Thanks to Reema Rattan, for providing this update of the latest health and medical reading at The Conversation.

The stories below cover medical mishaps, men’s health, breast cancer screening, alcohol labelling, media reporting of suicide, hospital care of patients with mental health problems, puberty, the NT Intervention, bariatric surgery and type 2 diabetes, and the hazards of sedentary behaviour.

A health prescription: doctors, own up to medical mishaps immediately
By Thomas Faunce, ARC Future Fellow at Australian National University

An expansion of the fiduciary duties of doctors towards patients could provide better protection to those suffering from medical mishaps. Such an expansion would require doctors to promptly disclose adverse events.

A New South Wales District Court is currently hearing a case about a surgical pack allegedly left inside Helen Caroline Anne O’Hagan’s abdomen for more than 15 years.

It’s claimed surgeon Dr Samuel Sakker negligently failed to remove it during a partial colectomy he performed in August 1992 at the Poplars Private Hospital in Epping, Sydney.

Mrs O’Hagan subsequently experienced cramping, fevers and loss of bowel control but assumed they were related to her chronic abdominal and pelvic problems.

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Tread carefully: revised guidelines for better reporting of suicide deaths
By Jaelea Skehan, Conjoint Teaching Fellow in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle

The Australian Press Council (APC) has released guidelines for reporting about suicides for the print media today. They are binding for around 98% of Australian newspapers and magazines.

The guidelines articulate some of the differences between reporting on the broader issue of suicide and the reporting of individual deaths.

These revised guidelines still ask for considered and sensitive reporting of individual deaths by suicide, which should be done where there’s clear public interest to do so and informed consent by family.

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Out in the cold: lack of hospital beds cuts off help for seriously mentally ill
By Vaughan Carr, Professor of Psychiatry, Research Unit for Schizophrenia Epidemiology at the University of New South Wales and David Copolov, Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University

Since the 1960s, the number of hospital beds for treating people with mental illnesses has declined dramatically in most OECD countries.

Australia has been among the most assiduous in implementing reform, reducing its public sector mental health beds by 80% during the past half century.

We now have one of the lowest number of psychiatric beds per capita in the developed world.

So what’s been happening behind hospital doors while the spotlight of attention has been on the development of community mental health services?

And what are the consequences for in-patient care of those with the most severe psychiatric disorders, such as people with schizophrenia and major mood disorders?

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How has the Northen Territory Intervention affected Aboriginal health?
By Marilyn Wise, Associate Professor at the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation at the University of New South Wales and Peter O’Mara, President at Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association

In 2006 the NT Government commissioned the Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle “Little Children are Sacred” report in response to widespread political and community concern. The Northern Territory Intervention followed, aiming to protect the region’s children. But an assessment has found more bad news than good.

Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory had long been calling for greater partnership with and investment by governments to support communities to act to improve their living conditions and the opportunities available for their futures.

The Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report was, in 2006, the last in a series that had recommended actions to achieve these goals. But the NT Government did not respond quickly.

Stepping into what it saw as a vacuum, the Federal Government instead announced a “national emergency response to protect Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory”.

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Twelve going on 20: are girls reaching puberty earlier?
By Jayashiri Kulkarni, Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University

You just have to turn on the television or catch a glimpse of a magazine newsstand to see how girls are being thrust into adulthood earlier and earlier. But does biology match societal change? Are girls beginning puberty and maturing at an earlier age?

Puberty is a complex biological process involving rising levels of sex hormones, driven by louder and stronger trigger pulses from the brain. In girls, the process culminates in the release of an egg from the girl’s ovary, signalling the body’s readiness to reproduce.

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Bariatric surgery: new paradigm in type 2 diabetes management?
By Paul Zimmet, Professor (Hon) at Monash University and Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute

Type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing epidemic worldwide. By 2020, it is expected to be the number one disease in Australia in men and second only to breast cancer in women.

Treating this illness has always been the ambit of physicians but big changes are afoot.

Diabetes specialists have recently seen a paradigm shift as surgeons invade our territory, laying claim to significant success in treating obese people with type 2 diabetes with bariatric surgery.

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Tattoo you: the stick-on medical revolution
By James Heathers in PhD Candidate in Psychology at the University of Sydney and Andrew Kemp, NHMRC Career Development Fellow at the University of Sydney

When you think of tattoos you probably imagine bikies, celebrity tats or that Japanese flourish on your left foot that means “Honour” (or so you think).

You probably don’t picture medical revolution … which is what tattoos may now represent. Well, temporary tattoos, at least.

Work published today in Science shows how a simple stick-on tattoo could be used in a medical context.

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Breast cancer screening – are women given all the facts?
By Monika Merkes, Honorary Associate at the Australian Institute for Primary Care and Ageing at La Trove University

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in Australian women. But experts disagree on the benefits of breast cancer screening programs, with some arguing that it’s unclear whether it does more harm than good.

One in 11 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 75. In Australia, as in many other developed countries, we have a screening program to detect breast cancer early because this offers the best chance of survival.

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To improve men’s health, treat the cause not just the illness
By John McDonald, Foundation Chair in Primary Health care at the University of Western Sydney

Whichever way you look at it, men’s health in Australia is uniformly worse than women’s. Men die, on average, five years earlier than women born at the same time and are likely to experience more health complaints throughout their life.

This is despite years of well-executed campaigns designed to motivate men to reduce risky behaviours: cut down on booze, quit smoking, eat healthily and drive safely.

But viewing barriers to good health simply as behaviours that must be “dealt with” overlooks the broader environment of men’s lives – the “causes of the causes” of poor health.

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Dying to watch something good on TV? You might be
By Lennert Veerman, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland

Watching television for an average of six hours a day could shorten life expectancy by almost five years, according to a study we published today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

What’s more, our research found the impact of sedentary behaviour linked to television viewing rivals that of other major risk factors.

In the 1950s, Professor Jerry Morris reported that conductors on London’s double-decker buses had a lower risk of coronary heart disease than the drivers of those buses, who sat all day.

As the conductors ran up and down the stairs at work, the inference from the observation was that physical exercise was good for health.

Much research followed but surprisingly, it took more than 50 years to discover what might have been obvious from the start: the reverse is also true – too much sitting is bad for health

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Cheers to health warning labels for alcoholic drinks
By Robin Room, Professor of Population Health & Chair of Social Research in Alcohol at University of Melbourne

Despite known risks of drinking, health and safety warning labels have been noticeably absent from alcoholic beverages in Australia.

But that might be about to change, with the Government today seeking feedback from consumer groups on the recommendations of the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy.

The independent review chaired by Dr Neal Blewett released its report – Labelling Logic – on January 28, 2011. It contains 61 recommendations, four of which pertain to warning labels on alcoholic drinks.

Professor of Population Health & Chair of Social Research in Alcohol, Robin Room answers some questions about why we need warning labels on alcoholic beverages and what form they should take.

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