Connect with us
The Northern Rivers Times | NSW Northern Rivers News
NSW Northern Rivers Makets
The Northern Rivers Times | NSW Northern Rivers News
NSW Northern Rivers Makets
previous arrow
next arrow

Health News

Voice-assisted tech giving voice to people living with Parkinson’s disease

Published

on

Voice-assisted tech giving voice to people living with Parkinson's disease

Voice-assisted tech giving voice to people living with Parkinson’s disease

Monash University research has found voice-assisted technologies are able to support people with speech difficulties, such as Parkinson’s disease, and could enhance early speech and language therapies.

In 2018, over 1.35 million Australian households owned a smart speaker like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. While these technologies are primarily being used for general household tasks like streaming music, checking the weather forecast and setting alarms or reminders, new research has identified how these voice-assisted technologies can have additional uses for people with speech impairment.

A collaboration project by researchers at Monash University and Ulster University, this study is the first of its kind to explore the experiences of using voice-assisted technologies by people with speech impairment.

Of the 290 participants from the UK living with Parkinson’s disease who took part in the online survey, the key findings were:

    • 90% owned a voice-assisted device
    • 71% used it regularly
    • 31% used the technology specifically to address the needs associated with their Parkinson’s disease
    • Of these users, 55% sometimes, rarely, or never had to repeat themselves when using the technology and when asked about speech changes since they started using it, 25% of participants noticed having to repeat themselves less and 15% perceived their speech to be clearer

There are over six million people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease worldwide and it’s currently the fastest growing neurological disease. Difficulties with speech occur in 90% of people with Parkinson’s disease, warranting a need for alternative methods of communication support.

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Centred Computing in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, Dr Roisin McNaney, says the study demonstrates how these devices can help support future speech and language therapy outcomes.

“Early speech and language therapy intervention is important in addressing communication
issues related to Parkinson’s disease, however, only 59% of people living with Parkinson’s disease in Australia have regular contact with a therapist,” she said.

“The limited access to clinical services and speech therapies is a major concern and one that we hope to address through this research.

“By presenting our initial findings of how voice-assisted technologies can support speech and language therapy outcomes for people with Parkinson’s disease, we hope that we can encourage the future use of voice-assisted technologies by speech and language therapists in clinical settings to support patients.”

Low volume and reduced clarity are major symptoms of voice impairment in Parkinson’s disease and are routinely targeted in speech therapy. We had comments from participants during this study which directly indicated positive speaking behaviours from using the technology, such as “speaking slowly and clearly” and “talking louder” in order to ensure they are understood by the device. When asked what they would do if Alexa did not understand them, one participant simply said, “I’ll try again, a bit louder, until she understands me’.”

Dr Orla Duffy, Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy at Ulster University, says voice-assisted technologies can offer long term benefits to people living with Parkinson’s disease.

“Voice-assisted technology has been embraced by many people and households, from both a general day-to-day perspective but also now, as we have seen from the research, in the form of assisting people with speech difficulties. Voice-assisted technologies now have the capability to support future therapies and act as useful tools for speech and language therapists, with the added benefit of already being present in the patient’s home,” said Dr Duffy.

While further research is needed to trial out-of-the-box voice-assisted technologies for speech and communication difficulties in people with Parkinson’s disease, the researchers hope that this study and its findings are a step in the right direction.

To find out more information about this project, please visit: https://rehab.jmir.org/2021/1/e23006

