11 September 2014

Preventing suicide: a global imperative

The World Health Organisation reports that a person dies by suicide somewhere in the world every 40 seconds.  Their report, Preventing suicide: a global imperative, aims to increase awareness of the public health significance of suicide and suicide attempts, to make suicide prevention a higher priority on the global public health agenda, and to encourage and support countries to develop or strengthen comprehensive suicide prevention strategies.

"The report provides a global knowledge base on suicide and suicide attempts as well as actionable steps for countries based on their current resources and context to move forward in suicide prevention."

Drug and alcohol research in the 21st century

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre recently held a symposium at the University of NSW.  The abstracts and posters have been published in: Drug and alcohol research in the 21st century : critical issues and new directions.

The keynote speaker was Keith Humphreys from the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University in Californial  His topic was "Policies for improving the quantity and quality of substance use disorder treatment" and he made the point that this treatment falls short of the ideal around the world.  It has proven easier to expand quantity rather than quality, which requires an understanding of how and why treatment works and how organisations change.

Speech, language and communication disorders in Australia

This report, Prevalence of different types of speech, language and communication disorders and speech pathology services in Australia is the result of an inquiry from the Senate Community Affairs References Committee commissioned late last year.

The terms of reference for the inquiry, as reported on in this document, were:
  1. the prevalence of different types of speech, language and communication disorders and swallowing difficulties in Australia
  2. the incidence of these disorders by demographic group  
  3. the availability and adequacy of speech pathology services provided by governments
  4. the provision and adequacy of private speech pathology services  
  5. evidence of the social and economic cost of failing to treat communication and swallowing disorders 
  6. the projected demand for speech pathology services in Australia

New medical and nursing workforce reports

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has published two new reports on health workforce statistics from 2013:

Nursing and midwifery workforce 2013
The total number of all nurses and midwives registered in Australia increased from 320,982 in 2009 to 344,190 in 2013 (7.2%). Between 2009 and 2013, the supply of registered nurses and midwives increased (from 917 to 971 FTE per 100,000 population), however the supply for enrolled nurses decreased (201 to 184 FTE per 100,000 population). In 2009 and 2013, there were more employed nurses and midwives in the 50-54 year age group (45,518 and 45,512, respectively) than any other age group.

Medical workforce 2013
The supply of employed medical practitioners has remained steady since 2011, at about 380 FTE per 100,000 population.  The proportion of women among employed medical practitioners has increased steadily since 2004. In 2013, women made up 38.6% of the medical workforce.

HealthInsite website is now Healthdirect Australia

The Australian consumer health website, HealthInsite has been enhanced to provide even easier access to health information, advice and services – online and by phone.  The name of the site - and the service - has changed to healthdirect Australia and the content has increased to include the promotion of nurse triage and after hours GP helplines in addition to the existing health information and services.  

There is still a handy A-Z list of health topics and you can browse by conditions, symptoms, and life stages, as well as search by keyword.  Established by the Council of Australian Governments, this is an authoritative and useful site for consumer health information in Australia.

03 September 2014

Understanding vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem caused mainly by insufficient exposure to sunlight, and it is estimated that 1 billion people have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency worldwide. It is particularly prevalent among elderly people.
This recent open access article in the Age and Aging journal, gives key information facts and discusses the impact of this major health problem.

Sahota, O. (2014). Understanding vitamin D deficiencyAge and Aging, 43 (5): 589-591. 

Australia's Population

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently release a new report, 3235.0 Population byAge and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2013At 30 June 2013, Australia's estimated resident population was 23.1 million, an increase of 1.9 million people (8.9%) since 30 June 2008. In 2013, just under one-third (32%) of Australia's population resided in New South Wales, while one-quarter (25%) lived in Victoria. Some other interesting facts from the publication include:
  • The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of children (22% of its total population),
  • In the five years since June 2008, the number of people aged 65 years and over in Australia increased by 533,000 (19%) to reach 3.34 million
  • At June 2013, there were 98,900 more females than males residing in Australia, with 11.5 million males and 11.6 million females
  • The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of people of working age (71%). 

National Statement on Health Literacy

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released the National Statement on Health Literacy.  "Almost 60% of Australians have a low level of individual health literacy. This is important to the safety, quality and effectiveness of health care. Low levels of individual health literacy contribute to poorer health outcomes, increased risk of an adverse event and higher healthcare costs. People with low levels of health literacy may not understand their medication instructions, be able to interpret nutrition labels on food, or be able to understand the risks associated with different treatment options enough to make an informed choice."

