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Health News

Being connected to others is key to mental wellbeing

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Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand and Patrice O’Brien, Beyond Blue Chief Community Officer.
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Being connected to others is key to mental wellbeing

 

Zoetis

Zoetis and Beyond Blue support the mental health of Australia’s rural communities

Increasing interest rates, inflation, rising living costs and concerns about the future are among the primary causes of community concern for people living in regional Australia, according to a new survey by Beyond Blue. However, despite the importance of seeking help for mental health, many Australians are hesitant to do so, especially in rural areas where there is a stigma surrounding mental illness.

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Research shows that being connected to others is crucial for mental wellbeing and can serve as a protective factor against anxiety and depression. Zoetis, the leading animal health business, has partnered with Beyond Blue for seven years to support mental health initiatives and reduce stigma around mental illness in rural and regional Australia. During this time, Zoetis has raised $700,000 for the Beyond Blue Support Service by donating $5 from each sale of the company’s livestock, pig, and poultry vaccines and drenches. In 2023, Zoetis has set a goal to raise an additional $100,000 by the end of the year.

Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand, says, “Zoetis works closely with rural Australia through interactions with the country’s farming community, agricultural stores, veterinarians and their families. We are proud to once again be supporting Beyond Blue and the important work they do.”

“The farming community has endured many challenges over the years. Through economic insecurity, social isolation, loneliness, and insecure work, we’re seeing an increase in many of the factors that drive mental health challenges. Rural Australia and country people are stoic and display considerable courage, however, the impact on mental health has been significant for many.”

Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand and Patrice O’Brien, Beyond Blue Chief Community Officer.

Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand and Patrice O’Brien, Beyond Blue Chief Community Officer.

Patrice O’Brien, Beyond Blue Chief Community Officer, says, “Social connections are closely tied to our physical and mental wellbeing. Feeling connected with others can reduce stress and build resilience. Having someone to talk to and support you is important. People in rural Australia are known for their resilience in times of crisis, but even the most resilient need extra support at times. Timely diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of a mental health condition in rural areas are likely to occur later or not at all, often resulting in an increased probability of the most tragic of outcomes. We want everyone to know that support is available.”

The journey to better mental health can start with small actions. “It’s important to make looking after ourselves a priority. Maintaining social connections, keeping in touch with friends and family, and being part of a community provides a supportive network. Also, understanding which tools and strategies work well for you in tough times and reaching out for that extra support when you need it are really important,” says Ms O’Brien.

“You are not alone, and you don’t have to work things out by yourself,” says Ms O’Brien. “Seeking support at the first sign you’re not feeling quite yourself can make it easier to bounce back and maintain good mental health. Sometimes, just talking to someone can make a difference.”

People can support the Zoetis initiative between 15 July and 31 October 2023. For each sale of the company’s livestock, pig and poultry vaccines and drenches Zoetis, will donate $5, up to $100,000, to Beyond Blue. Mr Williams continues, “The money raised goes directly to the Beyond Blue Support Service to continue helping people living in remote areas. To date, thanks to Zoetis’s donation, over 14,000 people have been able to get the support they need through the service. Together we have made strong progress in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those who live in rural Australia, and we are passionate about helping again this year.”

For more information on how you can help Zoetis to raise vital funds to support mental health in rural communities through its partnership with Beyond Blue please visitwww.zoetis.com.au. For more information about depression and anxiety, visit www.beyondblue.org.au. The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free and immediate counselling, advice and referrals via phone, webchat or email. To talk to a mental health professional for free, contact the 24/7 Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 46 36. Free web chat is also available 24/7 at beyondblue.org.au/support-service/chat and you can join the Online forums for free.

 

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Health News

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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Health News

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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