Continue Reading

Health News

Aussie-invented NeedleCalmTM wins International Good Design Award

Published

on

By

Aussie-invented NeedleCalmTM
Aussie-invented NeedleCalmTM

Aussie-invented NeedleCalmTM wins International Good Design Award

Australia’s world-leading medical invention helping reduce pain and fear around needle procedures, including the Covid19 vaccine, NeedleCalmTM, was announced today as a winner of Australia’s peak international design awards during the 2021 Good Design Awards Week.
NeedleCalmTM’s ‘Needle Desensitising Device’ received a prestigious Good Design Award Winner Accolade in the Product Design category in recognition for outstanding design and innovation.
The Good Design Awards are the highest honour for design and innovation in the country and reward projects across 12 design disciplines and 30 subcategories.
The Good Design Awards Jury commented: “Given about 1 in 10 people are afraid of needles, this is a positive approach to overcoming a common problem. The discreet aesthetics of the device and its similarity to a sticky plaster may assist in uptake and the technique of activating alternate pain receptor pathways is clever too.”
Melbourne-headquartered NeedleCalmTM earlier this year launched their breakthrough Australian medical device assisting with the reduction of needle-associated pain with injection, immunisation, venepuncture and catheterisation procedures often associated with vaccinations, blood donations and tests, and cancer treatment.
This includes helping treat Trypanophobia – the fear of needles – as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders[i] in the Blood Injury and Injections (BII) category.
Lauren Barber, CEO and Founder of NeedleCalmTM, said receiving such a prestigious award showed Australian medical technology could cut it with the rest of the world in terms of innovation, ingenuity, and quality.
“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to help Australia close the gate on Covid19, particularly with the prospect of helping vaccinating children in safer, faster and less stressful way for kids, parents and medical practioners alike,” Ms Barber said.
“However, Covid19 is just one minor part of the potential to improve healthcare take up and efficiency long-term, with NeedleCalmTM able to be used in an estimated 60% – or 76 million – needle procedures in Australia each year.
“Awards like Good Design Australia are essential because they help increase medical and public confidence in not only our product, but also the quality of the growing revolution of Australian-made and invented medical devices.”
Dr. Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia said: “Receiving an Australian Good Design Award is testament to embedding design excellence at the heart of a product, service, place or experience. Although 2021 continues to be another challenging year, it is incredibly inspiring to see designers and businesses working together to find innovative, customer-centric design solutions to local and global challenges and to see them recognised and rewarded for their efforts through these prestigious Awards.”
“The importance of embracing good design principles is now more important than ever as many businesses around the world have had to completely re-think their business strategies to remain competitive. The standard of design excellence represented in this year’s Awards is the best I’ve ever seen in my 25 years of running these Awards, an encouraging sign that the design sector is flourishing,” Dr. Gien went on to say.
NeedleCalmTM is a Class 1 medical device approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and was developed in part with support from the NSW Government’s Minimum Viable Product Grant program and Federal Government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative (MTPConnect)[ii].
NeedleCalmTM is Australian-owned and manufactured and can be used in over 60 per cent of Australia’s approximately 128 million needle procedures carried out annually. It can be used at various injection sites across the body, including, but not limited to, arms, abdomens, buttocks and thighs.
For interviews with NeedleCalmTM Founder Lauren Barber or other enquiries, please contact: Troy Bilsborough (Provocate): 0427 063 150, +61 7 3058 0033 or troy.bilsborough@provocate.com.au

Continue Reading

Health News

COVID-19 vaccinations essential to protect people living with dementia

Published

on

By

COVID-19 vaccinations essential to protect people living with dementia

COVID-19 vaccinations essential to protect people living with dementia

Dementia Australia supports mandatory vaccinations across the aged care sector and urges people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, and their loved ones, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment are more vulnerable to contracting severe COVID-19 and once infected, have a high risk of disease-related morbidity and mortality.

“We know that during this pandemic people living with dementia are some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Ms McCabe said.

Dementia Australia Honorary Medical Advisor Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM said recent research on the impact of the pandemic shows that people living with dementia, especially those in residential aged care, are at risk of worsening dementia and psychiatric symptoms, and severe behavioural disturbances because of lockdown measures and social isolation.

“We need high levels of vaccination across the sector and in the community to protect people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, their families and carers,” Assoc Prof Woodward said.
“Mandatory vaccination of the aged care workforce will reassure people impacted by dementia and their families that they are supported by people who are vaccinated and significantly less likely to spread the virus.”

“Residential aged care workers are leading Australia’s overall vaccination rates, and these numbers continue to grow. We acknowledge our aged care workers for leading the community in being vaccinated.”
Dementia Advocate Bobby Redman, who is living with dementia, said, “Home-care workers often visit the homes of many different clients each week.

“I feel much safer knowing that, as a condition of employment, my carers are now vaccinated and keeping us safe.”

People living with dementia, their families and carers have told Dementia Australia that despite the high levels of vaccination of staff and residents, some residential aged care homes have still not been able to offer appropriate alternatives to essential visits and this has resulted in poor physical and psychological outcomes for residents with dementia.

