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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

Flowers cover Sydney’s Martin Place, where two hostages were killed on Tuesday morning. AAP/Nikki Short

Public mourning: a brief history

The sea of flowers and messages of condolence in Sydney’s Martin Place is reminiscent of public mourning in the Victorian era. At that time, it was common for over a thousand people to attend a public…
Along with governments, doctors, and infectious disease experts, the media have a duty to help halt the spread of Ebola with responsible reporting. EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

A tale of two epidemics: media reporting on Ebola

Time magazine has named health workers caring for Ebola victims in West Africa as its “Person of the Year 2014” and compared them to “military special forces who volunteered to fight the epidemic when…
A$1.8 billion is no longer available to help populations in our neighbouring countries achieve a decent standard of health. Gates Foundation/Flickr

How cuts to foreign aid will reduce health care in the region

The federal government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook announcement this week to cut the foreign aid budget by a further A$3.7 billion over three years is unprecedented. The current government has…
It’s normal to feel distressed after a such an attack, but this generally reduces in the following days and weeks. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Social supports build resilience and reduce distress after trauma

People in Sydney and the broader community are feeling shocked, anxious, and sad about the actions of a lone, unstable person that led to the tragic loss of lives in the siege early this week. But there’s…
Physician assistants provide high-quality care and can help fill Australia’s rural doctor shortage. Dr.Farouk/Flickr

Good news for rural health: physician assistants join the workforce

At a ceremony in Townsville today, four people will graduate from James Cook University’s physician assistant program. They will be Australia’s first bachelor’s graduates in that field. This is an important…
We need to temper the desire to offer well-intentioned care to Sydney siege hostages by abiding to the guiding principle of not causing harm. AAP/Joel Carrett

Why not all Sydney siege hostages will need mental health help

As the country reels from the Sydney siege and its unhappy end, many will be wondering what can be done for the hostages stuck for hours with the gunman in the Lindt café. The answer may be surprisingly…
Psoriasis produces angry red scaly plaques on the elbows, knees and elsewhere. Mysi Ann/Flickr

Explainer: what is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease of the skin that affects around 2% of the Australian population. That’s enough people to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground each of the five days of Boxing day test…
State and territory regulators need to start gearing up to meet the growth. Jaren Jai Wicklund/Shutterstock

Four lessons the NDIS must heed to avoid a ‘pink batts’ disaster

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is revolutionising the provision of services to Australians with disabilities. The cornerstone of the scheme is its demand-side reforms: people with disabilities…
Avoiding undercooked chicken meat or liver will help prevent infection. Alexa Clark/Flickr

Health check: how to avoid getting ill from chicken

Chicken meat is an extremely popular and affordable source of animal protein, and each Australian now consumes approximately 43 kilograms of it every year. But chicken is also uniquely prone to making…
It is more fable than fact that a woman’s virginity can be determined by observing her hymen. The organ looks like the petals of flowers with clefts and notches. Shutterstock/kubais

Women suffer the myths of the hymen and the virginity test

The Indonesian public lambasted the Indonesian police after Human Rights Watch released a report that police conducted “virginity tests” on female applicants in the police recruitment process. Many pointed…
Good teeth often correlates with good health. But one in five over-65s have lost all their teeth. m01229/Flickr

How to fill the gaps in Australia’s dental health system

An Aussie smile is an instant indicator of socioeconomic status, employability and self-esteem. It’s also a predictor of physical health. So it’s shocking that Australians’ dental health has not improved…
There is no evidence that the health benefits of milk are compromised by pasteurisation. jacqueline/Flickr

Explainer: what is raw milk and why is it harmful?

Milk is a highly nutritious food, and an important source of amino acids and minerals such as phosphorus and calcium, which contributes to bone health. Historically, milk was prone to contamination by…
Consuming bath milk is particularly risky because it may contain the deadly STEC E.Coli bug. Olga Prokopova/Shutterstock

Bath milk crisis must prompt better cosmetic safety regulation

The death this week of a Victorian toddler after allegedly drinking “bath milk” is a reminder of how dangerous some natural cosmetics can be. The product – Mountain View Organic Dairy’s Organic Bath Milk…
The big losers will be ordinary patients. Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

GP co-payment 2.0: a triple whammy for patients

In the May budget, the Commonwealth government proposed a A$7 co-payment for GP services and tests done outside a hospital. After seven months of fierce criticism, the government abandoned those plans…
The government has changed its proposed $7 GP co-payment to $5 but the flaws underlying the policy remain. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Six things you should know about the co-payment scheme

The Federal government’s attempt to impose a $5 co-payment on GP services by regulation raises the same issues as its previous failed attempt to impose a $7 co-payment through legislation. The consequences…
If you don’t have a concession card and are usually bulk billed, you may face a A$5 co-payment, or more. Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

Medicare co-payment: what the changes mean for you

The Abbott government has scrapped its controversial A$7 co-payment plan and replaced it with a A$5 cut to GP rebates for patients over 16 without a concession card, and other rebate changes. The revised…
Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton announce changes to the government’s GP co- payment policy. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Back to the future with Coalition attacks on Medicare bulk billing

In the government’s latest “scraping away the barnacles” of unpopular and blocked policies, prime minister Tony Abbott and health minister Peter Dutton have announced they’re abandoning the plan to have…
We’re yet to find an alternative way to better detect breast cancer in women with dense breasts. CristinaMuraca/Shutterstock

How does breast density impact on cancer screening?

We’ve known for some time that women with dense breasts are at higher risk of breast cancers that are difficult to detect by mammography. To address this problem, 19 US states have introduced laws requiring…
Babies can learn to self settle through controlled crying. Yoshihide Nomura/Flickr

Controlled crying is helpful, not harmful

Every evening, parents across Australia hope their babies will sleep through the night. Many won’t. That’s where controlled comforting, or controlled crying might help. Contrary to some claims, this is…
For many men, the down sides of PSA testing outweigh the benefits. Gerald Streiter/Flickr

Four reasons I won’t have a prostate cancer blood test

Cancer Council Australia and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia yesterday released new draft guidelines to help GPs counsel men who ask about prostate cancer tests. They advise GPs to explain…
If you’re at high risk of skin cancer, check your skin regularly. Roman Königshofer/Flickr

Spot the difference: harmless mole or potential skin cancer?

The earlier you find a cancerous mole, the easier the treatment and the better the outcomes. But it’s not easy distinguishing between harmless, benign moles and those that warrant further attention. In…