Be happy
A REVIEW of more than 160 studies on the connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity has found “clear and compelling evidence” that happier people enjoy better health and longer lives, The Age reports. Evidence linking an upbeat outlook and enjoyment of life to better health and longer life was stronger than that linking obesity to reduced longevity, according to the review published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.

Drugs cut heart risks
A NEW analysis suggests that blood pressure drugs may benefit heart disease patients even if they don’t have high blood pressure, the New York Times reports. The paper, published in JAMA, is a meta-analysis of 25 previously published studies. The authors cautioned that randomised controlled trials must be done to confirm the results. Patients who took antihypertensive medication cut their risk of stroke by 23%; heart attack by 20%; congestive heart failure by 29%; and death by 13% compared to those taking a placebo.

Disability proposal
SEVERELY disabled people would be guaranteed long-term care under a scheme proposed by the Productivity Commission that would cost every Australian $280 to transform the current “underfunded, fragmented, unfair and inefficient” system, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The commission has recommended a national disability insurance system to start in 2014, costing an additional $6.3 billion a year to provide care for an estimated 360 000 disabled Australians, thousands of whom now rely on the care of their ageing parents. It also recommended a separate, much smaller national injury insurance scheme to cover people with catastrophic injuries involving a national revamp of state-based schemes covering vehicle, medical and other accidents costing an extra $685 million a year.

Wait exposed
QUEENSLAND patients are waiting up to 5 years to see medical specialists even before they can be added to the state’s long waiting list for surgery, the Courier Mail reports. “Secret” waiting lists showed nearly 200 000 people languished last year while they waited for an appointment with a specialist. Patients referred for surgery face further delays, with another 32 105 people on the official elective surgery waiting list in January this year. Patients waiting to see gastroenterology and rheumatology specialists faced the longest delays.

“Academic” is OK
ACADEMIC is not a dirty word to 96% of Australians when used in the name of a health centre, The Australian reports. Professor Nick Fisk, executive dean of health sciences at the University of Queensland, was motivated to undertake specific research, via Newspoll, as part of his campaign to gain acceptance for the naming of academic health science centres, which flourish in comparable societies, but have not yet made it off the drawing board in Australia. The centres are joint ventures between universities and hospitals to deliver leading-edge patient treatment, research and medical training.

Ibuprofen lowers Parkinson risk
PEOPLE who take ibuprofen on a regular basis have a lower risk of developing Parkinson disease, research suggests, BBC News reports. The US research, published in Neurology, found the drug had an added benefit. In studies of more than 135 000 adults who were regular users of ibuprofen, 40% were less likely to develop Parkinson. However, experts say it is too early to say whether the benefits of taking the drug outweigh the risk of side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding.

Caution on funding
A US expert has warned that the planned funding formula for public hospitals will do little to rein in soaring health costs, and that other measures will be needed to ensure growth does not overwhelm state and federal budgets, The Australian reports. Professor Jack Wennberg, founder of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and an international authority on health funding, said while the planned activity-based funding system announced by the federal government was not in itself a misstep, its benefits were being overstated. Similar systems had been introduced into the US Medicare program 25 years ago and it had “not been an effective method for controlling costs, as anyone who looks at the US knows”.

Vision-language link
US scientists have found that people born blind may use the part of the brain associated with vision to process language, ABC News reports. A new study by neuroscientists shows how the brain adapts to early blindness. “Brain regions that are thought to have evolved for vision can take on language processing as a result of early experience,” the researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Academy.

Strict diet advice
BRINGING home the bacon might not be such a great idea, according to stricter new dietary advice from the British government, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. In the first new guidelines since 1998, Britain advised people to help prevent cancer by cutting down on steaks, hamburgers, sausages and other red meat. Government experts say people should eat no more than 500 g of red meat a week, or 70 g a day, significantly less than it previously recommended.

Unis put on notice
THE Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Evans has put university leaders on notice that quality must not be compromised by the rapid expansion of higher education expected in coming years, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. In a speech to vice-chancellors at the Universities Australia annual conference, Senator Evans warned university leaders that they must demonstrate that the public money they receive is being spent wisely, as they compete for limited government funds.

Posted 7 March 2011

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