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Health News

Time for action on a NSW Autism Strategy

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Time for action on a NSW Autism Strategy

 

STATE Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin says she welcomes the Australian Government’s recent release of the Draft NSW Autism Strategy.

Ms Saffin says “it provides the State and Territory governments with the opportunity to engage with the Draft National Autism Strategy.

“We need a NSW Autism Strategy and I have had discussions with the relevant Minister in the Minns Labor Government, Kate Washington,” Ms Saffin says.

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“I raised the importance of an autism strategy in the NSW Parliament last year. South Australia is way ahead of us.  Now we have the Draft National Autism Strategy, we need to seize the momentum and get a New South Wales strategy to break down barriers for autistic children and adults and their families.”

President of the Northern Rivers Autism Association Micheal Lynch has teamed up with Business NSW Northern Rivers Regional Director Jane Laverty to co-host an Autism@Work business luncheon at the Ballina RSL Auditorium from noon today (Tuesday, 9 April).

The event, titled Embracing a Neurodiverse Workforce, celebrates Autism Awareness Month and guest speaker will be former dual-code international for rugby league and rugby union Mat Rogers.

Ms Saffin says she will be an apology as she is recovering from Covid.

“A panel of speakers for today’s event is sure to discuss the Draft National Autism Strategy,” Ms Saffin says.

“It is clear from the draft that the states and territories and Federal Government need to work together because the strategy covers polices across both levels of government.

“The states have primary responsibility for the key areas of education, health, justice and housing.

“It is the states that have responsibility for pre-schools for example, where children are at critical age for early intervention which can make a huge difference.

“This is an opportunity for National Cabinet to tackle the crossover of responsibilities and ensure that this is an effective, properly funded strategy without gaps for people to slip through.

“Being in a rural or regional area can add another layer of disadvantage, so it is important that people from this region give their feedback to the national strategy.”

For more information on the Draft National Autism Strategy and to give feedback, visit here.

 

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New research partnership to tackle hearing loss

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New research partnership to tackle hearing loss

 

An exciting new collaboration has been established between the Ear Science Institute Australia and the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), uniting Australia’s leading hearing researchers in a concerted effort to enhance treatments for the millions affected by hearing impairments.

National Acoustics Laboratories Director, Brent Edwards, emphasised the significance of the collaboration, stating, “This partnership harnesses the collective expertise of some of Australia’s most dedicated and forward-thinking hearing researchers, all committed to profoundly improving hearing healthcare globally.”

Hearing loss is among the world’s most prevalent health issues, with projections suggesting that by 2050 nearly 2.5 billion individuals will experience some form of hearing impairment. This partnership aims to foster substantial advancements in the quality of life for those affected by hearing loss, both in Australia and worldwide.

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By pooling their vast resources and data, both institutions are poised to transform hearing health care. The Ear Science Institute Australia, recognised globally as a for-purpose center of excellence, combines scientific research, medical innovation, and clinical practice to pioneer new treatments for ear and hearing conditions, ultimately striving to discover a cure for hearing loss.

Ear Science Institute’s CEO, Sandra Bellekom, commented on the future implications of the partnership, “Looking forward, this alliance with National Acoustic Laboratories opens new pathways for sharing knowledge, which will enhance the delivery of cutting-edge, personalised hearing solutions and expand access to superior hearing care for people around the world.”

 

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Introduction of New Clinical Care Standard by ACSQHC to Address Psychotropic Medicine Use in Cognitive Disability and Impairment

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Introduction of New Clinical Care Standard by ACSQHC to Address Psychotropic Medicine Use in Cognitive Disability and Impairment

 

By Jeff Gibbs

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has today announced the launch of a pivotal new national standard aimed at enhancing the care for individuals with cognitive disabilities or impairments. The introduction of the Psychotropic Medicines in Cognitive Disability or Impairment Clinical Care Standard is a critical advancement in promoting safer and more effective treatment protocols across the healthcare spectrum.

Background and Rationale for the New Standard

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Recent decades have witnessed a 60% surge in the prescription of psychotropic medications across Australia. Despite a modest reduction in antipsychotic use among the elderly—prompted by heightened awareness of associated risks—the prescribing rates remain alarmingly high, particularly among vulnerable populations. Notably, older individuals and those residing in aged care facilities are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of these medications, including cognitive decline, heightened risk of falls, strokes, and mortality. Additionally, approximately one-third of individuals with intellectual disabilities are prescribed psychotropic drugs, exposing them to potentially severe short and long-term side effects.

