Health details not finalised
THE technical details of the health agreement reached by federal and state governments yesterday will not be finalised until the middle of this year and health experts say those details will hold the key to whether the agreement increases health funding or improves the lives of patients, The Australian reports. The experts warned that the federal government could dodge its commitment to supply 44% of health funding by imposing efficiency dividends on its funding or by setting a formula for growth funding that reduced its commitment. They echoed concerns of state premiers about the new efficient price that will underpin the latest reform regime. Doctors, academics and the public health lobby welcomed the agreement to set up a single national funding pool for health, claiming it would prevent states siphoning off extra federal health funding for other projects. AMA president Dr Andrew Pesce said it could take longer than the 12 months allowed to work out how much each state paid its nurses and doctors and get the best advice about how an efficient pricing system should work.

Lymph nodes can stay
A NEW study finds that many women with early breast cancer do not need removal of cancerous lymph nodes from the armpit, the New York Times reports. Researchers in the US reported in JAMA that for women who meet certain criteria — about 20% of patients, or 40 000 women a year in the US — taking out cancerous nodes has no advantage. It does not change the treatment plan, improve survival or make the cancer less likely to recur, and it can cause complications such as infection and lymphoedema.

Gardasil for boys
A LEADING epidemiologist says the immunisation program that protects girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV) should immediately be extended to boys to prevent other cancers, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Vaccinating boys against HPV would help stem a drastic rise in some cancers, particularly among homosexual men, said Professor Andrew Grulich, the head of the HIV epidemiology and prevention program at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of NSW. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will next month consider an application to provide the Gardasil vaccine free to boys.

‘Dr Google’ warning
DOCTORS have warned of catastrophic consequences after new research revealed four in five Australians turn to the web for health information, and nearly half of those are using Dr Google to make a self-diagnosis, the Canberra Times reports. An international survey conducted by health insurance provider Bupa also found that of the 80% of Australians who use the net to research health issues, 70% also seek information about medicines. The survey included more than 12 000 people around the world, including 1000 Australians.

Software development
SOFTWARE vendors face 10–15 staff-years of development work to meet the complex requirements of the federal government’s $467 million e-health record program, but there’s no plan to pay for it, The Australian reports. Health Communication Network chief executive, John Frost, said the government was spending “obscenely large” sums on the personally controlled e-health record. HCN, which supplies the GP software Medical Director, is one of five desktop vendors invited to help “test and fine-tune” the currently undefined personalised record specifications.

Autism link
PERTH researchers claim to have uncovered further evidence of a link between testosterone and autism, backing a theory that high testosterone exposure in the womb increases the risk of the disorder, The Australian reports. Researchers at Fiona Stanley’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research found that girls with autistic-like behaviours at age 2 years had their first period about 6 months later than girls without the disorder’s symptoms. “These findings indicate that exposure to testosterone in the womb may be regulating both autism-like behaviours and the age of first period and that this may play a role in clinical autism,” lead researcher Dr Andrew Whitehouse said.

Diet affects IQ
TODDLERS whose diet is high in processed foods may have a slightly lower IQ in later life, according to a British study described as the biggest of its kind, The Age reports. The study of 14 000 people, reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found children who ate a diet high in processed fats and sugar had an average IQ of 101 points, compared with 106 for the 20% who ate the most “health-conscious” food.

Life expectancy declines
HEALTH experts are warning that the current generation of Australian teenagers could be the first with a decline in life expectancy and an increase in heart disease, ABC News reports. The first comprehensive national study of young Australians since 1985 found a quarter are overweight or obese. The Cancer Council and Heart Foundation study of more than 12 000 teenagers also found 85% of respondents are not doing enough exercise.

Closing gap daunting
THE challenge of closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has become even more daunting, The Age reports. New research shows the life expectancy of Aboriginal men will have to increase by almost 21 years to achieve equality by 2031. The current gap is 11.5 years for men and 9.7 years for women, but the rising life expectancy of non-Indigenous Australians will widen the gulf unless a bipartisan strategy to tackle chronic disease and reduce risk factors succeeds.

Population campaign
A GROUP of Australian doctors has joined entrepreneur Dick Smith’s fight against population growth with a new health campaign targeting GPs and their patients, The Age reports. Doctors for the Environment Australia has sent a poster titled “Advancing Australia Fairly!?” to about 24 000 GPs to outline the health impacts of the nation’s increasing population. A group spokesman, Dr George Crisp, said the campaign came as Australia’s population growth rate exceeded that of India and Cambodia and was “harming our quest for liveable communities”.

Posted 14 February 2011

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