The Health News – 27 January 2014

Overview

  • Almost 5,500 Australians were removed from the electoral roll in 2011-12 because they were deemed to be incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolling and voting.
  • Queensland Health says a large number of people have potentially been exposed to measles by a woman who was travelling back to Brisbane from the Philippines last week.
  • At a recent United General Practice Australia (UGPA) meeting in Canberra, representatives of the GP sector unanimously agreed that the focus of the PCEHR needs to be redirected to clinical utility and standardisation to ensure seamless clinical adoption.
  • Questions remain constant on the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder. Despite a refined definition and criteria in the DSM 5, released May 2013, there are calls that loose diagnostic boundaries may lead to over- and under-diagnosis.

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Advocates want law abolished after thousands taken off electoral roll for being of ‘unsound mind’ – by Nonee Walsh
Nearly five-and-a-half thousand Australians were removed from the electoral roll in 2011-2012 on the basis they are incapable of understanding ‘the nature and significance of voting’. Disability lobbyists say there has been a 13% increase in the number of voters disenfranchised on grounds of being of unsound mind since the 2007 federal election. People with Disability Australia’s (PWDA) Ngila Bevan said “We’re concerned that this number will only grow as our population ages and the prevalence of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia increase.” PWDA is appealing to the Australian Law Reform Commission enquiry to abolish the “unsound mind” clause in the federal act.
The call is being backed by the Human Rights Law Centre, who say the clause wording is ambiguous.

HRLC advocacy and research director Emily Howie said “It is archaic, derogatory and stigmatising language that does not reflect the true capacity of people with disabilities to make decisions about voting. Any elector can object to a person voting if a doctor certifies that they are of ‘unsound mind’ and don’t understand the nature and consequences of voting – it can be a family member, the people in an aged-care facility.” Section 93(8) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 disqualifies a person to have their name placed or retained on the electoral roll, and, in association, from voting, if they are found to be incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolling and voting, due to being of ‘unsound mind’ The Public Interest Advocacy centre also objects to the law, saying a lack of understanding of the electoral system may not be limited to people with disabilities. An advocate of the PIA said “It could be argued that people of ‘sound mind’ do not understand the ‘nature and significance of enrolment and voting’, and take chances or make ‘bad’ decisions, regardless of whether their disability impacts on their decision-making capacity.”

Queensland Health issues measles alert after infected woman flew in to Brisbane – no author listed
Queensland Health says a large number of residents may have been exposed to measles by a woman returning to Brisbane from the Philippines last week.

Public health physician Brad McCall says she was on a flight that went to Sydney and then Brisbane around 9:30am last Tuesday. He says anyone at the domestic terminal that day may have been exposed. After leaving the airport the woman visited a supermarket in Carina, potentially exposing more people to the virus. Dr McCall said “The important message for the public is the shop and the flights. Those people who travelled on those flights or who have been to the shop that day should be aware of the symptoms of measles and should make sure they are vaccinated.”

Dr McCall says people be alert for symptoms such as a fever, a runny nose, sore eyes, and cough and a rash that develops first on the head before travelling down the body. Symptoms generally appear around 10 days after infection.

General Practitioners Concerns With The PCEHR Program Are Understated – by David Moore
At a United General Practice Australia (UGPA) meeting in Canberra recently, advocates for the GP sector agreed that the focus of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records needs to be redirected to clinical usability and standardisation to ensure a seamless transition.
Substantial flaws have been highlighted in the plan, and there is yet to be a visible correlation between patient registration and improved clinical engagement and patient health outcomes.
A number of key clinical managers resigned from National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) in August of last year, amid concerns of the lack of progress and planning. There have been calls for NEHTA and the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) to review the PCEHR development plan and clearly mark out key areas for clinical input. Since August, DoHA has managed the PCEHR plan, and since then opportunities for clinical engagement have been less evident. United General Practitioners Australia is calling on Government to closely monitor the planning of PCEHR, to ensure is best structured to improve health outcomes for all Australian patients.

Still A Grey Zone In Diagnostic Boundaries For Autism Spectrum Disorder – no author listed
Questions remain constant on the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder. Despite a refined definition and criteria in the DSM 5, released May 2013, there are calls that loose diagnostic boundaries may lead to over- and under-diagnosis. Commentators say that although there are some improvements in the new definition, there is still a lack of clarity, and diagnostic consistency remains difficult to reach. Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne, reviewed international prevalence of the disorder and possible causes of, and evidence for, the disorder. Head researcher Professor Katrina Williams said the key problem clinicians face with children is that there is no clear boundary between which behaviours are ‘acceptable’ versus those that are clinically significant. She said “Whilst it’s simple for paediatricians and clinicians to identify children at the extreme ends of the spectrum, there is still this ambiguity for children who don’t fit exactly into the criteria. This can lead to differences in the way it’s interpreted and therefore differences in diagnosis.” “What is lacking are clear, well defined parameters or easy ways to assess what is normal at different ages, and for different genders and cultures. The identification of autistic behaviours is even more complex for children with intellectual disability or communication disorders. Despite many advances we do not know what ‘good enough’ social interaction is or what ‘good enough’ coping with change is and how this changes at different ages.”

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