The Health News – 12 March 2014

Overview

  • A new report on Australia’s mental health system calls for changes in many areas as the system struggles to meet demand.
  • The federal government is unlikely to include changes to the Disability Support Pension in the pending May budget and will not lead to present recipients having their benefit reduced.
  • Thanks to a new study by Monash University, heart attack patients may soon be treated with drugs that have no side effects.

Health News on HPR.

Australia’s mental health system not meeting demand, should focus on self-help: report – no author listed
A new report on Australia’s mental health system calls for changes in many areas as the system struggles to meet demand. The Crossroads report, conducted by Ernst and Young and mental health service ReachOut, found that almost 50% of Australian adults have experienced mental illness, but less than half have accessed help. The report claims that keeping up with this demand in the current system would require $9b and 8,800 additional health professionals over the next 15 years. CEO of ReachOut Jonathan Nicholas thinks in a financially-constrained situation, governments must consider different approaches. He suggests the system should focus on the young and encourages self-help, and that while some people should be treated in a clinical environment, “a lot of people could actually help themselves.” He said “They can go through programs, read information, access peer support environments and their mental health difficulties actually improved. If we can intervene early, or even better prevent the emergence of some of those mental health difficulties, obviously we can help people have happier healthier lives. But we can also take some of the strain off the clinical system and free up those valuable resources such as GPs and psychologists and psychiatrists, to help those in most persistent need. We have to start having a difficult conversation in Australia about not only the problems in mental health, but the innovative solutions,” he said. He says policymakers have been receptive to the idea of reforms, but face financial barriers. He continued “The work of the National Mental Health Commission in this regard is calling for a doubling of the proportion of people that get access to help.

It’s really a challenge to us in the community and government to say ‘how can we do that in a fiscally-constrained environment?’

If we’re not able to spend the extra $9 billion and employ 800,000 clinicians, what is it that we can do to achieve the same solution at a lower cost?”

Disability Support Pension changes unlikely to feature in May budget: Kevin Andrews – by Latika Bourke
The federal government is unlikely to include changes to the Disability Support Pension in the pending May budget and will not lead to present recipients having their benefit reduced.
Financial forecasters Deloitte Access Economics estimate the government would save almost 2.5 billion over 4 years by basing increases to the pension on inflation rather than wage increases, as is done with unemployment allowance. Minister of Social Services Kevin Andrews says the increasing gap between DSP and unemployment payments is a serious problem that the federal government must address, but said “It’s not something which I expect we will be addressing immediately in the budget. In the longer term the Government has to take into account the fact that there’s now a perverse incentive for people to get onto the disability pension rather than the Newstart allowance because it pays more, and if the indexation rates remain the same it will pay even more in the future.”

Heart attack victims could have access to drugs with no side effects after Monash University research – by Simon Lauder
Thanks to a new study by Monash University, heart attack patients may soon be treated with drugs that have no side effects. The researchers hope their findings may have widespread implications for the pharmaceutical industry, and that the same technique may be used to treat many other conditions. The technique allows scientists to target a protein that protects the heart, without the side effects current drugs produce. Professor Arthur Christopolous from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences discovered a method of attaching adenosine to a new molecule which targets the heart’s protein receptor in a different way. He said “We’re basically revealing that there is a totally different way of activating these proteins than was previously thought possible. You can change the rules, you can change the body’s own rules if you get the molecule right.” Almost half of all medications currently in use target protein receptors, so this new method may lead to better drugs for schizophrenia to diabetes. Professor Christopolous continued “We can basically change, completely change the properties of the protein. It’s almost like if you look at the protein as an on and off switch, so most drugs on the market, they either activate it or block it. We found a site on the protein where we can turn it into a dimmer switch. You can tune it up, or tune it down. You can dial in the activity that you want. So we’re using this approach to go after schizophrenia, at least memory deficit and schizophrenia. We’re also using this approach for diabetes in the pancreas.”

The report will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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