A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.
MORE AUSTRALIANS GIVING THE GIFT OF LIFE
For Australians awaiting an organ transplant, a promising milestone has been achieved.
As of January this year, a 12-month rate of 510 donors has provided 1451 transplant recipients with a second chance at life.
The 12-month rate in 2015 was 367.
ShareLife Australia says donation and transplantation rates have steadily increased since the federal government announced in 2015 a national inquiry into the management of the 2008 National Reform Plan.
Professor Allan Glanville, Director Thoracic Medicine and Medical Director Lung transplantation at Sydney’s St Vincent Hospital, says this “significant” increase in donation rates is evidence of what can be achieved when key stakeholders work together.
“The combined efforts by the Australian Government, including the OTA (Organ Tissue Authority) and state-based organ donation organisations, informed hospital administrators and dedicated doctors and nurses, highlights the importance of well-managed in-hospital organ donation programs,” said Prof Glanville.
DERMATITIS AND ACNE TOP LIST OF DISABLING SKIN DISEASES
Dermatitis and acne cause the greatest disease burden of all forms of skin disease globally, according to international research including Australians.
The study published in journal JAMA Dermatology found that skin diseases are the fourth largest cause of disability worldwide.
Researchers analysed more than 4000 sources of data on 15 skin conditions in 188 countries from 1980 through to 2013 to determine the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) – years lived with a disability and years of life lost – for each of the conditions.
Dermatitis topped the list with 9.3 million disability-adjusted life years globally, while acne causes 7.2 million DALYs.
BABY SLEEP DAY
Greater awareness is needed about how the whole family can be impacted by a baby’s lack of sleep, say experts.
The Pediatric Sleep Council (PSC), a team of international pediatric sleep experts, celebrated the first annual Baby Sleep Day on March 1 to draw attention and recognition to the importance of baby sleep.
Sleep is not only vital for the baby’s development but is also important for the health of the whole family, says Professor Harriet Hiscock, Research Fellow at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) and paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
Prof Hiscock says a baby’s lack of sleep also impacts on the family dynamic.
“It affects their relationship with their child, but also the relationship with their partner. The child’s sleep problem is often a source of tension because everyone is exhausted and cranky,” said Prof Hiscock.
“It’s a health issue for parents.”
US doctor Erin Leichman, Executive Director of the PSC, says raising awareness is an important step in giving families the answers, support, and information they seek.
PROJECT ‘WILL’ MAKE RADIATION THERAPY SAFER AND MORE EFFECTIVE
Australian researchers have received a funding boost to develop a world-first radiotherapy system that will ensure a “safer” delivery of the life-saving treatment to hard-to-treat cancers.
Radiation therapy is used to treat 40 per cent of cancer patients in Australia.
One of the difficulties with current treatment techniques, which map out the cancer ahead of the radiotherapy, is that hard to visualise tumours move during treatment, for example when the patient breathes.
Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI)-guided radiotherapy currently allows the cancer and surrounding organs to be viewed in real time as it is being treated. But at present it is impossible to check the radiation dose in the same way.
Professor Peter Metcalfe from the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics centre at the University of Wollongong aims to solve this problem by perfecting a novel radiation dosage measurement system that operates with MRI-linear accelerators.
On Wednesday his project was awarded a nearly $500,000 Cancer Council NSW project grant.
Prof Metcalfe says the three-year study will result in safer, more accurate and more effective treatment for patients.
“It’s mainly for the cancers that are difficult to visualise and treat – lung, breast, oesophagus, pancreas, kidney, rectal tissue, liver, cervix, prostate and lymph nodes – all the tricky ones,” Professor Metcalfe said.
“These cancers are difficult to target using current technology because they are near healthy organs that need to be avoided. The main thing with radiotherapy is avoiding other surrounding organs. So if you can reduce the size of the radiation field and hit the target more exactly you can spare the healthy organs.”