with children as young as 9-years-old taking their life through suicide, as well as countless others experiencing depression and suicidal ideation. He believes that we do Indigenous people a disservice if we continue with the falsehoods of improvement……

Read full article here.