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Health News

There’s more to health than hospital beds: Australia needs a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

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NSW Northern Rivers Breaking News

There’s more to health than hospital beds: Australia needs a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

The Public Health Association of Australia welcomes the Australian Labor Party’s commitment to establishing an Australian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC) should it win the federal election on 21 May.

In addition to this Centre, Australia desperately needs a federal commitment to invest in the national Public Health workforce, such as through expanded training programs tailored to local communities, working with states and territories, so as to ensure the pipeline for the future public health leaders and experts.

“Both of these actions would help set Australia up for the looming public health and infectious disease challenges that are coming, because the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated existing weaknesses in our health systems,” PHAA CEO, Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin said.

“Our Public Health workforce is under severe strain across the continent, and while political parties don’t want to talk about the pandemic this election, the virus continues to spread, take lives, and upend them.

“While the ALP first announced its position on an ACDC in October 2020, we have been mystified by the absence of broader discussion about public and preventive health policies in the election campaign from any of the major parties.

“The ALP policy states the ACDC will focus on pandemic preparedness and management, and on chronic and infectious disease prevention.

“We are pleased that the ALP has also included a charter for chronic non-communicable disease prevention.

“We urge the Coalition, in these last few days before the election, to match that commitment.

“Whoever forms the next Australian government must be prepared to commit resources to improving our capacity to deal with the public health crisis of today, and prepare for the enormous public health crises of the future.

“As we’ve heard at the Preventive Health 2022 conference underway in Brisbane, the countries which put COVID-19 in a box and fail to learn the lessons are the ones which will be least prepared for the next public health emergency.

“We continue to see announcements about investments in a wide range of programs through this election campaign. But we have learned that, if we do not get public health right, most other parts of society simply cannot function.

“We must fix public health. This election campaign cannot be allowed to finish without specific commitments to the future of public health.”

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Health News

HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE MENTAL HEALTH LINE

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HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE MENTAL HEALTH LINE

People with lived experience of mental illness and their carers are helping shape the future of the Mental Health Line by sharing their experience with the NSW Government.

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said the 1800 011 511 NSW Mental Health Line was a free phone service which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering specialist advice, support and referral to specialist NSW Health mental health services.

“We want to ensure it continues to meet the mental health needs of our communities,” Mr Dominello said.

“Co-designing the Mental Health Line with people with lived experience of mental illness is the best way to ensure the next evolution continues to make a real difference to those who need it.

“Our aim to be the most customer-centric government by 2030 starts by learning from our customers’ experiences and needs.

“Recent Have Your Say consultations have helped us to better understand areas such as digital inclusion and digital identity, with these engagements generating new ideas for how we can better deliver services to the people of New South Wales.

“We encourage people to get involved in the Have Your Say consultation, whether they have experience using the Mental Health Line or may have not known about the service, we want to hear from all.”
Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the events of the last few years have highlighted the importance and the need to invest in mental health services.

“The importance of health and specifically mental health in our society is evident, with the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing showing two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime,” Mrs Taylor said.

“The Mental Health Line is an important service which helps people to access appropriate mental health services but there are always areas to improve.

“In 2020-21 around 864,000 Australians accessed at least one digital service for their mental health, but it is understood this represents only one in ten of those who experienced mental health distress.“People need to be able to easily access services which can help them when they are at their most vulnerable. This is something we can and need to address.”

The NSW Government has allocated $2.2 billion across four years to invest into digital transformation projects through the DRF. The fund is administered by the Department of Customer Service and targets smart, simple technology solutions which create efficiencies for customers across the State.

To Have Your Say on the future of the Mental Health Line, please visit: www.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/nsw-mhl-consultation

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Health News

HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE MENTAL HEALTH LINE

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on

By

HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE MENTAL HEALTH LINE

People with lived experience of mental illness and their carers are helping shape the future of the Mental Health Line by sharing their experience with the NSW Government.

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said the 1800 011 511 NSW Mental Health Line was a free phone service which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering specialist advice, support and referral to specialist NSW Health mental health services.

