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Ethical Australian Journalists Guide


October 07, 2004

Health and superannuation facts

With so much political bombardment of voters about Medicare, health and aged spending and whose handout is bigger than someone else's, two new reports may be timely for voters trying to sort fact from fiction. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has produced Health Expenditure Australia 2002-03 which gives the real picture of what was spent and what will be spent next. It's at Also just out is NATSEM's look at superannuation lump sums. It asks the question: What happens between ages 50 and 69? Research by NATSEM shows the majority of Australians are contributing very little to the cost of their retirement. Since 1992, almost every employee has had superannuation put aside for them under the Superannuation Guarantee, so where does this superannuation go? There is a popular misconception that, on average, Australian retirees enjoy ‘the good life'. NATSEM's evidence contradicts this. Read more by following the links from
Posted by belinda at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2004

Sick kids

More than 3 million children die each year because of unhealthy environments. A new publication from the World Health Organization ( looks at why and where this is happening. Inheriting the world: The atlas of children's health and the environment ( looks at indoor pollution, climate change and sanitation as contributing factors to high death rates. The atlas includes full-colour maps and graphics.
Posted by belinda at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2004

For the count

Anyone wanting to report on Australia's health system needs to have facts and figures to work with. The Parliamentary Library has produced a new eBrief, Healthy measures - key health statistics, to inform people about what health statistics exist and how often they appear. The eBrief describes the key statistics that allow the performance of the Australian health system to be measured. These include figures for government health expenditure, Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, hospitals, medical workforce and private health insurance. International data is provided for comparative purposes. The full eBrief is at
Posted by belinda at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Where did the money go?

In Australia, seven health conditions together account for $29 billion, or 59% of allocated health expenditure. These areas are
  • Cardiovascular diseases—$5.4 billion (11.0% of total allocated health expenditure)
  • Nervous system disorders —$4.9 billion (9.9%)
  • Musculoskeletal diseases—$4.7 billion (9.6%)
  • Injuries—$4.1 billion (8.3%)
  • Respiratory diseases—$3.5 billion (7.2%)
  • Oral health—$3.4 billion (6.9%)
  • Mental disorders $3.0 billion (6.1%).
The figures come from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's recent publication, Health system expenditure on disease and injury in Australia, 2000–01. The 35-page report is full of interesting data and is online at . Time to give away the fags, exercise more and keep brushing those teeth?
Posted by belinda at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2004

Prostate cancer fighters

Health stories are usually big, and the very biggest just could be about things that are small. Wired News has a story about tiny prostate cancer-fighting computers. These mini-computers, made up on DNA molecules, could be ingested, from where they would seek out and combat disease at the cell level. The full story is at,1282,63265,00.html/wn_ascii
Posted by belinda at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2004

Sign of the (LA) Times?

Only in California! The Los Angeles Times has just launched a new Web section on their site - Cosmetic Surgery of Southern California. While other papers start wine and food sections or liftouts aimed at investors, the LA Times has set up one that covers everything in the nip'n'tuck line, from botox injections and hair transplants to tummy tucks and chemical peeling. Presumably they know their target audience well. See for yourself at
Posted by belinda at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2003

Good news for head injury trauma victims

"An altered version of cannabis could be the first drug ever to shield the brain from the cascade of injury that follows head trauma", according to Kristen Philipkoski of Wired News. Apparently, "three basic processes contribute to damaging the brain when injury occurs, and the cannabis-derived drug acts on all of them: inflammation, neuron death and the breakdown of communication between neurons". Read all about it at,1286,61239,00.html/wn_ascii
Posted by belinda at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2003

Medical culture

Health reporters may be interested in having a look at EthnoMed, a Web site about cultural beliefs and the issues involved in the health care of recent immigrants. The site is largely about immigrants to the US, many of whom are fleeing war or conflict in their home countries, but the information would be useful to most reporters. The site at has culture-specific pages for Amharic, Cambodian, Chinese, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Mexican, Oromo, Somali, Tigrean and Vietnamese cultures as well as other information.
Posted by belinda at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2003

Why can't a person be more like a newt?

Wired News has a story about US cardiologist Mark Keating, who wants to turn back on the ability of the human body to regenerate lost limbs and damaged organs. Already our bodies replace skin cells, nails and stomach linings, so why not a liver or a heart muscle? Keating's work is detailed in a story at
Posted by belinda at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2003

Understanding illnesses

Health journos might find the online tutorials from the US National Cancer Institute helpful when reporting certain diseases and syndromes. The tutorials, called Science - Behind the News, are easy to follow and well-drawn, and aim to make complex material intelligible to the layperson. Current offerings include info on cancer, gene testing, nanodevices and cancer, the immune system, angiogenesis and more. Some are also available in Spanish.
Posted by belinda at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2003

City slickers clean up on health

Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute ( has looked at private health insurance across Australia and found that "the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate results in a disproportionate amount of government health expenditure being channelled into capital cities despite the poorer health services and outcomes in regional areas." The paper, "Health spending in the bush: an analysis of the geographic distribution of the private health insurance rebate", is based on unpublished ABS data and can be found at
Posted by belinda at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2003

