The Gambling Fix
LotteryWest, in its most recent annual report, trumpets how it benefits the WA community. In the Age of Gambling, where Mr Packer’s political influence is becoming more obvious, and TV sports are splattered with betting ads and infomercials, the coming generations are gearing up to gamble with their future. Pity about the record household debt. Pity about problem gamblers being mostly those who can’t afford to gamble. WA hospitals are now hooked on gambling ($101m), not to mention sports ($12.6m), and charitable and community groups ($102m). The LotteryWest logo is plastered everywhere and Ozlotto regrets not reaching budget because there were less than expected jackpots this year. There are plenty of photo opportunities for pollies, including a recent one for Kim Hames to hand over $1.2m from Lotterywest to UWA’s School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine for state-of-the-art equipment to improve cancer diagnosis, via more research of course, around cancer biomarkers to predict patient response.
Coughing a lot?
You may have picked up whooping cough, doing the rounds in the community. Vaccinated people can suffer a modified illness. DoH received 3600 case reports for 2011 (compared with 1458 for 2010), peaking at 704 last November. Communicable Disease Control’s Dr Paul Armstrong said epidemics every few years were typical, the last was in 2004, but they worried about babies with low resistance succumbing to infection, as four had in the past four years. That’s why carers and family around young babies were invited to have free whooping cough vaccinations.
More longitudinal than most
The Raine Study has just celebrated its 21st birthday! Another milestone – it’s the world’s longest pregnancy and offspring cohort study. Originally set up to assess ultrasound use in pregnancy, nearly 3000 pregnant women (recruited at KEMH 1989-91) and their offspring have had a variety of health parameters assessed over more than two decades, including 2.5 million genetic variants relating to pregnancy, childhood and adolescence. Fittingly, the research was transferred to the Institute for Child Health Research in 2000. Raine has been fuel for over 200 spin-off research groups and 100 national and international collaborators (see www.rainestudy.org.au).
Have a go at…
The ACCC is going after alternative breast cancer imaging centres in WA for misleading claims. And the federal AMA has had a go at health insurance funds, because all (except the AMA’s old Doctors Health Fund) offer coverage for treatments using unproven modalities such as homeopathy and aromatherapy. It says government is wasting money subsidising health funds that do this. The AMA may be missing the main point, that health is as much about experiencing wellness for many people as it is about treating disease, and everyone is entitled to a little placebo effect, especially if you are well and thinking about dropping your private health cover! Healthy members keeps the wheels turning for others. And we have the ACCC to sort out false claims about treating illness.
Prevention not working
Prevention is getting more and more airplay as governments see growing tertiary health costs before us. Take the recent Heart Foundation press release about the lousy reach preventive programs have for post-infarction cardiac patients. Only one in four attend existing prevention programs that could theoretically prevent 51,000 heart attacks and strokes each year, if people received and followed advice. Programs offer a 25% reduction in risk of repeat infarct. Low attendance, often at hospitals, is no surprise, so more flexible and accessible programs are being considered, with phone or on-line interaction.
Hyperbaric road closure
Installed in July, but yet to be commissioned, this 12 tonne, 10-person hyperbaric chamber at SJOGH Subiaco is the largest in Australia and the third in WA (Fremantle, Broome). Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is recognised treatment for decompression sickness, poorly healing wounds (diabetic ulcers, post radiation), circulatory problems, refractory infections, radiotherapy adjuvant and suchlike. Promotion for autism, stroke recovery, cerebral palsy, brain injury and MS are much more contentious. It will be open to private and public patients, said the unit’s operator Hyperbaric Health, which has another chamber at SJOG Berwick (Vic), bulk bills for Medicare-funded indications and has no-gap arrangements with DVA and private funds for extended uses. They just can’t get builders to finish the job!