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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

A still from the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s award-winning Be Deadly Online campaign. ACMAcybersmart/YouTube

Well-connected Indigenous kids keen to tap new ways to save lives

Tony Abbott is spending 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”. We asked our experts: what stories…
As many as 326,000 Australians may be unnecessarily avoiding gluten. Martin/Flickr

Health Check: should I choose a gluten-free diet?

Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, rye and barley. For people with the autoimmune condition coeliac disease, eating foods that contain gluten can damage the lining of the intestines. Over time…
People overdose from illicit substances, such as heroin, or prescription medications, such as valium or opioid painkillers. Thomas Marthinsen/Flickr

Three things you need to know about drug overdoses

In 2012, 103,000 people around the world lost their lives to drug poisoning or overdose. As terrible as this waste of life seems, it’s important to remember that drug overdoses are not inevitably fatal…
Some parents still use physical punishment to control or change their child’s annoying or unacceptable behaviours. Melle V/Shutterstock

Yes, physically disciplining kids is an act of violence

Children endure many forms of violence, from slapping and pushing, to fatal assaults; almost one in five of the world’s homicide victims in 2012 were under 20. The recently released UNICEF report on violence…
Most adults need seven to nine hours sleep to function at their best. Jiuck/Flickr

Explainer: how much sleep do we need?

The amount of sleep adults need has once again come under the spotlight, with a recent Wall Street Journal article suggesting seven hours sleep is better than eight hours and the American Academy of Sleep…
Fears surrounding the spraying of disinfectant and quarantine measures have led to protests and riots in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. AHMED JALLANZO/EPA

Don’t panic about Ebola’s spread, here’s what we can do instead

News that a 25-year-old Gold Coast man is being quarantined in hospital after returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo two days ago is no reason to panic. If anything, the incident highlights the…
Big Food in Australia is not the same as the industry in the United States, where much of the popular media has come from. Steven Caddy/Flickr

Big Food with a regional flavour: how Australia’s food lobby works

Criticism of the food industry has itself become a niche industry. But the tendency to embrace a US-centric conception of how the industry works risks masking local variants and inhibiting a targeted response…
When digital device users connect to cloud storage or developers’ data archives, they lose control of their data. LZF/Shutterstock

Wearer be warned: your fitness data may be sold or used against you

People interested in tracking their health, physical activity levels and body functions can now choose from a plethora of sensor-embedded digital gadgets to monitor and measure their bodies. But the big…
Most of the world continues with a criminal justice approach to drug use despite ample evidence of its harmfulness. Jason Verwey/Flickr

What works best in the war on drugs

In 1967, the Beatles took out a full-page advertisement in The Times describing Britain’s marijuana laws as “immoral in principle and unworkable in practice”. Almost half a century later, both past and…
Polio is still not adequately controlled in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Wen-Yan King/Flickr

Explainer: ridding the world of polio

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a viral disease that can lead to incurable paralysis. The World Health Organisation is coordinating a programme to eradicate this disease from the face of the earth, and we are…
Ideally lollies, biscuits, sugar-sweetened drinks, potato crisps and processed meats will never appear in your shopping trolley. Matt/Flickr

Health Check: five foods to always avoid at the supermarket

Want to stack the nutrition odds in your favour? The key is good food so here are five things to never let into your shopping trolley: lollies, biscuits, sugar-sweetened drinks, potato crisps and processed…
A gene patent means only the patent-holder has the right to undertake research and development involving that gene. Shutterstock

Four things you should know about gene patents

The Federal Court’s decision that gene patenting is permitted in Australia will have ramifications for all gene patents, even though the case involved only one gene associated with breast cancer. A gene…
Justice and forgiveness can co-exist so that one may encourage the other. Steve Calcott/Flickr

Eye for an eye? Why punishing the wrongdoer helps us forgive

One of the inevitable things in life is that someone will do or say something to upset and hurt us. While forgiveness is a good way to overcome such hurts, we also don’t want people to get away with what…
Australia’s health system is good, but it’s not perfect. Dan Peled/AAP

What can we learn from other countries’ health systems?

Health systems in all wealthier countries face similar problems, but their solutions are widely different. That should mean we can learn from other countries. To explore these differences, this week The…
The Dutch like their health system, even though they contribute to it from their own pockets. Bohbeh/Shuttersock

Creating a better health system: lessons from the Netherlands

Australia has a relatively strong health system by international standards, but it needs a makeover. To generate fresh ideas, The Conversation is profiling five international health systems that have important…
Hamid Kehazaei’s death shows asylum seekers Australia detains are excluded from the ethical principles on which medicine and our health system are based. Refugee Action Coalition

Asylum seeker’s ‘brain death’ shows failure of care and of democracy

The news that Hamid Kehazaei, a 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker detained on Manus Island, has been diagnosed as brain dead following his transfer to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane is a tragedy. That…
In the UK, surgeries are awarded points and additional funding for keeping patients healthy. emanueletudisco photography/Flickr

Creating a better health system: lessons from England

Australia has a relatively strong health system by international standards, but it needs a makeover. To generate fresh ideas, The Conversation is profiling five international health systems that have important…
Brains exist in a dynamic bidirectional interplay with our bodies, and this has major implications for the health of both. Petri Damstén/Flickr

Mind over matter: cynics, it seems, triple their risk of dementia

I don’t want to sound too cynical, but recent research findings in dementia seem hard to believe. A study of over 1,000 people has found people who scored higher on a measure of cynicism during late life…
Australia is just ahead on life expectancy; Singapore is ahead on infant mortality. stockphoto mania/Shutterstock

Creating a better health system: lessons from Singapore

Australia has a relatively strong health system by international standards, but it needs a makeover. To generate fresh ideas, The Conversation is profiling five international health systems that have important…
Steroid use is growing in Australia but not among the usual suspects. Jhong Dizon/Flickr

Scapegoating steroids won’t make for a safer night out

Steroids are easy to scapegoat. Users are viewed as aggressive, violent and mentally unstable, able to snap at any moment and cause great harm to the people around them. Ostensibly, it is this perception…
Most hospitals in Norway and Sweden are government-owned. Ariadna De Raadt/Shutterstock

Creating a better health system: lessons from Norway and Sweden

Australia has a relatively strong health system by international standards, but it needs a makeover. To generate fresh ideas, The Conversation is profiling five international health systems that have important…
Timing matters. Stacey Newman/Shutterstock

Health Check: how to get pregnant

For couples trying to conceive, the chance of this happening within a year depends on their age. The monthly chance of pregnancy for couples where the woman is 35 years or younger is about 20% and 80-90…
Our life expectancy improvements essentially mirrored other comparable countries. Kristo-Gothard Hunor/Shutterstock

Australian health care: where do we stand internationally?

There is an old joke about one fish asking another about the state of the water and the other answering “what’s water?” When you’re immersed in something and that is your daily experience, you are not…