The Health News – 17 December 2015

Overview:
• A large outbreak of mumps in Western Australia has been blamed for a big increase in the number of cases Australia-wide, and has led to criticism of the state’s vaccination rates. More than 390 cases of mumps have been reported around WA since March, compared to about 20 cases at the same time last year.

•  Environmental groups are warning that Australia’s new clean air standards are not good enough because they do not comply with World Health Organisation recommendations.

• The far west’s Aboriginal health service says it’s preparing to roll out a major research project to Wilcannia and Menindee aimed at gauging local levels of psychological distress.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 17th December 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-16/big-wa-mumps-outbreak-sparks-concern-over-vaccination-rates/7033670

A large outbreak of mumps in Western Australia has been blamed for a big increase in the number of cases Australia-wide, and has led to criticism of the state’s vaccination rates.

More than 390 cases of mumps have been reported around WA since March, compared to about 20 cases at the same time last year.

Across Australia, there have been 500 more cases of the viral infection this year compared to last, with WA accounting for almost three quarters of that spike.

The WA Health Department said the outbreak was mainly confined to remote Aboriginal communities in the north of the state, and to some people returning from overseas.

A spokeswoman said there had also been a small number of cases in Perth, but said there was no need for concern and added the department had not issued any health warnings.

Australian Medical Association WA president Michael Gannon accused the Health Department of playing down the problem.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-16/national-clean-air-agreement-fails-to-comply-with-who-air-pollu/7033534

Environmental groups are warning that Australia’s new clean air standards are not good enough because they do not comply with World Health Organisation recommendations.

… all state governments signed on to the National Clean Air Agreement, which the New South Wales Environment Minister said imposed the toughest air pollution standards in the world.

It is the first time Australia has set national limits on the air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5.

The rules governing coarse particle air pollutants referred to as PM10, which include things like coal dust and car exhaust fumes, are of concern to environmental groups.

Under the new National Clean Air Agreement they will be limited to a level of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

Dr Elizabeth Hanna, the president of the Climate and Health Alliance, said the 25-microgram limit was above the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation to protect people from illness.


Victoria and the ACT have decided to independently adopt the WHO pollution guidelines, fuelling criticism of New South Wales’ position.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-16/maari-ma-plans-wide-rollout-of-psychological-distress-survey-in/7032360

The far west’s Aboriginal health service says it’s preparing to roll out a major research project to Wilcannia and Menindee aimed at gauging local levels of psychological distress.

Maari Ma’s Community Safety Research Project includes a three-hour study that’s already drawn 253 respondents in Broken Hill.

The organisation says the project is designed to help staff understand the precursors to violence in far west communities and help those affected by grief and trauma to heal.

Maari Ma’s community programs manager Justin Files said so far there are more respondents in the most urgent category of distress than the second-most urgent.

85 per cent of people who have responded to the Community Safety Research Project’s survey have been classified in Protocol 3, meaning they have a manageable level of psychological distress.

But the second-most common category is Protocol 1, which indicates a high degree of psycholoigcal distress, with the potential for suicide, covering 10 per cent of respondents.

Maari Ma has also discovered a large drop in the number of Aboriginal women in the region who smoke during pregnancy.

According to a comparison of child development indicators in 2009 and 2014, the rate of Indigenous women smoking during pregnancy in the far west has dropped from 78 per cent to 45 per cent.

Mr Files said the substantial drop is due to a major public awareness effort.

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