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Health News

Numbers don’t lie: increased investment in rural health care urgently needed

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Rural and remote health doctors joining hands after increased investment in rural health care is urgently needed.
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Numbers don’t lie: increased investment in rural health care urgently needed

 

National Rural Health Alliance

New data released today shows a strong correlation between reduced access to primary healthcare in rural Australia and high rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations, as well as highlighting the need for increased investment in rural health care.

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) is concerned about new rural and remote health data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) which shows potentially avoidable deaths and hospitalisations were two to three times higher in remote and very remote areas compared with major cities. In addition, the number of non-hospital, non-referred attendances per person were lowest in remote and very remote communities.

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“The Alliance urgently calls for increased investment in rural health care, given the appalling health spending deficit in rural Australia which has compounded the health problems faced by our rural communities,” said the Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen.

“We know the biggest deficits are in accessing primary health care as well as other MBS expenditure and private hospitals from a research report the Alliance released in June 2023, ‘Evidence base for additional investment in rural health in Australia’ compiled by Nous Group. The deficit in accessing primary health care then leads to increased hospital expenditure.

“The Nous report quantified the rural health deficit at $6.55 billion annually. That equates to approximately $850 per person per annum in the context of a population of more than 7 million people living in rural Australia.

Rural and remote health doctors joining hands after increased investment in rural health care is urgently needed.

the Alliance is concerned about new rural and remote health data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

“There is clear evidence that per-person spending on healthcare is not equitable, and that this inequity is contributing to poorer health outcomes experienced in rural areas,” said Ms Tegen.

The numbers released today by AIHW confirm that rural areas also continue to have low levels of health workforce and higher rates of burden of disease and preventable death.

The total burden has risen to 200 and 204 disability-adjusted life years (DALY) per 1,000 population for inner and outer regional areas, respectively, and 244 DALY per 1,000 population in remote and very remote areas.

“The Alliance is working with Federal, state and local governments, as well as communities to ensure that we develop solutions which are fit for purpose and sustainable. However, these require innovative thinking, equity and funding flexibility, because a city plan, often does not fit, nor work in rural Australia.

“Current funding models and service delivery arrangements create significant barriers to workforce recruitment and retention, further exacerbating the funding shortfall. Providing rural people equitable services is crucial. The need for greater and more strategic investment in the health of rural Australians is urgently felt and must be addressed. We have a social and economic contract to do so,” concluded Ms Tegen.

 

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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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