$19 Million To Boost Health Across The Pacific

How it works:

Funding has been allocated as such:

  • $13 million for tuberculosis (TB), of which $5 million will be for intensive TB detection and treatment, and $8 million for research into anti-microbial resistance and drug-resistant TB.
  • $3 million to place an infection, prevention and control adviser in Tuvalu, Kiribati and Fiji.
  • $1 million to expand efforts to reduce childhood obesity in the Pacific.
  • $1.065 million over three years to develop tobacco control laws and policy in the Pacific.
  • $1 million over four years to provide Pacific island countries with access to Australia’s pharmaceutical quality assurance systems.

Why it matters:

The funding complements Australia’s annual funding contributions to the Pacific Community’s Public Health Division, which provides advice and support to Pacific countries on clinical services, disease prevention and control, and stronger regional health governance and policy.

Ask the Minister:

Greg Hunt, Minister for Health:

“Through these important initiatives, the Australian Government is building on its commitment to step up engagement with the Pacific and improve the health of populations across the region.”

First Robotic Prostate Surgery On A Public Patient

How it works:

Radical urology surgery was successfully performed by the Da Vinci Surgical robot system, under the supervision of St Vincent’s surgeons.

It is the first successfully performed robotic urology surgery on Victoria’s first public patent, using the Da Vinci surgical robot system located within St Vincent’s Private Hospital

Why it matters:

The Da Vinci Robot creates a GPS system for the procedure, assisting the surgeon to stay within the pre-programmed route of the surgical area.

The system has been shown to reduce post-operative pain and provide quicker recovery for patients due to the minimally invasive nature of the procedure.

Ask the hospital:

St Vincent’s Private Hospital:

“The new robots are a part of striving for something greater in clinical and research excellence at St Vincent’s and providing patients with the best clinical outcomes.”

“This is a great example of collaboration and a fantastic opportunity for an ongoing partnership between St Vincent’s Private and Public hospital.”

$2.2 Million Dedicated To Ovarian Cancer Research

How it works:

The funding will be spread across three Australian based projects that are focused on targeting rogue cancer cells, overcoming treatment-resistant disease, and a hormonal pill.

Why it matters:

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynaecological disease with more than 1,500 Australia women diagnosed with the disease each year.

It is known as the silent killer, as women in the early stages typically do not present with any symptoms meaning the disease is often not detected until the advanced stages, when it has spread beyond the ovaries.

What they’re saying:

Lucinda Nolan, OCRF Chief Executive:

“The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation is one of the largest not-for-profit funders of ovarian cancer research in Australia. Since 2001, we have given more than $16.5 million to Australian researchers in an attempt to make serious inroads into understanding this insidious disease, developing an early detection test and finding new treatments.”

“The researchers we have funded this year are taking innovative approaches to tackling ovarian cancer from a range of different angles – targeting rogue ‘leader cells’ and proteins that allow the disease to proliferate, and potentially preventing it all together with a pill.”

World-First Online Program For Refugee Men Who Suffer From PTSD

How it works:

The online program consists of 11 short, interactive web-based modules that contain information, short videos, and activities. Participants complete up to 3 modules per week over a 4-week period.

Other interactive activities educated users about PTSD and supported them to develop personalised plans for seeking help. A computer algorithm was then used to feedback responses to various activities that assisted men in generating a help-seeking plan.

So far, the men who have participated in the trial group have gone on to seek more help than those in the control group, they also experienced less self-stigma.

Ask the expert:

Angela Nickerson, Associate Professor from the Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program at UNSW Science’s School of Psychology:

“The prevalence of PTSD in people from a refugee background is five times higher than in Australia’s general population, so PTSD is a devastating burden on refugees’ mental health.”

“But even though the group’s mental health needs are high, their treatment uptake is low. That’s a big concern – those who don’t access treatment may have an increased risk of ongoing distress and impairment.”

“One key barrier to seeking help is self-stigma, or negative beliefs about the psychological symptoms commonly experienced following exposure to trauma and help-seeking.”

The details:

More information on the ‘Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program’ can be found by clicking here.

Researchers Create The Building Blocks Of A Bionic Brain

Australian bio-engineers have mimicked the human brain with an electronic chip that uses light to create and modify memories.

How it works:

The chip is based on an ultra-thin material that changes electrical resistance in response to different wavelengths of light, enabling it to mimic the way that neurons work to store and delete information in a human brain.

Why it matters:

The technology is a step further towards artificial intelligence that can harness the brain’s full sophisticated functionality. Forming the early stages of a bionic brain – a brain-on-a-chip that can learn from its environment the same as a human brain does.

The research is also hoped to better understand the brain and how it’s affected by disorders that disrupt neural connections, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Ask the expert:

Dr Sumeet Walia RMIT Universities MicroNano Research Team Leader:

“Our chip imitates the fundamental biology of nature’s best computer – the human brain.”

