- A group of doctors in Gippsland is warning patients that mercury levels in locally caught fish could be dangerously high, particularly for pregnant women.
- A Tasmanian program teaching art skills to people with memory loss is helping patients reduce agitation and carers say similar classes could be expanded around the state.
- The Federal Government has unveiled a $26 million package aimed at boosting vaccination rates among children as part of next month’s budget.
Health News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 20th April 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
A group of doctors in Gippsland is warning patients that mercury levels in locally caught fish could be dangerously high, particularly for pregnant women.
Commercial fisherman catch about 150 tonnes each year in the Gippsland Lakes, and recreational fisherman catch at least the same amount again.
Three government studies have warned of mercury in the lakes and recommended further investigation, but the lakes’ sediment has not been tested since 2004.
A study of fish caught in the lake has not been conducted since 1997.
Paediatrician Jo McCubbin and two colleagues have started warning patients of the potential dangers.
Dr McCubbin, an environmental activist, and her two colleagues have also written to Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services about their concerns and requested further testing.
“Risks to the health of people who regularly eat the fish from these waterways may be quite serious,” they wrote.
“We know there is mercury in the lakes because of past research … but we do not know if it has reached dangerous levels, as there is no ongoing comprehensive monitoring.
“We believe that public health alerts should be sent to doctors throughout Victoria as well as to the public about the potential risks, particularly for pregnant women.”
The three doctors conducted their own tests on black bream caught in the lakes …
The analysis showed all 10 samples had mercury levels higher than the maximum safe level recommended by the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code.
In one sample, the mercury level was more than four times the maximum safe level.
Despite the doctors’ urging, Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) last tested for mercury in the sediment of the lakes in 2004, and the fish had not been tested since 1997.
A Tasmanian program teaching art skills to people with memory loss is helping patients reduce agitation and carers say similar classes could be expanded around the state.
Patients at Alzheimer’s Australia’s respite centre in Hobart can take part in sessions three times a week, learning to paint, draw and do craft.
One student, Grace, had a severe stroke in her late 30s, which triggered younger onset dementia.
She had to relearn how to walk and talk after her stroke.
She said the art sessions provide a welcome way to continue learning.
Another student, Pete, was a boilermaker by trade before he was diagnosed with dementia.
He put his skills to use building and painting a series of windmills out of salt shakers, milk bottles and other food containers.
Artist in residence at Alzheimer’s Australia in Hobart, Michele Wilkie, works with the patients using professional quality materials.
She said the process of making something new was beneficial for people who had fading memories of their past.
Ms Wilkie said art sessions had also been successfully run around the state in aged care homes and community centres.
The Federal Government has unveiled a $26 million package aimed at boosting vaccination rates among children as part of next month’s budget.
The money will be spent on incentive payments for doctors who vaccinate overdue children, a national vaccination register and a communication campaign.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the campaign would focus on increasing awareness but also addressing parents’ concerns.
“The communication campaign will be directed at material for doctors and there may be a portion of advertising,” Ms Ley said.
“What I will be focused on is the best way we can get the message across to parents about the effectiveness and importance of the national immunisation program.
Ms Ley said at least 166,000 children were recorded as being more than two months overdue for their vaccinations last year. This figure is in addition to Australia’s 39,000 conscientious objectors.
Meanwhile, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has closed a loophole allowing some parents not to vaccinate their children on religious grounds.
The Federal Government had already moved to deny childcare and family tax benefits to parents who claimed a conscientious objection to vaccination.
Last week, Mr Morrison said he only expected a very small number of families to be exempted on religious grounds, if they were registered with their church or similar organisation.
He said there are no mainstream religions that have objections registered and it is believed his latest move follows consultations with religious leaders.
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