More girls self-harming – report
YOUNG women in New South Wales are continuing to harm themselves in increasing numbers and at three times the rate of their male counterparts, a report has found.
The 2013 Women in NSW report released today (Friday, June 14) found that 410 young women in every 100,000 have been hospitalised for self-inflicted injuries in 2011-12 compared with 148 young men.
It is the second annual report on the status of women and is designed to track progress on more than 90 key areas, including health, education, work, financial security and safety.
The report paints a worrying picture of mental health among young women.
“There is still an increase in self-harming amongst young women and young girls (and) the rate is three times that for men – this is something I know the Health Minister (Jillian Skinner) is very concerned with and so am I,” says Minister for Women Pru Goward.
”I think with reports like this and information like this the information is there for the Minister to now respond to.”
Ms Goward says the report is a “mixed bag”.
It found NSW women had narrowed the salary gap and taken on more leadership roles in the workforce, but also that – for the first time in a decade – girls are now less likely to complete Year 12 than boys.
“There’s a risk that when the school leaving age went up, because boys were so much more likely to drop out, there was extra emphasis put on boys and we took our eyes off the girls,” says Ms Goward.
“I don’t know what the reason is – I do know that we can’t afford for it to continue.” [more]
Drugs trials call for pregnant women
PREGNANT women should be included in clinical trials for drugs, experts have suggested.
Pregnancy is a “natural state” which has been ignored by drugs companies for too long, according to an editorial in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.
Pharmaceutical companies should examine “safe” ways to involve pregnant women in trials for new medicines.
Around one in 10 pregnant women have a chronic medical disorder that requires regular use of drugs, and others develop problems during pregnancy, the bulletin says.
“The relative lack of information on the use of medicines during pregnancy remains an area of concern for healthcare professionals,” the experts write.
Some medics are afraid of causing harm to patients and some women are fearful of taking drugs while pregnant because there is little published evidence about the risks and benefits.
“Although there are complex ethical issues associated with studying drugs in pregnant women, some researchers argue that it is unethical not to obtain dosing information for drugs that are frequently used by pregnant women,” the editorial says.
“Pregnancy is a natural state that has been ignored by the pharmaceutical industry for too long.” [more]
Dementia study to examine oyster vitamin
IS EATING oysters, or other seafood, good for your memory?
This is just one of the questions Australian scientists hope to answer, under new federal government grants for dementia research.
The six grants worth more than $3 million announced today (Tuesday, June 11) have been given to top researchers at five universities across the country.
University of Wollongong Professor Brett Garner will get almost $430,000 to find out if a lack of vitamin B12 – commonly found in seafood like oysters – contributes to memory loss or impacts reasoning and decision making.
The biggest funding goes to the University of Melbourne, which gets two grants totalling more than $1.2 million.
Researchers aim to determine the type of protein that may be toxic to brain cells and investigate the impact of anaesthesia and surgery in patients with mild age-related memory loss.
The other grants go to the University of Queensland, Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University and the University of Tasmania, all of which will research Alzheimer’s disease issues.
Dementia is forecast to impact almost a million Australians by 2050.
“We’ve made dementia a national priority area,” federal Aging Minister Mark Butler says in a statement. [more]
National asbestos register launched
PEOPLE who fear they’ve been exposed to deadly asbestos will now be able to register with a national database.
The federal Government’s National Asbestos Exposure Register, launched yesterday (Friday, June 7), comes amid concerns of asbestos exposure at National Broadband Network (NBN) sites across Australia.
The register records the details of people who think they may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials “in case an individual develops an asbestos related disease in the future”, Workplace Minister Bill Shorten says in a statement.
It also captures details of any diagnoses of asbestos-related diseases.
The government will establish Australia’s first national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency in July, which will replace the Office of Asbestos Safety.
The agency will manage the exposure registry and work towards “a comprehensive plan for action on asbestos safety and eradication”, says Mr Shorten’s office. [more]
Soft drink linked to diabetes, strokes
YOUNGSTERS who drink more than one can of soft drink a day are more likely to succumb to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease or a stroke, according to a new study.
The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth has followed the health of more than 1400 teenagers as part of its ongoing long-term Raine Study into children’s health.
And the latest results revealed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show more than one standard can of fizzy, sugary drink resulted in lower levels of “good” cholesterol and higher levels of “bad” triglyceride in the blood – regardless of whether they were overweight.
Researchers say that means those teens are at higher risk of cardio-metabolic disease later in life.
“It is already widely accepted that a high consumption of sugary drinks increases obesity risk in young people,” says lead researcher and UWA Adjunct Senior Research Fellow Dr Gina Ambrosini.
“What is important about this study is that excessive sugary drink consumption appears to increase risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, even in young people who are not overweight.”