“We want to ensure it continues to meet the mental health needs of our communities,” Mr Dominello said.
“Co-designing the Mental Health Line with people with lived experience of mental illness is the best way to ensure the next evolution continues to make a real difference to those who need it.
“Our aim to be the most customer-centric government by 2030 starts by learning from our customers’ experiences and needs.

“Recent Have Your Say consultations have helped us to better understand areas such as digital inclusion and digital identity, with these engagements generating new ideas for how we can better deliver services to the people of New South Wales.
“We encourage people to get involved in the Have Your Say consultation, whether they have experience using the Mental Health Line or may have not known about the service, we want to hear from all.”

Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the events of the last few years have highlighted the importance and the need to invest in mental health services.
“The importance of health and specifically mental health in our society is evident, with the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing showing two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime,” Mrs Taylor said.

“The Mental Health Line is an important service which helps people to access appropriate mental health services but there are always areas to improve.
“In 2020-21 around 864,000 Australians accessed at least one digital service for their mental health, but it is understood this represents only one in ten of those who experienced mental health distress.

“People need to be able to easily access services which can help them when they are at their most vulnerable. This is something we can and need to address.”
The NSW Government has allocated $2.2 billion across four years to invest into digital transformation projects through the DRF. The fund is administered by the Department of Customer Service and targets smart, simple technology solutions which create efficiencies for customers across the State.

To Have Your Say on the future of the Mental Health Line, please visit: www.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/nsw-mhl-consultation

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Health News

UNSW

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UNSW

If you’ve been to any supermarket recently, you would’ve noticed the shelf space dedicated to milk alternatives such as oat, soy, almond and rice is expanding. Though they’re not strictly speaking ‘milk’, these plant-based beverages are gaining favour among consumers looking for a dairy-free option in their coffee mugs and cereal bowls.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we’re now drinking about half a metric cup of milk alternatives per person every week. In the milk marketplace, consumption of the likes of soy and almond milk is increasing at the same rate dairy milk is falling.

Experts from UNSW Sydney say there are many reasons we’re leaving cow’s milk behind in favour of the plant-based kind, including health reasons, ethical choices and personal preferences.

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE AND MORE PRODUCTS AVAILABLE

Professor Johannes le CoutreSchool of Chemical EngineeringUNSW Engineering, says he’s not surprised by the expansion of the plant-based milk aisle. The food and health expert says in the first place, human bodies are not physiologically optimised to digest dairy milk.

“Food history is full of examples where we try to mimic animal products, so having plant-based milk is not an entirely new idea,” Prof. le Coutre says.

“Human adults are not necessarily the target consumers for cow’s milk in nature. It’s a product meant for babies, specifically for cow babies,” he says.

Many adults have an intolerance to lactose – the sugar in dairy – to some degree. If they drink cow’s milk or eat other dairy by-products, they can experience bloating, pain and diarrhoea. For those people, plant-based milk offers a lactose-free alternative.

“If someone has an intolerance to dairy, it is easier for their body to digest plant-based milk,” says nutritionist Dr Rebecca Reynolds, adjunct lecturer, School of Population HealthUNSW Medicine & Health. “While some regular milk has the lactose removed, many prefer the taste of plant-based milk.”

Researcher in consumer behaviour, Associate Professor Nitika GargSchool of MarketingUNSW Business School, says the quality and variety of plant-based milk available has improved in recent times.

“The taste is undoubtedly a key factor because consumers don’t want to feel they need to compromise on flavour,” A/Prof. Garg says. “Today, if you feel uncomfortable consuming dairy milk, there are a lot more alternatives in the market you can try that weren’t available 20 years ago.”

AN ETHICAL CHOICE FOR ANIMALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Many people are also switching up their milk of choice for ethical reasons. One concern is the treatment of livestock in the dairy milk production process.

“There is a movement of consumers who resent animal products – such as milk – because they are not necessarily associated with good animal welfare,” Prof. le Coutre says.

To produce milk, cows must give birth. If the calves are not needed as replacements for the milking herd, they are killed, often not humanely. More cows die per calorie of milk production than cattle for meat production.