“During this time, the aged care sector is under increasing stress. For those impacted by dementia, there will be an added layer of anxiety,” Ms McCabe said.

“A focus on promoting social engagement to restore mental health and wellbeing as we move beyond lockdown solutions is in everybody’s best interests.

“Dementia Australia is here to support the 472,000 Australians living with dementia and the 1.6 million people involved in their care. Please get in touch with our National Dementia Helpline as questions and concerns arise, on 1800 100 500 or visit dementia.org.au for webchat, resources and information in other languages.”

Continue Reading

Health News

Suicide prevention approach to be updated in light of COVID-19 and bushfire impacts

Published

on

By

Federal Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payments

Suicide prevention approach to be updated in light of COVID-19 and bushfire impacts

The Mental Health Commission of NSW will lead an update of the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW 2018-2023 in the wake of a series of destructive natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic during the past two years.

Australian Bureau of Statistics annual figures released today show that 876 people died due to suicide in NSW during 2020, at a rate of 10.5 suicides per 100,000 people. While this is a decrease from 937 suicide deaths at a rate of 11.4 per 100,000 in 2019, it is far too high and underscores the continued need for prevention to be a top priority.

NSW provides its own monthly reporting of suicides across the state through the Suicide Monitoring and Reporting System which provides estimates on suspected and confirmed numbers, using data collected from NSW Police and the State Coroner. This provides regular and timely information and records that in 2020 there were 896 people reported as suspected suicide deaths in NSW. This number varies slightly from the ABS report, which counts the number of people whose suicides have been confirmed or are being finalised through the coronial process. Taken together, they confirm that continued effort and focus is needed in the ongoing priority to reduce suicide in the community.

NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey said while it is too early to gauge the impact of the COVID pandemic or natural disasters based on the 2020 data released, there are a number of emerging trends creating concern.

“While we do not yet have clear data on the impact of natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates, we are seeing increased demand for suicide prevention support services, increased mental health presentations in emergency departments, and greater use of mental health services booked through Medicare.

“Families, friends and communities across NSW are devastated by the impact of suicide, with an estimated 17 lives lost each week. These are not just statistics, each number is a person with their own story leaving bereaved loved ones behind. Tragically, suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15–44 years,” Ms Lourey said.

“In updating the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW the lived experience of people who have lived with suicidal thoughts or through a suicidal crisis, those bereaved by suicide and people caring for those who live with suicidal thoughts will be critical to our review. Together with other stakeholders and experts, we will be able to look behind the data to understand what’s really happening in our communities, what people’s own experience sheds light on and what types of interventions and support are most effective.”

The Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW 2018-2023 launched in 2018 was followed by the Premier’s Priority Towards Zero Suicides Initiative which aims to reduce the suicide rate by 20 per cent from 2018 to 2023. This Initiative has provided $87 million to leading practice crisis care and support, building local community resilience and improving systems and practices to reduce the suicide rate in NSW. Additional funding has been provided in response to increased demand, including $8 million for programs in regional NSW.

The updated Framework will provide a set of key directions for a five year, whole of Government strategy to reduce the rate of suicide, draw upon best evidence and contemporary service approaches, build upon the work achieved under the Towards Zero Suicides initiative, and embed community responses and the voice of lived experience of suicide, suicidality, bereavement and caring.

Ms Lourey said consultation will begin shortly with people with lived experience, the community, the NSW Ministry of Health, lead Government agencies, the community managed sector and expert organisations.

Today’s ABS figures show suicide remains the leading cause of death among people aged 15-24, 25-34 and 35-44 years in NSW. The suicide rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at 21.6 is twice that of non-indigenous people which is 9.8. The suicide rate in rural and regional NSW is 15.4, which is twice that of Greater Sydney at 8.1. Involving these communities in the update of the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention will also be essential.

NOTE: The ABS counts suicides that have been confirmed or are being finalised through the coronial process while the NSW Suicide Monitoring and Data Management System provides estimates on suspected and confirmed suicides in NSW, using data collected from NSW Police and the State Coroner. See the latest NSW Suicide Monitoring System data at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/resources/Publications/sums-report-jun-2021.pdf

Continue Reading

Latest News

Subscribe for our newsletter!

error: Alert: Content is protected !!