Co-author Professor Wendy Oddy says the findings suggest parents have an important role in monitoring teenagers’ sugary drink consumption.
“Consumption should be moderate, so if kids are drinking a lot of sugary drinks, they should drink less,” says Professor Oddy.
“Water is the best option or parents should consider switching to lower sugar alternatives or diet drinks.”
The Raine Study started in 1989 when 2900 pregnant women were recruited, and their children’s health has been assessed from birth until the last assessment at 23 years of age.
The MRC Human Nutrition Research centre in Cambridge, England analysed the data. [more]
New program tackles male depression
A NEW program to help men tackle depression and anxiety uses larrikinism and even a few profanities as it tries to break down traditional masculine barriers to seeking help.
Man Therapy is a federal Government-funded scheme managed by support network beyondblue.
“The fundamental aim of it is to try and tell men throughout Australia that life is short and we want to live our lives in as healthier and as happier condition as possible,” beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett said during the launch of Man Therapy in Canberra yesterday (Wednesday, June 5).
“In the happiest nation in the world, there are still so many men who don’t feel comfortable talking about their health issues, their marital issues, or in fact their financial issues.”
On average, 33 men commit suicide in Australia each week and Mr Kennett says men must overcome feelings of weakness and be encouraged to seek assistance when they experience stress, sadness, anger, difficulty sleeping or are drinking too much.
“It’s not a crime to be ill – it’s a crime not to seek help,” he says.
A series of advertisements featuring fictional character Dr Brian Ironwood have been launched, appealing to a male sense of humour, sending the message that it’s okay to reach out.
“It taps into that great Aussie male tradition of using humour, or taking the piss, to deal with issues that are awkward,” says Mental Health Minister Mark Butler.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s not for the fainthearted – Dr Ironwood drops the odd f-bomb.”
More information can be found at mantherapy.org.au
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. [more]
‘Holy grail’ hope in new MS treatment
SCIENTISTS have hailed a new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) as a major breakthrough after it was tested on humans for the first time.
Early clinical trial results suggest the treatment could prevent patients’ bodies from attacking myelin, the insulating layer which forms around nerves, which leads to symptoms including limb numbness, paralysis and blindness.
Tests on nine patients in Germany showed that the therapy could reduce the reactivity of their immune systems to myelin by 50 to 75 per cent, leading to hopes the method could delay or prevent the onset of symptoms.
Professor Stephen Miller, from Chicago’s Northwestern University, which led the study, says the treatment could be the “holy grail” in the quest to prevent the debilitating effects of MS.
“The therapy stops auto-immune responses that are already activated and prevents the activation of new autoimmune cells,” he says.
“Our approach leaves the function of the normal immune system intact.
“That’s the holy grail.”
During the trial patients were injected with their own white blood cells which delivered billions of myelin antigens into their bodies.
This encouraged their immune system to develop tolerance to the antigens, and to react less to myelin as a result.
Current therapies for MS suppress the entire immune system, making patients more susceptible to everyday infections and higher rates of cancer.
Researchers have admitted there were too few patients involved in the trial to determine the treatment’s ability to prevent the progression of MS, and experts in the United Kingdom have stressed that more research is needed following the trial results.
The study, which is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was in collaboration with University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland and University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany. [more]
Gender disorder affects girls too
SIMILAR numbers of boys and girls appear to be affected by Gender Identity Disorder (GID), according to a study.
GID is a rare condition where there is strong and persistent cross-gender identification and more of those who present early (under 12 years) are boys, the research found.
Children and adolescents with GID experience significant distress, particularly with the physical changes of puberty, while there may be associated mental health problems and social difficulties.
Consultant paediatricians and child and adolescent psychiatrists across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have been reporting any new cases of GID seen among four to 15-year-olds during a 19-month surveillance period.
Reporting is still under way, but when surveillance ends, the study will provide the first estimates of how common childhood GID is in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
This, and information about the features of childhood GID and how it progresses over time, will help inform service provision for children and young people and clinical management.
Current questions around management of childhood GID relate to the timing of hormonal treatment to suppress puberty and whether this should occur later in adolescence or in early puberty.
Previous studies have reported childhood GID to be more common in boys than girls, but a key preliminary finding from the study is that similar numbers appear to be affected by GID, although more of those who present early are boys.
The findings suggest that children and young people often have gender symptoms for years before consulting a paediatrician or psychiatrist.
Lead researcher on the study, Dr Sophie Khadr of University College London Institute of Child Health, says existing information about childhood GID is largely based on children and young people who have attended specialist clinics.
“We don’t know how common it is in the general population and whether characteristics that have been described apply to most or all young people with GID, or just those who have been assessed in a specialist setting,” she says.
The results of the study are to be presented at a major child health research conference in Glasgow. [more]
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