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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

Chemical castration isn’t the answer to keeping children safe from sexual offenders. l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock

Treatment or punishment? Chemical castration of child sex offenders

The use of “chemical castration” has been seen by many as an answer to the public fear of paedophiles, reignited by the recent trial of Brett Cowan for the murder of Daniel Morcombe. The idea is that giving…
Was McKinnon’s spinal injury a freak accident? AAP Image/Action Photographics, Brett Crockford

Is rugby league too dangerous?

After Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon’s neck was broken in a lifting tackle in March, some commentators and parents have questioned whether rugby is just too dangerous for children, amateurs – and even…
Adults usually get around three colds per year. Sergio Alvarez

Health Check: when is ‘the flu’ really a cold?

Most people who think they have the flu, don’t. And some people who think they have a cold, really have the flu. So what is the difference between a cold and the flu? And does it matter? A cold is a mild…
Paternity doubts are a source of gossip and emotional trauma – with a man, woman and child caught in between. SBS (resized)

Who’s your Daddy? seeks answers in all the wrong places

How often is a person’s biological father someone other than the man they call dad? Paternity doubts are a source of gossip, on the one hand, and emotional trauma, on the other. But our assumptions about…
Homeopathic medicines are not drugs and homeopathy involves much more than the use of a particular therapy. Oonagh Taeger/Flickr

Does the weight of evidence signal the end of homeopathy?

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recently completed a review of the evidence for homeopathy’s effectiveness and, after analysing systematic reviews of clinical trials, concluded…
The university was worried the student would not practice medicine safely even if she completed her degree. Jack Hynes/ Flickr

A fine balance: disability, discrimination and public safety

A recent discrimination case has highlighted the difficulty of balancing the rights of disabled medical students with the rights of the community to safe medical and health care. In the BKY v The University…
Australia already has a category of nurse specialists who can prescribe some medicines – nurse practitioners. Burlingham/Shutterstock

Leave prescribing to doctors and nurse practitioners

We started the week with a new proposal by the Grattan Institute to shake up the hospital workforce and allow nurses to take on more roles traditionally performed by doctors. But should registered nurses…
Measures to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence will take time to really have an effect. ABC TV

Dead Drunk: alcohol, violence and a night in Kings Cross

Two months after the death of 18-year-old Sydney man Daniel Christie, who was punched to the ground on New Year’s Eve, New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell introduced a set of measures aimed at improving…
Vitamin jubes contain quite small doses of vitamins and up to 50% sugar. Ethan Hurd/Flickr

Vitamin supplements for kids: what are we really treating?

Australian parents spend $40 million each year on vitamin supplements for their children. It’s a big number; much smaller is the number of children who actually need them. In 2009, a large American research…
Increasing portion size makes an offering more attractive, but when everyone does this in order to be competitive, all available offerings become large. Penn State/Flickr

Health check: do bigger portion sizes make you eat more?

Faced with a portion of food twice as big as what you normally consume will lead you to eat about a third more food than usual. This portion-size effect helps explain how growing serving sizes may be contributing…
With the right training and supervision, assistants could safely take on 15% of nurses' workloads. John Keith/Shutterstock

Hospital workforce reform: better jobs and more care

Employees are the public hospital system’s most valuable resource, and its biggest cost. Wages account for nearly 70% of recurrent hospital spending. To keep hospital care affordable in a time of rising…
The Secrets of the Hand premieres on SBS at 8:30pm Sunday April 13. SBS

The future in your palm: science and The Secrets of the Hand

For thousands of years, people believed their future could be read in the lines etched into the palm of their hands. The ancient art of palmistry, originating in India, claimed a close examination of the…
We need to look past the colours, pictures and cleverly crafted claims. Art Allianz/Shutterstock

Fat free and 100% natural: seven food labelling tricks exposed

If you’re confused by food labels, you’re not alone. But don’t hold your breath for an at-a-glance food labelling system that tells you how much salt, fat and sugar each product contains. Australia’s proposed…
It’s easy to make the game safer without significantly altering the collision aspect that makes rugby so attractive. AAP Image/David Crosling

Brute force: reducing the impact of rugby collisions

The legendary American Football coach Vince Lombardi once said “Football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport – dancing is a contact sport”. This is equally applicable to the various codes of…
A small proportion of overweight and obese people are metabolically healthy but that doesn’t mean we should become complacent about aiming for a healthy weight. Isaac Brown/Stocky Bodies

Fat and fit? There’s no such thing for most people

The idea that people can be healthy at any weight has gained credence in recent years, despite widespread evidence that obesity creates health risks. While the idea is attractive, it’s also dangerous because…
Psychotropic drugs are often used to control the behaviour of people with dementia in aged care. Harry/Flickr

Antipsychotic drugs harm older people, let’s reduce their use

Psychotropic drugs are being over-used in Australian aged-care facilities to chemically restrain residents, according to both researchers and several government reports. But despite all this attention…
A National Health and Medical Research Council review has found ‘there is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating health conditions.’ Amanda Wilson/Flickr

No evidence homeopathy is effective: NHMRC review

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released its long-awaited review of homeopathy, as well as a tip sheet for doctors to talk to their patient about complementary medicines in…
There is no publicly available, solid evidence to show that such outsourcing generates savings for governments. But it could. Alexander Tihonov/Shutterstock

Does contracting public care to private hospitals save money?

In the lead-up to the budget on May 13, the Tony Abbott government is looking for ways to make the health dollar go further. In 2011-12 the federal government spent A$14.4 billion on public and private…
Many adults missed out on vaccines that are routinely given to children today. Shutterstock

Health Check: when do adults need to be immunised?

Most of us will receive the majority of our vaccinations in childhood. But Australian adults still die and become disabled from vaccine-preventable diseases. Immunisations are therefore an important preventive…
Many people struggle to balance the facts that too much sun exposure results in skin cancer and too little causes vitamin D deficiency. August Allen/Flickr

Should you be worried about getting enough vitamin D?

With daylight saving ending yesterday across most of the country and winter approaching, Australians are moving from fears of too much sun exposure resulting in skin cancer to too little sun exposure and…