“Being able to store, delete and process information is critical for computing, and the brain does this extremely efficiently.”

“We’re able to simulate the brain’s neural approach simply by shining different colours onto our chip.”

New PBS Listings

How it works:

Under the PBS, treatment for diabetes, severe cystic acne, depression and lung cancer will be available to patients for just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.

Ask the Minister:

Greg Hunt, Minister for Health.

“Every medicine was recommended to be added to the PBS by the independent expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. By law the Federal Government cannot list a new medicine without a positive recommendation from the PBAC.”

“The four pillars of our long term national health plan are: guaranteeing Medicare and improving access to medicines, supporting our hospitals, prioritising mental health and preventive health and investing in health and medical research.”

The details:

The added drugs are:

• Pemetrexed®, a medicine for the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, and mesothelioma will also have its authority level reduced to make it easier for doctors to prescribe. In 2018, over 950 patients accessed this medicine and could benefit from this change to the listing which will make it easier to prescribe. Without PBS subsidy, patients would pay up to $200 for each course of treatment.

• Oratane® (isotretinoin), will be listed to the PBS to help treat the 21,000 people per year with severe cystic acne, providing doctors with an alternative for patients who require a lower therapeutic dose. Without PBS subsidy, this medicine would cost patients $43 for each course of treatment.

• Phenelzine®, will be made available through the PBS for the treatment of patients with depression, when all other anti-depressant therapy has failed. In 2018, over 900 patients accessed alternative brands and are expected to benefit from this listing. Without PBS subsidy the medicine would cost patients around $800 a year.

World-First Treatment for Viral Conjunctivitis

Why it matters:

Also known as “pink eye” or “flu of the eye”, viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by the adenovirus and can last up to three weeks.

Unlike bacterial conjunctivitis, which responds to antibiotic eye drops, there are currently no treatments available to reduce the signs, symptoms and contagious nature of viral conjunctivitis.

How it works:

The drug OKG-0301 works by reducing the ability of the adenovirus to reproduce itself.

Ask the expert:

 Associate Professor Mei-Ling Tay-Kearney, Principal investigator at the Lions Eye Institute.

“Acute adenoviral conjunctivitis is a highly contagious, widespread disease which frequently reoccurs and causes significant discomfort, and in some cases, permanent damage to a person’s vision.”

“To limit the spread of the infection within the family and the community, patients are typically instructed to avoid work, school or day care so finding new treatments which reduce its impact both on eye health and day-to-day living is important.”

Australian Tech on Show At The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference

The selected initiatives are:

The Better Visit’ app.

The app features a range of two-player games designed to enhance communication and facilitate positive social interactions between people with dementia and their visitors.

‘Customised Technology Solutions’.

The project works by asking participants what difficulties they were experiencing with their dementia, such as loneliness, boredom and problems remembering to perform everyday tasks. The technology was then customised and used to address these concerns, including introducing iPads, Smart lights, Google Home and GPS solutions.

Ask the expert:

Maree McCabe, CEO Dementia Australia.

“AAIC is the largest and most influential international meeting dedicated to dementia science.”

“I am thrilled Dementia Australia’s efforts to improve the lives of people living with dementia will be on display at such a prestigious international conference.”

“I hope the AAIC will be an opportunity for other international leaders in dementia research and services to not only learn from some of our ideas but that the conference will also provide Dementia Australia with the chance to learn from others.”

Government Website Wins Top Design Award

How it works:

The Good Designs Award was won by the Brisbane-based digital agency Liquid Interactive who led the design process.

Why it matters:

The website links online and phone mental health services, information and resources, and can connect people to online and phone mental health services appropriate for their individual needs.

Providers including the Butterfly Foundation, CanTeen, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline. There are also free or low-cost apps, online support communities, online courses, and phone services that are private and secure.

Ask the expert:

The Good Design Awards Jury

“It is great to see content that is specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sensitivities and culture. Effective navigation tells a story of the content on offer in the site really well.”

“The Head to Health solution brings all this information together well and offers helpful suggestions in taking the next steps.”

The details:

Good Design Australia is an international design promotion organisation responsible for managing Australia’s annual Good Design Awards and other signature design events.

The award dates back to 1958, aim to promote the importance of design to business, industry, government and the general public.

To view the website visit www.headtohealth.gov.au

TGA Proposes Breast Implant Ban

How it works:

To monitor outcomes for patients with breast implants, the Government established the Australian Breast Device Registry and provides funding through Medicare for the treatment of complications resulting from breast implants.

Why it matters:

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) proposed regulatory action follows an extensive review of an apparent association of Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) and some textured breast implants.

Expert opinions estimate that the risk of breast implant-associated lymphoma is between 1-in-1,000 and 1-in-10,000.

The details:

For more information on the proposed regulatory action, including information on the specific textured implants, can be found at the TGA breast implant hub.