Scope and Impact of the Standard

The new Standard seeks to mitigate the inappropriate utilisation of psychotropic medications and emphasises patient safety. It priorities non-pharmacological interventions as the foremost approach for managing challenging behaviours such as aggression and agitation. Psychotropic medications are advised as a last-resort measure, following the ineffectiveness of alternative strategies or in situations posing significant risk to the individual or others.

The Standard advocates for tailored non-medication strategies that respect the individual’s needs and preferences, developed in consultation with their family and other authorised caregivers. This approach underscores the commitment to upholding the dignity and autonomy of individuals with cognitive impairments.

Expert Insights and Support

Key health experts have endorsed the significance of this new Standard. Conjoint Associate Professor Carolyn Hullick, Chief Medical Officer at the Commission, stresses the necessity for mindful prescribing practices given the limited benefits and substantial risks associated with psychotropic medications in this demographic. Professor Julian Trollor from the University of New South Wales and Juanita Breen from the University of Tasmania also highlight the importance of objective-driven prescribing, continuous monitoring, and the potential to reduce medication dosages in favour of non-pharmacological alternatives.

Implementation Across Settings

The Standard is applicable universally across various healthcare settings, including hospitals, aged care facilities, and community services, ensuring that individuals with cognitive disabilities receive consistent and coordinated care irrespective of the setting.

Professor Eddy Strivens emphasises the need for coordinated efforts and effective communication, particularly during care transitions, to maintain continuity and efficacy of treatment plans and to support decision-making processes that honour patient autonomy.

Collaborative Efforts for Enhanced Care

In a collective endeavour to address these issues, the Commission has collaborated with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to issue a Joint Statement against the misuse of psychotropics in managing behaviours in disabled and elderly populations.

Conclusion

The introduction of the Psychotropic Medicines in Cognitive Disability or Impairment Clinical Care Standard marks a significant step forward in improving the quality of care and safety for Australians with cognitive disabilities or impairments. It aligns with ongoing efforts to reform health care, aged care, and disability support systems across the nation.

The complete Standard and accompanying resources are available on the Commission’s website here.

 

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Education

National Walk Safely to School Day Turns 25

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National Walk Safely to School Day Turns 25

 

As National Walk Safely to School Day approaches on Friday, 10 May 2024, primary school-aged children across Australia are encouraged to lace up their shoes for a walk towards a healthier future. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, this initiative, championed by the Pedestrian Council of Australia, highlights the myriad benefits of walking and other forms of active transportation, particularly to and from school.

This annual event not only emphasises physical health but also aims to improve road safety, reduce environmental impact, and promote the use of public transport to lessen car dependency near schools. Harold Scruby, Chairman and CEO of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, emphasises the importance of adult supervision for children under 10 when crossing the street, reinforcing the safety aspect of the campaign.

“Walk Safely to School Day is a great opportunity to teach our kids about the benefits of physical activity,” said Scruby. He also pointed to the worrying statistics of childhood obesity, which affects one in four children at critical levels across the nation, according to the latest ABS National Health Survey results from 2017-18. “The best form of physical activity for all Australians is walking regularly. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day,” he added.

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The day is not just about walking; it also encourages schools and parent groups to host healthy breakfast events to start the day nutritiously. This initiative supports the dual goals of fostering healthful eating habits and providing social interaction within the school community.

As the event marks a significant milestone, schools across Australia are gearing up to participate more actively than ever. Parents, teachers, and caregivers are encouraged to get involved, not only to support their children but also to take part in making walking a regular part of their daily routine.

This initiative plays a crucial role in mitigating traffic congestion around school areas, promoting environmental stewardship, and fostering a sense of community. Everyone in the community is invited to support the initiative, helping to instil healthy habits in children that can lead to lifelong benefits.

For more information on how to participate in National Walk Safely to School Day, visit the Pedestrian Council of Australia’s website or contact your local school to see what activities are planned for the day. Join the movement on 10 May and help make a difference in the lives of young Australians.

 

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