The personality of emergency nurses

New research shows emergency department nurses are far more extroverted, agreeable and open than the general population. And researchers believe it’s those specific personality traits that enable nurses to thrive in the demanding, fast-paced and stressful ED environment.
University of Sydney researchers studied the personalities of 72 emergency nurses working at a large metropolitan Australian ED between July and October 2012. Belinda Kennedy, one of the authors of the published article in the Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal, said; "it takes a particular type of person to perform in an ED," and "personality assessment and an understanding of its influence on specialty selection could work to improve the process of attracting and retaining emergency nurses"

Belinda Kennedy, Kate Curtis, Donna Waters. The personality of emergency nurses: Is it unique?                 Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal, Published online: August 8, 2014

Cancer patients require better treatment for depression

Findings from three research studies have shown that around three quarters of cancer patients who suffer from major depression do not receive treatment for their depression and that a newly developed medical program has proven more effective than standard care at reducing depression in these patients.
As reported in The Lancet Psychiatry, a data analysis of more than 21,000 patients across clinics in Scotland, UK, found that the frequency of major depression among cancer patients ranged from 6% in those with genitourinary cancer to 13% among those with lung cancer. However, almost three quarters of patients with major depression were not receiving any treatment to address the problem.
The second paper published in The Lancet, reports on findings form the SMaRT Oncology-2 randomised trial which examined the effects of a new medical programme called “Depression Care for People with Cancer” (DCPC).
A further study published in The Lancet Oncology describes a version of the DCPC that was adjusted for lung cancer patients with major depression who had a poor rather than good cancer prognosis.
CIAP users can access the full text of The Lancet and Lancet Oncology. Contact your library for access to Lancet Psychiatry.

Wnt Signalling Pathways

The Wnt signaling pathways are a group of signal transduction pathways made of proteins that pass signals from outside of a cell through cell surface receptors to the inside of the cell. A special issue of Developmental Neurobiology titled "Wnt Signaling Mechanisms in Development and Disease" is open access.
It includes five review articles and two original papers that capture these new exciting aspects of Wnts and the Wnt signaling pathways in the nervous system development and disease. Changes of Wnt signaling components have been observed in Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Further understanding of the targets regulated by Wnts will inspire strategies for the treatment and perhaps cure of developmental and neurodegenerative conditions where Wnts play a central role.

29 August 2014

Transition care for older people leaving hospital

Today the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare has published Transition care for older people leaving hospital: 2005-06 to 2012-13

This report looks at the Transition Care Program which assisted more than 87,000 people between 2005 and 2013.  81% of the recipients completed their planned care under the program, and of them 76% had improved functional status.  54% of care recipients returned to live in the community, and of these two thirds did not enter residential aged care within 12 months.

AIHW 2014. Transition care for older people leaving hospital: 2005-06 to 2012-13. Aged care statistics series 40. Cat. no. AGE 75. Canberra: AIHW

Updates to mental health services website

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Mental Health Services in Australia website has undergone some significant updates:

  • Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services (MBS) 2012-13
  • Mental health-related prescriptions (PBS) 2012-13
  • updates to the Australian Government expenditure on Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services and subsidised prescriptions 2012-13
  • updates to the MBS & PBS data in the state and territory summary tables 

Rapid response systems in hospitals

The incidence of inhospital cardiac arrests (IHCAs) has decreased by more than 50% in those Australian hospitals with rapid response systems (RRSs), according to an article recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia.  Cardiopulmonary arrest and mortality trends, and their association with rapid response system expansion by Jack Chen et al, explains that as RRSs have been progressively introduced since 2002 there has been a coincidental reduction in hospital mortality due to IHCAs and and increased survival to hospital discharge.

One of the paper's authors, Kenneth Hillman, wrote a piece summarising the research in a recent issue of The Conversation: Rapid response teams halve hospital heart attack deaths.

Med J Aust 2014; 201 (3): 167-170. doi: 10.5694/mja14.00019.  Access the full text via CIAP or ask your health librarian. 

Medicinal use of cannabis

The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCA) has published Medicinal use of cannabis: background and Information paper, which provides an overview of what is known about medicinal cannabis use in Australia and internationally, the current state of the scientific and medical evidence for its use, and issues with the current situation in Australia.

It seems that there is a lack of evidence on this topic, largely due to the fact that it it still illegal in Australia.  "...there is a need to disentangle medical and scientific questions from legal and ideological ones in considering whether and how medicinal cannabis should be used in Australia. This is difficult to achieve, since the range of acts and regulations that control non- medicinal uses of cannabis will necessarily impact on medicinal use."

For more recent information about this topic, see a recent Sydney Morning Herald report by Melissa Healy about a JAMA study, Medical marijuana could reduce painkiller abuse. Also, see the NSW Cancer Council's Medical Use of Cannabis (marijuana) Position Statement