Stillbirths still common
MORE than 2000 stillbirths occur in Australia every year and the rate is 50% higher for Indigenous Australians, reports. A series of papers in The Lancet reveals Australia has the 15th lowest rate of stillbirths in the world, but the Indigenous population counted alone would be ranked 56th lowest. Worldwide, there are more stillbirths than there are children killed by AIDS and malaria combined, and 98% of stillbirths occur in developing countries.

Identifiers ignored
LESS than 30 000 people have checked their health care identity number since it was issued to all Medicare users on 1 July last year, The Australian reports. The federal government has automatically allocated identifiers to 23 million people and intended all health care providers to apply the number to any medical record associated with an individual. None of the 400 000 health professionals with provider credentials have accessed the Health Identifiers service as yet, and only 10 of around 80 000 eligible health care organisations have registered with the operator, Medicare.

Junk behaviour
CHILDREN who lack access to healthy foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, are twice as likely to develop behavioural problems, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The Queensland University of Technology study surveyed 500 Brisbane households and found that one in four households goes without healthy food because of low income levels. Children in households without a secure source of food were 2.5 times more likely to display behavioural problems, the researchers said.

Private health rebates
THE federal government has confirmed it will press ahead with plans to tighten eligibility for private health insurance rebates in the budget, The Australian reports. The legislation to reduce salary thresholds on eligibility for the 30% rebate was blocked when first proposed in the 2009-10 budget, but is expected to be passed this time as the Greens, who support the legislation, will hold the balance of power in the Senate from 1 July.

A boozy nation
MORE than four million Australians say they drink alcohol with the aim of getting drunk, the Herald Sun reports. About half of those people try to get drunk at least once a week. A report, commissioned by the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation, says 80% of Australians believe the nation has a drinking problem. The foundation’s chief executive Michael Thorn said that in the past decade Australia’s problem with alcohol had become worse.

Big bariatric results
THE first large-scale study on the impact of weight-loss surgery in the United Kingdom has reported a big reduction in type 2 diabetes and other health problems, BBC News reports. The National Bariatric Surgery Registry report found that the number of patients with type 2 diabetes fell by 50% and on average patients lost nearly 60% of their excess weight within a year after surgery. The study was based on 1421 operations.

Mozzie viruses
PEOPLE in northern and central WA are on mosquito alert following a high number of reports of Ross River virus infections including encephalitis, WA Today reports. A state government entomologist confirmed that a Carnarvon resident had been diagnosed with the potentially fatal encephalitis and several other cases were being investigated. Reports of cases of Barmah Forest virus had also been on the rise.

Impact of aftershocks
DOCTORS in Japan say they are seeing more people experiencing phantom earthquakes, as well as other symptoms of “earthquake sickness” like dizziness and anxiety, the New York Times reports. Tokyo and the north-east region of Japan have experienced about 400 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater since March 11 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake set off a devastating tsunami.

Brain size clue
MEASURING the size of a person’s brain can predict Alzheimer’s disease up to 10 years before its onset, researchers have found, The Age reports. The US study of 65 patients, published in Neurology, used magnetic resonance imaging to examine the cortex, the area of the brain typically affected by the disease. It found more than half of those with the smallest cortex measurements went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease within 7 to 10 years. None of the patients with the largest cortex measurements developed the disease.

Schizophrenia in a dish
RESEARCHERS have successfully grown human schizophrenia nerve cells in a Petri dish, enabling them to test new drugs and better understand the complex mechanisms underlying the disease, ABC Science reports. The cells offer a new way to study neurons from people with schizophrenia, which until now had been limited to using postmortem brain samples. The research team, from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the United States, used skin biopsies taken from four severely schizophrenic patients.

Posted 18 April 2011

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