- Private health insurers will work directly with GPs and hospitals for the first time, running programs with the aim of keeping patients healthy.
- Brain scans of toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can help determine which children will have better outcomes as they grow up, a US study shows.
- A new rice cooking method, which could cut its kilojoules by as much as half, was one of the sexier topics presented at a recent meeting of chemistry experts.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 15th April 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Private health insurers will work directly with GPs and hospitals for the first time, running programs with the aim of keeping patients healthy.
The Federal Government has announced the winners of the 28 new “primary health networks” which will receive up to $900 million in government funds.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said the networks, which replace Medicare Locals, would improve frontline services for patients and better coordination between hospitals and GPs.
But Labor’s health spokeswoman Catherine King called it “a deeply disturbing move”.
“This allows private health insurers a direct say in the running of primary care and is the first step towards a two-tiered health system with health insurance members able to jump the queue,” she said.
In some cases, the groups will be run by consortiums that include universities and hospitals.
Some academics have warned that allowing private health insurers to run training and workplace programs for GPs will create conflicts of interest.
University of New South Wales healthcare expert Gawaine Powell Davies said he was concerned insurers could use their role training and coordinating GP clinics to influence referral practices.
The role of private health insurers in the consortiums remains unclear.
Dr Michael Armitage from Private Health Care Australia, the peak body for insurers, said increased private sector involvement was key to improving quality and consistency in the health system while reducing costs.
Brain scans of toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can help determine which children will have better outcomes as they grow up, a US study shows.
In the first study of its kind, the research team shows that infants with ASD that go on to have good language skills have neural activity in language-sensitive areas of the brain similar to non-ASD children.
The findings, published today in Neuron magazine, may help medical staff and parents in determining what levels of treatment are required for children with ASD and the best time to start working with the children.
Senior author Professor Eric Courchesne, from the University of California, San Diego, says understanding why some toddlers with ASD get better and develop good language has eluded researchers because little is known about the early neural bases of abnormal language development in ASD.
“This is because most brain imaging studies of the disorder have been conducted when ASD subjects are much older and well after early stages of development and after treatment,” says Courchesne, director of the Autism Centre of Excellence in the Department of Neuroscience.
For this latest study, brain activity was measured in 60 toddlers with ASD plus 43 non-ASD toddlers, aged between 12-48 months, as they listened to stories while sleeping, a technique pioneered by the team.
The team used functional brain imaging (fMRI) that shows where activity is triggered in the brain by speech stimuli and how strong that activity is.
The researchers then statistically compared maps of the ASD toddler brain activity to each other and to typically developing toddlers.
The children were followed and assessed in early childhood, on average one year after the initial fMRI to determine which toddlers had better language outcomes.
Co-author Dr Karen Pierce, co-director of the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence: says the functional activation patterns could serve to signify treatment readiness.
A new rice cooking method, which could cut its kilojoules by as much as half, was one of the sexier topics presented at a recent meeting of chemistry experts.
The paper combined the hot topics of carbohydrates (in this case, rice), coconut oil (touted by celebrities and others as a miracle fat that can do everything from control sugar cravings to boost your immunity), gut bacteria (the microbes in our intestines that are increasingly recognised as important in preventing disease) and weight loss. (It also touched on food poisoning and flatulence.)
The new method involves adding a touch of coconut oil to rice (around a teaspoon for half a cup of rice), which you then cook as you normally would, before cooling in the refrigerator for about 12 hours.
The cooking and cooling together increase the amount of a type of indigestible starch in the rice known as resistant starch.
Since the body can’t break down and absorb the energy from resistant starch, you end up with low-cal rice. “If the best rice variety is processed, we might reduce the calories by as much as 50 to 60 per cent”, predicts team leader Sudhair James, from the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka.
The researchers say people should be able to replicate the process at home, although the results might vary depending on the type of rice used.
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