- The Australian environment may be causing genetic changes and making people more susceptible to allergies such as hayfever, new research has found.
- The Federal Opposition is pushing for a national inquiry into the education of children with a disability in schools following revelations a Canberra student with autism was held in a cage.
- While Easter is traditionally a time of feasting, Tasmanians are being warned it is time to change old habits and start eating healthily and moving more.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 7th April 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
The Australian environment may be causing genetic changes and making people more susceptible to allergies such as hayfever, new research has found.
In Western Australia, Curtin University’s Brad Zhang has been looking at why Australians have one of the highest rates of allergies and hayfever in the world.
New studies, presented last week at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, reveal that something in the Australian environment is changing the way people’s bodies work, making them more likely to reach for the tissue box come spring.
Mr Zhang tested the incidence of hayfever in a group of newly-arrived Chinese immigrants and in a group of immigrants who had lived in Australia for more than two years.
He found changes known as “methylation” in the genetic structure of the group living in Australia long-term.
“We know in the past 50 years, the prominence of asthma allergies have gone up significantly in Western countries,” he said.
“We have done a lot of research but we still don’t know a cause why the asthma allergy is so high in developed countries.”
Part of Mr Zhang’s work is trying to work out what it is in the Western environment which is causing the increase in allergies.
He said one popular theory was that the levels of bacteria in food and water in developed countries were lower.
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, almost 20 per cent of the population has an allergic disease, and the rate is increasing.
Hospital admissions for severe, life-threatening allergic reactions have increased four-fold in the past 10 years.
Epigenetic studies, or the study of external factors on gene expression, may now open the door to finding ways to treat and potentially eradicate hayfever and allergies.
The research was also supported by the University of Western Australia.
The Federal Opposition is pushing for a national inquiry into the education of children with a disability in schools following revelations a Canberra student with autism was held in a cage.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described reports of mistreatment … as “shocking and deeply disturbing”.
Mr Shorten has backed a call from the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, for an inquiry.
“We cannot assume this is a one-off case,” Mr Shorten said.
The Opposition has suggested the Human Rights Commission carry out an inquiry and that a dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner be reinstated.
Mr Innes said the ACT case in which a child with autism was put in a two-metre by two-metre cage-like structure made of pool fencing was not an isolated incident and a broader inquiry was needed.
But a spokesperson for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the operation of schools was a matter for state and territory governments.
The Minister also defended the level of federal funding to states and territories for students with a disability.
The Education Minister’s office has also pointed to the Federal Government recently accepting a recommendation for the national curriculum to better meet the needs of students with disabilities.
…Tasmanians are being warned it is time to change old habits and start eating healthily and moving more.
The State Government has set an ambitious target to make Tasmania the healthiest Australian state by 2025.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson wants to make it easier for Tasmanians to be healthy.
Health experts said more than two thirds of Tasmanians were overweight or obese, and about 70 per cent were not physically active.
Dr Tim Greenaway from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said obesity and inactivity could lead to cancers, heart disease, diabetes and chronic illness.
Dr Greenaway will lead a group of health professionals and academics who will develop a strategy for the next five years.
He said the problem needed a whole of government approach.
“The Government needs to facilitate the built environment, infrastructure that makes it easier for people to walk, to ride bicycles for example,” he urged.
He said he also wanted a national push to make healthy foods cheaper than those that are high in salt and fat.
However, community groups have warned addressing social disadvantage is the first step in tackling the state’s appalling health statistics.
Eating healthful [healthy] foods has proven costly for many families.
A parliamentary inquiry into preventative health will start hearing submissions from stakeholders in a fortnight.
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