burnt landscape

Describing the recent MJA-Lancet report on health and climate change as a “wakeup call [for]… all levels of Australian government” the group Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) has warned of major challenges to the healthcare system, including children being particularly susceptible to extreme weather and higher temperatures increasing the likelihood of illness and death in people over 65 years of age.

Calling heat “a serious health threat in Australia,” the DEA spokesperson Dr Arnagretta Hunter said the 2019 report of the MJA–Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: a turbulent year with mixed progress is “an extraordinary collaboration of 35 global institutions… The health community will not be silent on the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.

Mike Fitzgerald with someone’s best friend.

Ageing in dogs bears many similarities to ageing in humans. They start to lose hearing, vision, mobility, can get cancer, arthritis, heart disease, renal failure and brain ageing (doggy dementia). The differences in the way dogs age may be illuminating for our human species as well.

For example: why do smaller breeds of dogs tend to have longer lifespans (up to 16 years or more) compared to larger and giant breed dogs who may only live 8 to 10 years?

The Dog Ageing Project is a longitudinal observational study being conducted by University of Washington and Texas A&M, funded jointly by a grant from the US National Institute on Ageing as part of the National Institutes of Health and private donations.

elderly person

The Australian aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens, does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them.

So reads the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety a detailed document with the stark title of “Neglect”. It was released on 25 November 2019, almost a year before the final report is due.

happy health

In advance of festive season we have reporting season, at least for government agencies, with two reports on health system performance being issued in late November, one by the NSW Auditor-General, the other by the Health Care Complaints Commission.

For the figure-fond the Health 2019 Audit Office report states that the budgeted expense for the 15 local health districts, one being the Northern NSW LHD, and two speciality networks, increased from $18.3 billion to $19.4 billion in 2018–19. However, “The 15 health entities recorded unfavourable variances between actual and budgeted expenses.”

The Commonwealth’s highly regarded Productivity Commission has launched a two-volume draft report on Australia’s mental health status, the prevention and early detection of mental illness, and treatment for those who have a diagnosed condition.

As might be expected the picture is anything but rosy, with the commissioners noting that, “The treatment of mental illness has been tacked on to a health system that has been largely designed around the characteristics of physical illness.”

Disturbing statistics justified their findings: in any year approximately one in five Australians experiences mental ill-health, with the cost to the economy of mental ill-health and suicide being put, conservatively, in the order of $43 to $51 billion per year.