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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

Having health-care workers use personal protective equipment significantly reduces the risk of onward transmission. AHMED JALLANZO/EPA

Quarantine works against Ebola but over-use risks disaster

A man in the United States has become the first known international traveller to be infected in the West Africa Ebola epidemic and carry the virus abroad. He is thought to have been infected in Liberia…
Almost a quarter of Australians believe domestic violence can be excused if the attacker can’t control their anger. Halfpoint/Shutterstock

Why don’t we speak up when we see signs of domestic violence?

Have you cringed when a friend was degraded by her partner in public? Or felt uncomfortable because your friend’s partner continually rings to check her whereabouts? Is your friend’s partner intimidating…
We know that bigger portions lead us to eat more but portions that appear bigger have a reverse effect. Stephen Holden

Use your illusion: how to trick yourself and others into eating less

Science has a simple and incredible trick that will help you lose weight. The idea, it seems, is to make portions appear bigger because this leads people to serve and eat less. While many such fat-fighting…
The innate immune response causes the common signs of inflammation including swelling, pain, heat, redness and loss of function. Brandon Daniel/Flickr

Explainer: how does the immune system work?

The immune system is critical for protecting against illness-causing organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, which are collectively known as pathogens. Without it, we would quickly become infected…
Believing sex to be important is the strongest predictor of embodied sexual desire in older women. Candida.Performa/Flickr

Getting on and getting it on: good sex isn’t just for the young

Research tells us that women’s sexual functioning declines after midlife, manifested by reductions in arousal and orgasm, and increases in sexual pain. This is linked to reports of reduced sexual activity…
Blood pressure refers to how hard the blood is pushing against the wall of arteries. Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

Health Check: what do my blood pressure numbers mean?

If you’re an adult and have ever visited a doctor, you’ve probably had your blood pressure measured. General practitioners tend to obsess over blood pressure. But with good reason: hypertension, or persistently…
The majority of Australians want to die at home but just 14% are able to do so. Rustle/Shutterstock

A good death: Australians need support to die at home

The baby boomers are growing old and in the next 25 years the number of Australians who die each year will double. People want to die comfortably at home, supported by family and friends and effective…
Reducing Australians' salt intake by 30% could save 7,000 lives a year. Joe Gough/Shutterstock

Salt overload – it’s time to get tough on the food industry

While other nations have successfully reduced their sodium intake, Australians are still eating too much salt. And we’re paying the price with our health; a high-salt diet can lead to high blood pressure…
West African health-care workers are overworked and under-equipped to deal with the outbreak. European Commission DG ECHO/Flickr

How Ebola started, spread and spiralled out of control

Too slow. Too little, too late. Unprecedented. Out of control. These are just some of the descriptors for the biggest recorded epidemic of human infection by an ebolavirus. The question by some is how…
Even though they were designed for athletes, sports drinks are now usually consumed by people who are neither exercising nor athletes. Rowan Gillette- Fussell/Flickr

Sports drinks help athletic performance and nothing else

A proposal to allow sports drinks manufacturers to feature health claims has led to something of a spat between the drinks industry and a health lobby group. The heart of the matter is whether “sport drinks…
The home-baked illicit drug krokodil first emerged in provincial Russia during the early 2000s. Dorin Popa/Flickr

The rise and fall of Russia’s ‘flesh-eating drug’ krokodil

Reports of a “flesh-eating zombie drug” called krokodil, accompanied by lurid images first appeared in English during 2010. The drug serves as an excellent illustration of the havoc bad drug policies can…
Having a risk factor doesn’t mean a woman will develop breast cancer. Dick Vos/Flickr

What causes breast cancer? Sorting fact from fiction

Breast cancer accounts for one in four female cancers diagnosed in Australia each year. It is estimated that by the age of 85, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and one in 39 will…
Spectators can attribute the positive qualities of the sport they’re watching to the supplements and sports drinks being promoted. vijay chennupati/Flickr

Sport sponsorship lends halo to supplements and sports drinks

Sporting bodies shouldn’t unconditionally accept sponsorship from nutritional supplements and sports drinks companies because a link with sports lends undue credibility to these unproven products. In an…
Foreign minister Julie Bishop (right) says Australians travelling to West Africa must ensure their employers can evacuate them if they become ill as the government will not. Alan Porritt/AAP

Gung-ho on terror, Australia is missing in action against Ebola

Well over 5,300 people have been infected and over 2,600 have died in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But these numbers are thought to be gross underestimates as even the most conservative projections…
As with most matters health, how sex and cancer risk are linked is complicated and dependent on several factors. Lucas Frasca/Flickr

Health check: can sex affect your risk of getting cancer?

The sex act has many health benefits from reducing stress and tension, to boosting your immune system. It may even affect your risk of developing certain cancers. But as with most matters health, how sex…
Essendon faces the prospect of not being able to field a team next year. AAP Image/Julian Smith

ASADA v Essendon: next steps for the winners and losers

Federal Court Justice John Middleton’s decision to uphold the legality of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) investigation into the potential use of banned substances at the Essendon Football…
Australia tops the world for physical activity-friendly built environments but ranks second last for levels of children’s activity. drpavlof/Flickr

Australia vying to be world champion of inactivity

If we could go back 100 years in a time machine, what would kids be like? They’d be shorter, leaner, probably dirtier and less well-fed — but would they be fitter? It turns out we actually have a beautiful…
Inuit women carrying their kids in traditional hooded parkas. Indigenous midwifery programs have expanded across Canada and are linked to excellent health outcomes. Spencer/Flickr

Birthing on Country could deliver healthier babies and communities

Tony Abbott spent most of this week in North East Arnhem Land, part of his long-held hope “to be not just the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs”. In the final of our Abbott in…
There’s no proof blood pressure-lowering drugs prevent heart attacks in people with mild hypertension – but they could. The Clear Communication.../Flickr

Mild high blood pressure: are we treating too many people?

An article in this week’s issue of the British Medical Journal calls into question a common practice: treatment of mild high blood pressure. The authors argue that lowering the drug threshold for high…
Research suggests the chemicals in chokeberry have a synergistic effect with a cancer drug. Katja Schulz/Flickr

Nutraceuticals are often big on promise but fail to deliver

Extracts from a berry can improve the effectiveness of a chemotherapy drug, according to research published today in the Journal of Clinical Pathology. But it’s best to view this finding with caution because…
Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie is willing to take a DNA test to prove her Indigenous heritage – but would that do any good? AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Explainer: Can a DNA test reveal if you’re an Indigenous Australian?

Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie recently created controversy by claiming in her first speech to Parliament that going back six generations, she is related to the renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal…
Testosterone is important for the physical changes that happen during male puberty, and features typical of adult men, such as facial and body hair. Dave 77459/Flickr

Here’s what you need to know about testosterone

Testosterone is blamed for violence in males, implicated in sport scandals, linked to sexual prowess, desired by gym devotees, and promoted as a tonic for ageing. But how many of us really understand what…