A/Prof. Garg says some of the growth in plant-based milks can also be attributed to changing consumer perceptions about the sustainability of the dairy industry. There is growing awareness about the impact it is having on the climate and the environment.

Research suggests a dairy-free diet could be a more environmentally friendly option, and people can make significant moves for the environment by just reducing their dairy intake, Dr Reynolds says.

Some plant milks might be more planet friendly than others though. For example, it’s estimated that growing a single almond requires 12 litres of water. Still, almond milk uses less land and water than dairy milk and has lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“[But] there are challenges when it comes to plant-based products in that they usually destroy a lot of nutritional goodness and require a lot of resources just to mimic a product [milk] that isn’t intended for human consumption in the first place,” Prof. le Coutre says.

HEALTH BENEFITS AND CALORIC CONCERNS

Milk alternatives are also becoming an increasingly popular choice among health-conscious consumers. But what some consider to be a ‘healthier’ option is not always the case, Prof. le Coutre says.

So how does dairy milk stack up nutritionally against plant-based milk? While there is scepticism about the health impacts of dairy products, evidence suggests dairy benefits health.

“Overall, cow’s milk has a better nutritional profile than plant milks, with more protein and micronutrients like calcium,” Dr Reynolds says. “However, plant-based milks often have micronutrients added to them, can have less overall fat and saturated fat than dairy milk and more healthy plant phenol antioxidants.”

There’s a wide variety of plant-based milks in the market, like oat, almond and rice, with varying nutritional quality. Soy might be the strongest dairy-free plant alternative in terms of nutritional profile.

“Some have added refined sugar, which includes ingredients like ‘organic brown rice syrup’, which is less healthy than the natural sugar lactose that’s found in cow’s milk,” Dr Reynolds says. “This means that they can also be higher in high glycaemic index carbohydrates, which can increase blood glucose levels more than lactose. They also have added oils, which are not as healthy as say olive oil, and they’re not suitable as stand-alone milks for children.”

Dr Reynolds says if plant milk and other dairy substitutes are fortified – that is, have micronutrients like calcium added – there might not be a need to supplement in a diet. However, it’s estimated over 50 per cent of Australians aged 2 years and above don’t consume enough calcium and other micronutrients.

“Overall, plant-based diets are still strongly linked to good health,” Dr Reynolds says.

THE FUTURE OF PLANT-BASED MILK

With their rapid rise, A/Prof. Garg expects plant-based milk to become an even more dominant player in the milk market. Perhaps one day, it might even supplant dairy milk in popularity.

“Much of the growth to date appears to be consumer-driven, so I would expect the trend to continue to grow. As these brands continue to scale up their manufacturing and marketing efforts, there’s a huge opportunity for a true milk substitute to emerge and compete with dairy,” she says.

A/Prof. Garg says governments also have a chance to take advantage of the anticipated global demand in the industry.

“People are choosing plant-based milk more and more, and so it would make sense for governments to take advantage of the opportunity to support the production here in Australia,” she says. “It would also still be supporting the Australian agricultural industry, which is an important consideration for some consumers.”

In the short-term, A/Prof. Garg says switching to plant-based milk might not be realistic for everyone because of its high price point.

“We do have an issue with making products such as plant-based milk accessible for everyone. They are more expensive, and some consumers who might want to switch can’t, especially with the cost of living right now where every dollar counts,” A/Prof. Garg says. “It might be something governments need to explore, to help subsidise in the same way they subsidise the dairy industry.”

Prof. le Coutre says plant-based milk – and plant-based mimetics more generally – will continue to play a significant role in strengthening our global food system.

“Plant-based products, existing animal-based materials and, someday soon, cell-based and blended products improve our food choices,” Prof. le Coutre says. “As we expand our portfolio of products, it enriches the spectrum of offerings in the market to everybody’s benefit.”

“Overall, if you can afford it, buying a plant-based milk fortified with micronutrients like calcium and without added sugar can be a good way to use your consumer power to help the environment and climate change,” Dr Reynolds says.

 

 

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