- Twenty-five toilets decorated by New South Wales artists have been put on display in Sydney for World Toilet Day – a UN initiative to raise awareness about the number of people around the world without access to toilets.
- Activities that stimulate and challenge the brain, such as dancing or learning a foreign language, may help to reduce the risk of dementia, experts say.
- Chemists at the Australian National University (ANU) have discovered a new way to manufacture rare chemicals that occur naturally in coral, and used the method to make a powerful anti-inflammatory drug.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 20th November 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health news
Toilet talk is generally considered impolite, but two charities are utilising art to lift the lid on the “loo taboo”.
Twenty-five toilets decorated by New South Wales artists have been put on display in Sydney for World Toilet Day – a UN initiative to raise awareness about the number of people around the world without access to toilets.
The installation was organised by non-profit organisations Engineers Without Borders and WaterAid, which are working in developing countries to help construct sanitation systems.
The UN estimates 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to toilets and proper sanitation facilities.
Engineers Without Borders Australia chief executive Lizzie Brown said the three-day exhibition was designed to shed light on a rarely-discussed global issue.
“About 500,000 children around the world die every year due to diarrhoea and related diseases because they don’t have access to water and sanitation,” she said.
“So it’s very important to manage human waste well, which means capturing it and then disposing of it appropriately and making sure that it doesn’t end up contaminating water and food sources.”
WaterAid Australia chief executive Paul Nichols said more people had access to a mobile phone than a toilet.
The installation will be on display outside Customs House until Friday.
Activities that stimulate and challenge the brain, such as dancing or learning a foreign language, may help to reduce the risk of dementia, experts say.
Almost 1 million Australians are expected to develop the condition, which slowly eats away at the brain, by the middle of the 2050.
Professor Henry Brodaty has been studying Alzheimer’s for more than 30 years and said people who use their brain more are “less likely to get Alzheimer’s or likely to get it later in life”.
As scientists search for a drug to stop or reverse the disease, much more is now known about the risk factors.
Some cannot be controlled, such as old age – one in four people over the age of 85 will develop dementia.
“People who are overweight, have type-2 diabetes [or] high blood pressure are at increased risk,” Professor Brodaty told 7.30.
“Also, people who have low education or lack of cognitive stimulation in their everyday activities.”
Smoking also adds to the risk, he said.
As baby boomers fight to keep their minds sharp, online brain training packages have become a multi-million-dollar business.
Associate professor Michael Valenzuela supervises older volunteers at the brain training laboratory at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute.
“We go through a few different exercises and cross-train the brain, for want of a better word, so we get a whole brain workout,” he told 7.30.
Professor Valenzuela and his team have just completed a systematic review of studies on the impact of brain training on older people, with promising results.
Scans of the brain post-training show greater connectivity in the areas at the front of the brain connected to the memory centre, or the hippocampus.
The study showed that doing this type of training home alone was not effective, at least for older people.
There is also still no hard proof that these exercises can actually delay the onset of dementia.
Professor Brodaty is calling for a national campaign, similar to the Life Be In It fitness campaign, which was first launched in 1975 to urge Australians to take action to reduce their risk of dementia.
Experts say activities such as learning a foreign language, playing bridge or dancing – which stimulates and challenges the brain – could be helpful.
Chemists at the Australian National University (ANU) have discovered a new way to manufacture rare chemicals that occur naturally in coral, and used the method to make a powerful anti-inflammatory drug.
Professor Michael Sherburn said the Canberra-based group’s findings could lead to cheaper and easier production of medical compounds, offering new hope for people requiring treatment for cancer and malaria.
“What we’re hoping is a number of people will pick up these ideas we’re using for more efficient chemical synthesis and apply them more generally,” he said.
“Hopefully we will eventually get to the point where we can make any structure at will in a very cost-efficient, very labour-efficient manner with a minimum impact on the environment.”
Professor Sherburn said the process to clip small molecules together could have many applications.
“Generally speaking if you want to make these molecules it’s very time consuming,” he said.
“It is really labour-intensive, takes lots of money, lots of time and it’s really, really challenging too.
“So what we found out is how to do this in a really short way, in a really smart way, in a really efficient way.”
The group made pseudopterosin during the trial, an anti-inflammatory drug made from compounds that are currently only available in tiny quantities extracted from fan coral found in the Bahamas.
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