If the Australian National Preventive Health Agency has it right, this Christmas-New Year season will see a rise in the number of smokers resolving to ditch the habit.

Citing a strong link between increased tobacco tax and reduced smoking rates, especially amongst the lower socio-economic groups most likely to smoke, the Agency welcomed the Federal Government’s recent decision to stage 12.5 per cent increases in tobacco excise over the next four years.

The rises will commence on 1 December 2013, with further increases in the month of September for the ensuing three years.

 

Read more: Butting out for Christmas

 

Leg Club founder Ellie Lindsay with UK Health Minister, Earl Howe.

 

The founder of the UK’s highly successful Leg Club model for managing venous leg ulcers (VLU) has confirmed a forthcoming visit to Australia. 

 

Read more: Wound care pioneer to visit

NSW Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald has introduced legislation that would compel local authorities to fluoridate the drinking water delivered to local residents.

Dr McDonald, a medical practitioner before entering State Parliament, said around 300,000 people in NSW do not have access to fluoridated water, which he called "one of the most cost-effective health interventions ever used."

 

Read more: End the ‘fluoride circus’ – State MP

Given Australia’s ageing population and the relentless increase in the burden of chronic disease, it should come as no surprise to learn that health care outlays are continuing to rise.

Read more: Nation’s health costs keep on rising - Average annual expenditure is $5,881 per person

The health care priorities of the new Federal government will include easier access to community mental health services and a greater focus on addressing the high smoking rates in Indigenous communities, according to the newly appointed Minister for Health, Peter Dutton.

Speaking on ABC Radio National’s ‘Life Matters’ program today (25 Sept.) Mr Dutton singled out mental health support as an ongoing priority, saying he intended to capitalise on the efforts made in the past decade by both sides of politics.

Noting that 75 per cent of mental health concerns manifest before the age of 25 years, the Minister stressed the importance of early interventions, including more usage of e-health platforms.

Read more: Canberra to prioritise mental health, Indigenous smoking – Health Minister

A report released today by the ‘think tank’ Grattan Institute has urged a greater role for pharmacists and the adoption of a new (for Australia) category of health worker, the physician assistant, in order to improve primary care access in under-serviced locations.

Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural AustraliaThe proposals in the report, Access all Areas – New solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia, would “only apply to the seven rural areas with the worst shortages of GP services.” It could be implemented within the next five years at an ongoing cost of $30M p.a.

Read more: ‘New workforce’ needed to improve remote access

The workload of NSW GPs managing patients requiring elective surgery may not be alleviated by news that waiting times in NSW public hospitals increased from an overall average of 39 days to 50 days over the past three years.

The data comes in the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the federal agency providing information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2012-13: elective surgery waiting times, is available from the AIHW.  

It shows that waiting times for some of the commonest procedures, including the age-related categories of hip and knee replacement (195 days and 297 days of waiting in NSW, respectively) and cataract removal (232 days) were higher in this state than in other jurisdictions, and well above the national average.

Read more: Patients grow older awaiting surgery