The News – 28 July 2014

Overview

  • A recent snapshot of Australia’s health shows that, as a nation, we are not doing enough to combat the epidemic of obesity and overweight that threatens our health and the health of our kids.
  • A program at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra is helping sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease increase their wellbeing and overcome social isolation through appreciation of art.
  • Tiny particles of zinc in sunscreen — nano-zinc — may react with common household chemicals in unexpected ways, according to forthcoming research from China. The combined effect of the substances may make them toxic to our waterways or even ourselves, the study said.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 28th July 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

https://ama.com.au/media/australians-weighed-down-obesity

A recent snapshot of Australia’s health shows that, as a nation, we are not doing enough to combat the epidemic of obesity and overweight that threatens our health and the health of our kids.

The Roy Morgan Research State of the Nation Report, released earlier this month, showed that, while there had been some improvements in smoking, nutrition, activity, and fitness, Australians are still generally overweight.

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said a worrying statistic from the Report is that the average overweight Australian adult is carrying an extra 16.5 kilograms.

“People who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of developing diabetes or having a heart attack or stroke,” A/Prof Owler said.

“Around two-thirds of all adults are either overweight or obese, which puts enormous stresses on their health and on the health system.

“The AMA is urging people to take control of their weight and their health.

“The first step is to see your family doctor to get the right advice and guidance for a healthier lifestyle.

“Doctors can advise patients on what lifestyle changes they need to make to reduce the risks of disease and poor health.

“It can be as simple as eating sensibly and increasing physical activity.

“It can be tough to make the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight, and keep it off – but it is all worth it with improved quality of life and a longer life.

“Your family doctor can give you the tailored care and advice you need to get you safely started are on a healthier lifestyle, and to keep you on track,” A/Prof Owler said.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW):

• three in five Australian adults are overweight or obese (based on BMI), which equates to more than 12 million people;

• five per cent more adults are obese than in 1995;

• one in four Australian children are overweight or obese;

• over 30 per cent more people living in outer regional and remotes areas are obese compared to people living in major cities; and

• overweight and obesity is only beaten by smoking and high blood pressure as a contributor to the burden of disease.

The AMA has produced videos to promote Family Doctor Week 2014:

• Family Doctors provide targeted health care for patients at all stages of life with expertise, understanding, and distinction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-n2mEfFdIg

• The wide range of preventative care administered by family doctors ensures quality of life for patients and a sustainable heath system https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i4c0-lFHdc

This video (mute) has been produced so that general practices can play it in their waiting rooms for the information of their patients:

• General practitioners can help people reduce their risk of illness and disease, such as diabetes, heart attack, obesity, and depression https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J79_1LdJApA

All the videos can be downloaded from the AMA Family Doctor Week website at https://ama.com.au/familydoctorweek2014

AMA Family Doctor Week is sponsored by Australian General Practice Training.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-27/alzheimers-art-therapy-tours-at-national-gallery/5627022

A program at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra is helping sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease increase their wellbeing and overcome social isolation through appreciation of art.

The NGA offer arts therapy tours in partnership with community and residential aged care groups, and residents of Canberra’s Goodwin Aged Care Services are among the latest participants.

Educators and carers guide small groups around the gallery during the weekly tours, and participants are encouraged to discuss the artworks and find inspiration to tap into their own lived experience.

The sessions are helping people with dementia overcome the isolation that often attends the progression of memory loss and confusion.

Such programs could prove increasingly important as Australia’s population ages. Alzheimer’s Australia estimates more than 1,700 new cases of dementia are diagnosed each week.

Robyn Boyd from Goodwin Aged Care Services said the art therapy tours had made a great difference for participants.

“There’s a reduction of anxiety and distress within our residents living with dementia, also higher levels of social engagement,” she said.

“I think it is about provoking memories within the residents and then that lends opportunities for them to express those emotions and those memories and engage with the other residents as well as the educators.”

She said the tours tied in well with Goodwin’s approach to dementia care.

NGA program coordinator Adriane Boag said the partnership with residents’ carers was invaluable to the success of the art tours.

“We rely on their knowledge, we rely on the expertise of the carers. The gallery would never run this program in isolation without that partnership,” she said.

“Participants might not recall exactly why they feel a sense of well being but they know they feel more calm.

“A work of art by its very nature, asks people to engage, to inquire, to interpret.”

Ms Boag said the NGA’s Arts and Alzheimer’s program had attracted international interest since its inception in 2007, and she had shared the encouraging results at overseas conferences.

“The program has always had as its aims social inclusion, intellectual stimulation, the reduction of stigma around dementia and also to raise community awareness,” she said.

“The gallery’s program is part of a world-wide movement in this direction.”

http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2014/07/24/4052313.htm

While the jury is still out on the safety of nano-particles in sunscreen, when combined with common household products, it may react in unexpected ways.

Tiny particles of zinc in sunscreen — nano-zinc — may react with common household chemicals in unexpected ways, according to forthcoming research from China. The combined effect of the substances may make them toxic to our waterways or even ourselves, the study said.

Nano-zinc is a molecule found in many common sunscreens. Its tiny size, just billionths of a millimetre wide, makes it more easily absorbed into the skin.

While concerns have been raised about the safety of nano-zinc, current government advice is that there is insufficient evidence for it to be considered dangerous.

Now a new study has suggested that when nano-zinc is mixed with surfactants — a common class of chemical found in detergents, shampoos, and pharmaceutical products — the combined effect can be more toxic than nano-zinc alone.

Louise Sales, nano-campaigner at environment group Friends of the Earth said the study sounds a warning. “Many studies looking at the toxicity of nanomaterials such as nano zinc oxide look at these substances in isolation and don’t reflect real life conditions,” she said. “Although the study is largely theoretical it highlights the importance of looking at the ways nanomaterials interact with other substances when assessing their toxicity.”

The study exposed glowing bacteria to a nano-zinc solution and to three different surfactants. The toxicity of the various treatments was assessed by how much the glowing petri dish was dimmed. The combined effects of surfactants and nano-zinc was calculated from the chemical properties of the treatments.

Each of the surfactants was calculated to react differently with the nano-zinc, with one enhancing the toxicity of the nano-zinc, and the other two counteracting it.

The researchers wrote that their paper-based study suggests real-world research on the combined effects of nano-particles and surfactants should be carried out.

Dr Maxine McCall, Research Leader on nanomaterials research with CSIRO, said the paper raised some interesting issues.

“I agree…that studies are required on the biological effects of nanoparticles together with chemicals with which they may co-exist in the environment. Indeed, the real-world study would be to combine the two approaches, and assess the toxicity of the ‘transformed’ nanoparticles together with chemicals with which they may co-exist.”

However she warned it wouldn’t be a simple matter: “Given all the permutations, this would require much work and big funding, even if the project was tightly focussed.”

Louise Sales agreed that real-world research is needed. But she said, “The study is valuable because it represents a rare attempt to characterise the synergistic behaviour of nanomaterials with other ingredients or compounds. In that sense the study illustrates just how little we still know about the environmental and human health impacts of nanomaterials.”

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