Placebo pain

A review by Australian pain researcher Damian Finniss of the placebo effect (Lancet) says interaction between the mind (thoughts and beliefs) and brain chemistry is beautifully illustrated by switching blinded patients on opiates or NSAIDs to a placebo – the same areas of the brain lights up on scans (opioid or NSAID receptors) while the dummy pills are continued. And you don’t have to give a placebo to get a placebo effect – a doctor giving a painkiller will generate a better analgesic response than an impersonal automated pump delivering the same dose.

AH services bought

Applications have closed for the second round of After Hours General Practice grants – a letter was sent out to all GPs. Government pledged $8.4m over the next four years to enable local GPs to stay open after hours. Although the pollies talk about giving the people greater choice, it’s more about easing pressure on the public hospital system because too many people lobbing at EDs have GP problems. Last year, the funds went to a locum service and four general practices in Scarborough, Fremantle, Bentley and Burswood.

Aboriginal mores

ECU, which has a strong Aboriginal studies portfolio, has a $220,000 grant to educate health students to improve the treatment of Indigenous Australians. ECU pipped other applicants with its ‘Creating cultural empathy and challenging attitudes through Indigenous narratives’ proposal, a response to the “Closing the Gap” campaign. Project Leader Prof Cobie Rudd will see if the attitudes of many health professionals that negatively impact their treatment of Indigenous people can be turned around. How? Students from medicine, paramedicine, psychology, nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy and occupational therapy will hear imbedded curricula narratives that aim to reduce racial bias and enhance relationships.

Suicide sweeteners

WA has given $40,000 to Lifeline’s ‘suicideTALK’ program to allow Lifeline to hold community education forums in two metropolitan (Stirling and Armadale) and three regional locations (Broome, Katanning, Toodyay). Why? There are 238 deaths by suicide each year in WA, 23% more than road deaths, and attempts are 30 times higher. Talking to and connecting with people is hoped to reverse this dismal trend, given that 1 in 17 people are said to consider suicide each year. Government says it has earmarked $13m over 4 years for WA’s Suicide Prevention Strategy – like Channel 10’s efforts after Charmaine Dragun’s suicide. Nationally, Lifeline talks to 1250 people every day, 50 of them at high risk of suicide.

No publish bias

What’s a “false truth”? It’s when the reporting of research by scientific and medical journals is biased towards positive outcomes by under-reporting of negative research. That’s what a six-year study spanning Australia, the UK and the Netherlands found when it looked at 525 unique publications looking at 1,359 animal experiments of 16 stroke interventions – there was self selection of the papers published that omitted 214 experiments that would have had the effect of reducing efficacy of treatments from 31.2% to 23.8%.  Of the 525 publications examined only 10 published papers that demonstrated no effect of treatment on animals.

Old farts never die

Old farts still working will lose Workcover disadvantages. No more 12-month cap on workers’ compensation entitlements for those over age 64 and industrial noise deafness after age 65 will be possible – all under proposed legislative changes this year. And when the boss unlawfully neglects to insure his workers, the worker will now be able to take get recourse through the courts (if he/she can afford it!). Employer premiums will drop 13.9% during 2010-11, to 1.497% of total wages (but is it a real reduction given that wages have continued to grow?). Workers’ comp claims are down. The rates schedule and the review of the Act are at www.workcover.wa.gov.au.

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