Medical Forum’s roundup of the weeks’ health headlines

Incisions is supported by Western Women’s Pathology.

What’s happening this week:

WA slow to pick-up hepatitis help

Life-saving treatment options for hepatitis is not being taken up as quickly as it should be, says Hepatitis WA CEO Frank Farmer. He estimates nationally the figure could be as high as 150,000 Hep C sufferers who are not accessing government-funded curative treatments and about 200,000 with Hep B are not accessing information and early treatment intervention. There is a vaccine for Hep B. Mr Farmer thinks this may be because they are unaware of new treatment options, don’t know they have the diseases or may be too afraid to ask about them. World Hepatitis Day is on 28 July and he hopes the focus will spark positive action.

Cannabis mixed messages

Hardly a week goes by when medicinal cannabis doesn’t make a headline. This week a study over four-years of 1500 non-cancer patients with chronic pain indicated that those who used illicit cannabis as an adjunct to prescription opioids reported greater pain and anxiety than other patients. Prof Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW, said the result showed the need for caution about claims that freer access to cannabis could reduce opioid use. The study took place before medicinal cannabis was legalised. It asked more questions than it answered. Some of the cohort used cannabis purely for their pain and some recreationally, Professor Farrell told Medical Republic. The number of patients interested in trying cannabis or cannabinoids for pain relief rose from 30% to 60%. The research is reported in the current issue of the journal Lancet Public Health.

No-booze buses

The WA Government is moving to ban alcohol advertising on public transport. In a phased program, the first booze adverts have disappeared on rail infrastructure and digital billboards. They will start disappearing on buses from March 2019. There is a cost hit for the Government. Its contract with APN Outdoor generates about $8 million for the Public Transport Authority (PTA) of which 2%, or $160,000, comes from alcohol advertising.

Finding Cancer Early

A number of WA GPs have lent their support to the Cancer Council WA’s campaign to encourage particularly rural GPs to find cancer early using the specially devised tools developed by CCWA. The campaign kicked off in April and a second round of advertisements will kick off on July 7. The program targets people over 40 years of age living in regional WA with a focus on early detection of the five most common cancers: bowel, breast, lung, prostate and skin. Ds Rob Whitehead, Colin Smyth, Marie Fox, Tonya Constantine and Prof Max Kamien revealed quite a bit of themselves in the television campaign in 2014-16 to encourage people to seek help. The campaign will run until December 2020.

Youth mental health

Australian Rotary Health is encouraging a conversation about mental health and young people at their forum and networking event for researchers and clinicians. Lift the Lid on Mental Illness: Young Minds Matter will explore youth mental health with keynote speaker A/Prof David Lawrence from UWA’s Graduate School of Education. He said mental disorders were among the most common and disabling health conditions affecting children and adolescents today. “Young Minds Matter surveyed over 6000 families with children aged 4-17 years around Australia. We examine how mental disorders impact children’s development and learning, and what types of help children need, and receive,” he said. Information regarding ARH research grants will also be discussed at the event. It is hoped that through research ARH may have a positive impact on those figures. The event is being held at the University Club, UWA, on Wednesday 25 July, 2018 starting at 6.15pm.

Tickets at

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