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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

Children exhibit signs of psychotic illness in very rare cases. Philippa Willitts/Flickr

Rise in anti-psychotic scripts for kids is a serious worry

News this week that as many as 100,000 prescriptions for anti-psychotics were written for Australian children in 2013 is cause for concern. Though the drugs may be appropriate in a small number of cases…
The podcast Serial investigates the murder of 18-year-old American student Hae Min Lee 15 years ago. LukaTDB/Shutterstock

Serial: murder, mystery and the science of memory

Can you recall what you were doing last Wednesday between 2.15pm and 2.36pm? Where were you? What did you see? Who did you talk to? How well do you remember those 21 minutes? Now try to recall Wednesday…
Crowding in refugee and internal displacement camps create conditions ripe for disease transmission.

Fixing broken health systems in the aftermath of conflict

Conflict continues to afflict the globe at a seemingly undiminished rate. The world’s attention is focused on Syria and Iraq in an escalating conflict that has resulted in about three million refugees…
High intake of take-away foods, red and processed meat, soft drinks, and fried and refined food is a risk factor for poor academic performance. Jay Peg/Flickr

Brain food: diet’s impacts on students are too big to ignore

As their children submit themselves to the ordeal of all-important end-of-year exams, parents of high school and university students may be wondering what they can do to help. One thing they ought to consider…
The death of 13 women in sterilisation camps in India has caused uproar. AAP

Sterilisation deaths: family planning isn’t just economics

Public outcry, demonstrations and riots have followed the death of 13 women at a government female sterilisation camp in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Investigators have blamed tainted medicines and…
E-cigarettes should not be sold in Australia, as a therapy or a consumer product. gdvcom/Shutterstock

Health risks of nicotine cast doubt on ‘safer’ e-cigarette

British American Tobacco Australia has lobbied Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration to have electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) classified as a harm-reduction pharmaceutical product. If successful…
Newly arrived refugees face many obstacles to making healthy food choices. Lucian/Flickr

Resettled refugees adopt Australia’s bad food habits

Refugees settling in Australia constantly face new challenges. They have to re-adjust to new income levels, cultural practices and language. They also face a new food environment, where many traditional…
The vulnerability of mentally disordered people warrants a range of strong protections to prevent wrongful convictions. Emmanuel Huybrechts/Flickr

Justice for all: how should the law deal with false confessions?

Confessions constitute strong evidence of wrongdoing, but not all of them are reliable. So what can the legal system do to ensure justice is done? A US judge is deciding on exactly this matter in a prominent…
Leaving distressed babies to cry without comforting them may compromise their psychological development. Pedro Klien/Flickr

Health Check: is controlled crying the best way to get baby to sleep?

Controlled crying has been hotly debated since it was first recommended in a 1985 book about infant sleep problems. It involves letting a baby cry itself to sleep without any interaction once it has been…
Antihistamines are the first-line treatment for those with mild or occasional hay fever. Tina Franklin/Flickr

Hay fever survival guide: why you have it and how to treat it

Three million Australian adults – 15% of the population – struggle through spring and summer with watery eyes, running nose, itchy throat and the hallmark hay fever symptom, sneezing. When people with…
Too stringent an approach to assisted dying risks locking people with mental illness out of the right to make decisions about the end of their lives. Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Should people with acute mental suffering be allowed to die?

Euthanasia advocates often assert a distinction between dying with dignity (good) and suicide (bad), drawing on the community’s twin commitment to both permitting euthanasia in some circumstances, and…
National registration would set educational and professional standards to better protect patients. AAP Image/Peter Scarf

Paramedics administer drugs and deliver babies, they deserve national registration

Paramedics are one of the few health practitioners who can administer drugs and anaesthetics, deliver babies and perform high-risk interventions, all with relative autonomy. Yet the paramedic profession…
The mental health problems of children with intellectual disabilities are largely undiagnosed and untreated. SriHarsha PVSS/Flickr

What about the mental health of kids with intellectual disability?

High-quality epidemiological research shows children and adolescents with intellectual disability are four times more likely to have diagnosable mental health problems compared to others their age. This…
Young people want better information about illicit drugs so they can make informed choices. Jirka Matousek/Flickr

Six reasons Australia should pilot ‘pill testing’ party drugs

The death of 19-year-old Georgina Bartter at a music festival on the weekend from a suspected ecstasy overdose could possibly have been avoided with a simple harm-minimisation intervention. Pill testing…
Terminal cancer patient Peter Short gives evidence on voluntary euthanasia to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which tabled its report on Monday. Tracey Nearmy/AAP

How to draw the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reasons to die

A Senate inquiry into legalising voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill people has recommended a conscience vote on the proposed bill after technical matters, such as what constitutes a “terminal illness…
If we want to ensure the health system remains sustainable, it makes sense to use its cheapest and most efficient arm: general practice. Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

Medicare spending on general practice is value for money

Last year taxpayers spent A$6.3 billion on GP services through Medicare, about 6% of the total government health expenditure. This was a 50% increase (A$2.1 billion) in today’s dollars over the past decade…
Most women are just happy to have an orgasm, any old way. Ares Tavolazzi/Flickr

Health Check: clash of the orgasms, clitoral vs vaginal

Controversy over vaginal versus clitoral orgasm is nothing new; it’s a debate that has consumed sexologists and psychoanalysts for the last 100 years. Now, new research has added fresh fuel to the controversy…
Ebola is less infectious than other diseases but has a high fatality rate. EPA/Ahmed Jallanzo

Fast-spreading killers: how Ebola compares with other diseases

The West African outbreak of Ebola has claimed more than 4,800 lives and this number is sure to rise. There is understandably a lot of fear about Ebola, but how does it actually compare with other fast-spreading…
Gut bacteria can manufacture special proteins that are very similar to hunger-regulating hormones. Lighthunter/Shutterstock

How the bacteria in our gut affect our cravings for food

We’ve long known that that the gut is responsible for digesting food and expelling the waste. More recently, we realised the gut has many more important functions and acts a type of mini-brain, affecting…
Vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea are common chemotherapy side effects that can be so severe that patients may refuse further treatment. Emergency Brake/Flickr

Why placebos for chemotherapy side effects are hard to swallow

It’s unthinkable to give a placebo to someone to treat their cancer, but could we use one to treat chemotherapy’s well-known side effects? Unfortunately, we may never be able to answer this question because…
The consequences of fetal personhood on women’s rights in pregnancy and childbirth, and for abortion, are uncertain. SIOBHAN MARREN/AAP

Zoe’s Law could take NSW backwards in women’s rights

A bill due to be debated in the upper house of the NSW Parliament will bestow legal personhood to fetuses of 20 weeks or more for the purpose of grievous bodily harm offences in the Crimes Act, if passed…
Nutrition is one of the most important determinants of health, but has been neglected in policy. Jason Brackins/Flickr

Nutrition is key to closing the Aboriginal life expectancy gap

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have significantly poorer health and lower life expectancy than other Australians. But while reducing these inequalities is a priority for governments, national…