Medical Forum’s roundup of the weeks’ health headlines

Incisions is supported by Western Women’s Pathology.

Week in review:

Will HealthEngine Woes Affect My Health Record?

News alleging that online medical booking website HealthEngine edited consumer reviews and passed on consumer information to a legal firm has prompted a review by the Information Commissioner and the Australian Digital Health Authority on instructions from Health Minister Greg Hunt.

The Perth company, which numbers Telstra and Seven West Media among its investors, may also face scrutiny from the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency for potential breaches of National Law.

HealthEngine denies sharing this information without patient consent, stating consent was provided in a “simple pop up”.

Putting the trust issues of consumers and doctors aside, the timing of such revelations is not ideal for the Federal Government which is hoping to have a smooth roll-out of its personal electronic health record early next year. The opt-out period for the My Health Record begins 16 July and carries on until 15 October.

Alcohol Access and Young People

A study by researchers from UWA and RMIT has found that the number of liquor outlets in a given area rather than the size of outlets has more impact on young people drinking alcohol.

Size and location of liquor stores in parts of Perth were mapped and then tested associations between liquor store exposure and alcohol consumption (grams ethanol/day) in young adults (n = 990).

The count of liquor stores of any size within 1600 m and 1601–5000 m of home were significantly associated with increased alcohol intake, whereas larger stores (i.e., > 300 m2 and > 600 m2) were not associated with alcohol intake.

However, multiple stores close to home increases market competition, which can drive alcohol prices down, and plausibly results in alcohol prices similar to those at liquor superstores.

Sweet Talk

The Australian Beverages Council announcement that it would work towards a 20% reduction of sugar in non-alcoholic drinks by 2025 fell flat.

The Health Minister Greg Hunt was present at the announcement but it didn’t take long for the “good news story” to be drowned out by AMA claims that the move was a distraction from the sugar tax issue.

Nutritionists also chimed in with criticism that a 20% reduction still makes sugary drinks too sugary.

While the Coalition and Labor have both previously declared they do not support a sugar tax, there is a growing call from doctors and other public health advocates for a tax to be considered to reduce the obesity rates in Australia.

Featured article from the week:

On the Mountain

Climbing mountains is a family affair for neurosurgeon Dr Neville Knuckey. It was Neville’s wife, Jacquelene, who first suggested pulling on the crampons and he’s been following in her footsteps ever since.

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