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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

Vision loss causes 11% of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Rusty Stewart/Flickr

A vision for preventing blindness in Indigenous communities

The tragedy of vision loss and blindness in Indigenous communities is striking: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have six times more blindness than non-Indigenous adults and nearly three times…
If the Abbott government is clearing the way for a bold reform agenda, the shape of the new direction remains shrouded in mystery. AAP/Dan Peled

Abbott government health policy needs a sharper focus

The Coalition entered the 2013 federal election without a health policy. After a year in government, it remains without one. While there has been activity in the health arena, there’s been little coherent…
Research that found links between abortion and breast cancer also found men who had ‘much opportunity to participate in parties’ were more likely to have stomach cancer. burningmax/Flickr

Abortions don’t cause cancer any more than parties do

The purported link between abortion and breast cancer is based on research that’s no longer accepted as valid because its methods are so flawed. But that hasn’t stopped politicians such as Fred Nile and…
A World Health Organisation report says e-cigarettes should be regulated, but they are banned in Australia. Lucas Hayas/Flickr

Viewpoints: should Australia lift its ban on e-cigarettes?

The World Health Organisation has just released a report on electronic nicotine delivery systems that calls for their global regulation in the interests of public health. The most well-known such devices…
Somewhere in this much-incinerated plant lies valuable medicine: perhaps a treatment for cancer or an antidote to obesity. Prensa 420/Flickr

Old dope, new tricks: the new science of medical cannabis

Medicinal cannabis is back in the news again after a planned trial to grow it in Norfolk Island was blocked by the federal government last week. The media is ablaze with political rumblings and tales of…
People with life-threatening or incurable diseases may be willing to try experimental drugs and unproven treatments. juicyrai/Flickr

Do we need a law to help people try experimental drugs?

People with life-threatening or incurable diseases may be willing to try experimental drugs and unproven treatments, but they face the risk of exploitation. Is the law the best avenue to ensure that they…
It might stop young people seeing smoking on the big screen but it won’t stop them downloading and sharing these movies. Leo Hidalgo/Flickr

Why smoking shouldn’t give movies an automatic R rating

In an era when cinema attendance is in continual decline, the United States Surgeon General’s proposal that all movies depicting smoking should be rated R is a particular form of silliness. The Surgeon…
While there’s evidence for the efficacy of some supplements as potential treatments for depression, there’s none for others, and some have been found to be ineffective. Михал Орела/Flickr

Health Check: five supplements that may help with depression

Over two-thirds of Australians are thought to use complementary medicines ranging from vitamin and mineral supplements to herbal to aromatherapy and homeopathic products. Mental health concerns are one…
A Liberian nurse disinfects a looted mattress taken from an elementary school that was used as an Ebola isolation unit in West Point, Monrovia, Liberia. AHMED JALLANZO/EPA

Epidemic ethics: four lessons from the current Ebola outbreak

The extent of the current Ebolavirus outbreak in West Africa has belatedly focused the attention of non-governmental organisations, local and Western governments, and international media. What we haven’t…
Medicines Australia code of conduct for pharmaceutical companies has attracted a large number of negative submissions. hobvias sudoneighm/Flickr

Pharmaceutical industry code of conduct fails to find favour

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is considering whether to approve the latest Medicines Australia code of conduct for pharmaceutical companies. The code lays out disclosure requirements…
The AMA proposal would wipe out 97% of the government’s $3.5bn savings. Newzulu/AAP

AMA co-pay plan: protecting the poor and GPs' bottom line

Bulk billing without restrictions has been a feature of the Australian health system since the introduction of Medicare in 1984. It is particularly important in general practice, as it means any Australian…
About 42% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (TSI) people are daily smokers, compared to 16% in the non-Indigenous population. Dave Hunt/AAP

Indigenous smoking program cuts risk widening the gap

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and early death among Indigenous Australians, with smoking responsible for about one in every five deaths. Among Indigenous Australians, tobacco…
Of each of the parties involved in commercial surrogacy, the only party possessing unarguable and inalienable rights is the child born of commercial agreements. Viola/Flickr

Making surrogacy legal would violate children’s rights

The current debate about commercial surrogacy has focused on the competing needs of couples or individuals desperate to have children, and the exploitation of vulnerable women in low-income countries…
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is carried by ticks. Mike K/Flickr

Lyme-like disease may result from related unknown bacteria

A government investigation into whether Lyme disease exists in Australia and how to treat it has ended without being able to resolve the issues. But there is a plausible explanation for why people here…
Major pharmaceutical companies have shown little interest in developing effective treatments for illnesses such as Ebola virus disease. AAP Image/David Crosling

How Western national interest drives Ebola drug development

Ebola virus disease typically only occurs in rural and remote areas among resource-poor populations. Until the large, recent outbreak in West Africa, cases of the illness were a rarity. So the fact that…
The market for the drug is controlled by criminals recruiting dependent users to act as their agents, who recruit yet more users to keep feeding their addiction. Don Hankins/Flickr

Five things parents can do to help young people escape ice

Recent news of former NSW premier’s daughter Harriet Wran being charged with murder is another illustration of Australia’s growing problem with the drug ice. Wran, who is said to have been battling an…
There is growing evidence that alcohol increases the risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Anders Adermark/Flickr

Time to warn drinkers about the risk of cancer

Australians have become accustomed to labels on cigarettes warning about the risk of smoking causing cancer and other diseases. And our research, published in the latest edition of BMC Public Health, shows…
Alternating between sitting and standing is best. ramsey beyer/Flickr

Health Check: sitting versus standing

It seems the world is finally coming to terms with the fact that humans evolved to stand, not to sit – well, health researchers, savvy office workers and many commuters, at least. The evidence is mounting…
We’re now in the unfortunate situation where the debate around salt has become such a good way of interesting the media that the quality of the data used in it is being forgotten. TheGiantVermin/Flickr

Best to ignore salt claims from studies using unsavoury data

This week, the New England Journal of Medicine published three papers about the effects of salt consumption on health. Their apparently contradictory findings have served to further fuel an unwarranted…
Apparently, premenstrual syndrome could save ancestral women from evolutionarily disastrous reproductive failure by driving away infertile partners. Thomas Hawk/Flickr

An unproductive story of reproductive success and PMS

It’s been a mixed week for women and their hormones. When Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics, a Cambridge mathematician suggested it would “put…
Entry screening aims to identify and deal with travellers coming back from Ebola-affected countries with a fever. EPA/Legnan Koula

Containing the international spread of Ebola

The West African Ebola virus outbreak is already the largest of its kind, both in terms of numbers and geography. And with the most distant parts of the world less than a day’s flight away, it isn’t too…
You may find yourself talking to a therapist who is completely inappropriate to your needs. James Nash/Flickr

Talking therapies can harm too – here’s what to look out for

People seeking therapy should always talk to a practitioner who provides good quality treatment that’s appropriate to their needs. Because research shows that even the innocuous-sounding “talking therapies…
Robust comparisons of Pradaxa and warfarin based on systematically collected data haven’t revealed a significant difference in safety of the two therapies. ec-jpr/Flickr

There’s more to Pradaxa’s problems than meets the eye

Pharmaceutical companies don’t have a particularly good reputation, for some very good reasons. But we can’t let suspicions about the motives of such companies cloud our assessments of drug safety because…