Bacteria-eating bugs

With antibiotics becoming less effective due to over-prescription, the worry that superbugs will one day ravage the human race is more and more a worrying possibility. Now along come bacteriophages which, according to Wired News, "eat drug-resistant bacteria for breakfast". Read all about Georgian scientist Alexander Sulakvelidze and his work on bacteriophages in the full story at
Posted by belinda at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2003

The summit for health

Papers from the recent Australian Health Care Summit in Canberra are available online at Attendees included Jeffrey Braithwaite, John Deeble, Mark Drummond, Stephen Duckett, John Dwyer, Kingsley Faulkener, Drew Fitzpatrick, Kerry Goulston, Paul Gross, Jill Iliffe, Michael Kidd, Helen Lapsley, Steven Leeder, Milton Lewis, Ken Mackay, David Malone, John Menadue, Robin Mortimer, Kim Oates, Larry Ohlhauser, Mary-Anne O'Loughlin, Jeff Richardson, Don Roberton, Russell Schneider, Fiona Tito-Wheatland, Anne Tonkin and Paul Tridgell. The summit was sponsored by health policy and welfare organisations, such as the Health Issues Centre and the Australian Council of Social Service.
Posted by belinda at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2003

Three medical resources

Journos researching medical stories might find the following of use:

- The Cochrane Collaboration
This international organisation collects evidence about the effectiveness of medical and surgical interventions and publishes the findings in an online database called The Cochrane Library.

- The Monash Institute of Health Services Research
The Institute provides teaching and research into evidence-based medicine.

- The Australasian Integrative Medicine Association
This peak body of doctors tries to integrate evidence-based complementary medicine into mainstream practice. .

Posted by belinda at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2003

Blame it on your parents

If you're feeling depressed, you can blame your parents, according to new research. In a "26-year study of the genetic profiles and hardships of 847 New Zealanders, researchers found that people with one version of a specific gene were protected from falling into depression, while those with another variation became depressed twice as often," according to a story called The Anxiety of Depression by Kristen Philipkoski in Wired News. Read her report at,1286,59656,00.html. Though the story does not give details of the study, it is based on an article, "Influence of Life Stress on Depression: Moderation by a Polymorphism in the 5-HTT Gene", that appeared in Science, v. 301, 18 July 2003, p.386. Science is online at
Posted by belinda at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2003

Private health insurance

Choice, the consumers' magazine (, has taken a hard-nosed look at private health insurance and whether it is worth your while. The full report is only available to subscribers, but you can read about the Regulation of Private Health Insurance Premiums in a Parliamentary Library Research Note at If you want to subscribe to Choice Online, it only costs $13 pa, which is probably much better value for money than private health insurance.
Posted by belinda at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2003

Who's got your DNA?

The full text of the Australia Law Reform Commission's "ALRC 96 Essentially Yours: The Protection of Human Genetic Information in Australia" can be found at It covers everything from genetic screening and testing, tissue samples, insurance and employment, to privacy, discrimination and ethics.
Posted by belinda at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2003

An arm and a leg?

That's what SARS is costing economies that have been affected by the virus. The Parliamentary Library has done a Research Note, The Economic Costs of Infectious Diseases, about what infectious diseases like SARS cost modern economies. Find it in full at The Library has also produced another Research Note, Is Medicare Universal? We probably all know the answer to that one. It's at
Posted by belinda at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2003

Blame it on your parents

Anorexics have long been blamed for their own problems, but a story on Wired News says the eating disorder may have genetic origins. Read more at,1282,58818,00.html/wn_ascii.
Posted by belinda at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2003

Undermining Medicare: steadily, relentlessly, effectively?

'As a nation, Australia will pay more for healthcare if the government’s Medicare changes are implemented', argues Gwen Gray in a comment on Australian Policy Online. Read the full piece at
Posted by belinda at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2003

SARS briefings from WHO

The World Health Organization ( has a page of media briefings to date on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Find it at Also available from WHO is a colour-coded map of countries affected by SARS at The US-based Center for Disease Control also has information at
Posted by journoz at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2003

Coming right at you

Anyone reporting AIDS or other reproductive health issues will be glad to hear about the PUSH journal ( The journal isn't really pushy - PUSH is simply an acronym for 'Periodic Updates of Sexual and Reproductive Health issues around the world'. You have to register to get it (journalists only) but it gives journalists free access to news and magazine stories on these topics from 5,000 news sources dating back to May 2002. It is good to see services designed to deliver more informed reporting.
Posted by journoz at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

No more excuses

After the high fat scares about junk food recently, everyone needs to be better informed about food content. Get the lowdown by downloading a free database of detailed nutritional information for more than 6,000 food products (including fast food items) compiled by the US Department of Agriculture ( The database can be searched on a PC or PDA. Get the database and software to run it at
Posted by journoz at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003


The World Health Organization ( has reliable information on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) at, including a FAQ at The US Center for Disease Control also has information at
Posted by journoz at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2003

Is the Government health rebate a flop?

John Deeble of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health argues that the federal government’s private health insurance rebate has failed at The full text of his remarks is at
Posted by journoz at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)