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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

The amount of sun exposure and associated vitamin D production is believed to underlie the geographical gradient in multiple sclerosis prevalance. Thomas Abbs/Flickr

Explainer: multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease affecting almost 25,000 Australians and more than 2.4 million people worldwide. It’s one of the leading causes of disability in young adults. Typically, the…
Foster parents often receive inadequate emotional and financial support. prudkov/Shutterstock

Foster parents need more support to care for vulnerable children

When children are deemed at risk of abuse or neglect and are removed from the family home, they are placed in out-of-home care, either with foster parents, relatives or in residential facilities. The latter…
A growing body of research suggests placebos may be as good as real drugs for treating depression. Victor/Flickr

Antidepressants may be no better than a placebo, so why take them?

Seventeenth-century Oxford scholar Robert Burton’s lifework, The Anatomy of Melancholy, weighs in at a door-stopping 1,400 pages. But his cure for the “Black Choler” of depression came down to just six…
People with complex trauma appear like they are always anticipating or responding to a threat. file404/Shutterstock

Complex trauma: how abuse and neglect can have life-long effects

Experiencing trauma has significant implications for mental health. We’ve known this for some time but particularly since the early 1970s after observing and studying the effects of war on American servicemen…
Technology has done away with the need to insert swabs into the male urethra and speculums into the vagina. Instead, blood and urine are tested. In Tune/Shutterstock

Health Check: the STI check-up – warts and all

Sexuality is a means of pleasure, fulfilment and intimate connection with other humans. But it can also be a source of anguish. So it’s perhaps no surprise that of all the areas in health care, the “STI…
People who have been in care are more likely to have children at an early age and are at greater risk of having their own child taken into care. Mika Heittola/Shutterstock

We remove kids from abuse and neglect, but are they better off in the long run?

Most people reasonably assume there is evidence of good long-term outcomes for children who come into contact with child protection systems. Why else would we intervene in the lives of children and their…
Central to the processes of the PBS is the idea that drugs with identical or similar clinical outcomes should have similar prices. Thinglass/Shutterstock

How the US trade deal undermined Australia’s PBS

Ten years on from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, Australia is entering another round of negotiations towards the new and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this Free Trade Scorecard series…
Several private health insurers are trailing schemes to prevent their members' health deteriorating. DIBP images

Keeping people healthy is good for insurers' bottom line

Australia’s population is in the midst of considerable demographic change, with a proportional rise in older age groups. Medical successes can now save the lives of those who would have died from illnesses…
Four-year-old Chloe Valentine sustained injuries and died after being made to ride and repeatedly crash her 50-kilogram motorbike. AAP Image/South Australian Supreme Court

Abuse and neglect: Australia’s child protection ‘crisis’

The tragic death of four-year old Chloe Valentine in South Australia has raised concerns that the state’s child protection system is in crisis. Following a history of abuse and neglect, Chloe’s mother…
Decisions are difficult and prone to error when risk and protective factors appear to be fairly equal. atikinka/Shutterstock

Risky business: how protection workers decide to remove children from their parents

Imagine you’re a child protection worker who has received a notification from a teacher voicing concerns about a child in her class. The case involves a five-year-old boy named Toby. Toby’s mum has had…
The likelihood of cases presenting in Australia is currently low but we need to be prepared. Dan Peled/AAP

How would Australian hospitals respond to a case of Ebola?

As the Ebola outbreak continues in West Africa, hospitals and health systems are preparing for possible cases in Australia. What would this response look like? Australia has a system of “designated hospitals…
Reduced access to generics drugs has contributed to the 80% rise in the cost of Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

It’s time to fix the free trade bungle on the cost of medicines

Ten years on from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, Australia is entering another round of negotiations towards the new and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this Free Trade Scorecard series…
Mining giant Rio Tinto, which has operated in Guinea for 50 years, has donated just US$100,000 to the UN Ebola fund. EPA/Ahmed Jallanzo

Mining companies must dig deep in the fight against Ebola

The current outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa shows no signs of halting. More than 4,500 people have died and many thousands more are infected. Despite the creation of a new United Nations mission…
Many women find it difficult to strike the right balance between nutrition and safety. Sean McGrath/Flickr

Health Check: what to eat and avoid during pregnancy

As soon as women announce “I’m having a baby!”, the congratulations are quickly followed by long lists of dos and don'ts about food. Try ginger for morning sickness. Avoid soft cheese because of listeria…
Intimate images are also being used in domestic violence and sexual assault situations – to blackmail victims, or to discourage them from seeking help from the police. Stephan Geyer/Flickr

More than revenge: when intimate images are posted online

“Revenge porn”. It’s when a partner or ex-partner posts nude or intimate pictures or videos online and without consent. And in the absence of better laws, perpetrators are largely getting away with it…
A parasite wants to live with you, and to do that it needs to convince your body’s immune system to ignore it. Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock

Bugs as treatment: coming to a clinic near you…

When you’re sick, you want the most effective treatment to help get you back on your feet. But what if that involved bugs? Maggots and leeches have been used for decades and are still supplied to hospitals…
Facebook users willingly spread marketing messages on behalf of food and beverage corporations. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Digital junk: food and beverage marketing on Facebook

We all know obesity is a common, serious, and costly health issue. But while government action has stalled and the debate rages on about how best to combat this growing public health disaster, junk food…
Children are particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of lead because their brains and bodies are still developing. Viacheslav Nikolaenko/Shutterstock

Toxic playgrounds: Broken Hill kids exposed to poisonous dust

In the shadows of Broken Hill’s rich mining history lies a legacy of contamination and regulatory failure that will likely outlive any benefits locals derive from mining. One in five children aged under…