Thanks to Fron Jackson-Webb for providing this latest wrap of reading from The Conversation (http://theconversation.edu.au/).
It includes articles about universities teaching complementary medicine, the Medicare Safety Net, new research on caesarean sections, e-prescriptions and hospital errors, and urban development.
You can also read an article from The Conversation’s editor, Andrew Jaspan, on mining magnate Gina Reinhart’s ambitions for Fairfax.
Why universities should teach alternative medicine
By Evelin Tiralongo, Senior Lecturer at Griffith University
Most readers would know of the current debate about universities teaching complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). A core question not being addressed in this debate is what other institution is better placed to deliver evidence-based knowledge of CAM.
The latest controversy started when a group called Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) wrote to vice chancellors across the country asking them to review their health science courses. FSM rightly says that rigorous academic standards and evidence for scientific conclusions and health-care practices are of the essence and should be the basis of all university teaching.
Who reaps the benefits? Rethinking the Medicare Safety Net
By Kees Van Gool, Health economist at University of Technology, Sydney
Medicare is one of the cornerstones of the Australian health care system, but there are serious questions about some aspects of the program. Over time, government reforms have created some perverse incentives that have led to greater inefficiency and inequity.
One feature of Australia’s Medicare program is that doctors can determine their own fees and patients can only claim a predefined Medicare benefit. For out-of-hospital services (such as GP and specialist attendances), patients have historically had to pay the gap between the doctor’s fee and the Medicare benefit. The bigger the gap, the bigger the out-of-pocket cost to the patient.
Forget ‘too posh to push’ – doctors are behind the rise in c-sections
The proportion of Queensland women giving birth via caesarean section has increased by a staggering 74% in the past 20 years. This wouldn’t be of concern if more babies’ lives were saved as a result but the evidence suggests otherwise.
There’s a belief among some in the health industry and wider community that women who are “too posh to push” are driving the increase. But this myth has been consistently busted, most recently with a study from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Mothers & Babies (QCMB), which surveyed more than 22,000 Queensland mums about their maternity experience.
Bicycle registration is not the answer for bad behaviour
By Chris Rissel, Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney
There’s nothing like a “bikes vs drivers” story to whip commentators into a frenzy, and the stoush between Shane Warne and a Melbourne cyclist is no exception. Whenever this issue comes up, there are calls for cyclists to be registered – either to “pay their way” or so their behaviour can be monitored. But what difference would registration make?
Resorting to legislation is rarely the best solution to any social problem. It’s easy for Warne to call for “cyclists to be registered” or the Lord Mayor of Melbourne to want to “crack down on hoon cyclists” in pedestrian areas whenever someone on a bicycle breaks a rule. But a legislative response is out of proportion to the size of the problem and creates more problems than it tries to solve.
E-prescriptions could slash errors in hospitals
By Justin Norrie, News Editor, The Conversation
Electronic prescribing technology could reduce mistakes made by hospitals in medication prescriptions by up to 66%, a study has found.
The study of the technology in two hospitals found procedural errors such as incomplete, unclear medication orders fell by more than 90%. Serious errors, including the prescription of incorrect drugs or doses, fell by 44%.
The results of the study, by a team from the University of New South Wales, are published in the journal PLoS Medicine.
What is green space worth?
By Jason Byrne, Senior Lecturer at Griffith University
Recent patterns of residential development in Australian cities are threatening to overwhelm green space in our urban cores. Policies of urban consolidation have concentrated medium to high density residential development in inner ring suburbs where green space is comparatively scarce. And the zoning and development regulations of many local authorities actually allow a reduction of green space for higher density development – usually without any justification.
Everyone likes parks, but we may be greatly undervaluing their importance to our health and wellbeing, and to the wellbeing of other species.
The Conversation’s Editor’s Note: 2 February
By Andrew Jaspan, Editor, The Conversation
News of Gina Rinehart’s tilt at Fairfax Media is a circuit breaker in the never-ending story of the media company’s decline.
As a former editor of The Age, one of Fairfax’s prized mastheads, I have spent the day wondering where this might end. Whichever way, it looks bad for quality, independent journalism. This is a defining moment for the kind of Australia we want.
When I arrived in 2004, The Age was earning more than $100 million profit a year, while the Sydney Morning Herald was always just ahead of us. Seven years later, the papers barely make money.
Later in 2007, Fairfax and Rural Press merged into a $12 billlion behemoth, the biggest in the southern hemisphere. This week it’s valued at a mere $1.7bn, and has become one of the most short-sold stocks on the ASX. No one loves it. But the papers need to be loved.
And Fairfax’s papers have an awful lot of clout. The combined audience for The Age in print and online is about 1 million readers per day, and the SMH just above. For those who follow these things, that’s higher than for any Channel 7, 9, 10 or ABC news bulletins. And more importantly, the audience for the Fairfax papers, including The Australian Financial Review, is the influential and affluent “AB” market. For these people, what the Fairfax papers report, matters. Unlike the tabloids read by the bulk of Australians.
The Age, SMH and The Fin, along with The Australian, set Australia’s news agenda and are slavishly followed by the radio talk-back and TV news shows.
So why is Gina Rinehart buying? She has no interest as a shareholder in making money. She wants to buy influence. In 2007 she placed full page ads in The Age and SMH against then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s proposed mining tax. That campaign ended with the removal of Rudd and the collapse of the tax. Now instead of buying pages, she wants to buy the papers.
Such motivation is deep in the Rinehart family genes. In a 1979 polemic called Wake up Australia, Gina’s father, Lang Hancock argued: “We can change the situation so as to limit the power of government,” before concluding: “it could be broken by obtaining control of the media and then educating the public”.
And on the miners’ right to mine anywhere, he wrote: “Nothing should be sacred from mining whether it’s your ground, my ground, the blackfellow’s ground or anybody else’s. So the question of Aboriginal land rights and things of this nature shouldn’t exist.”
The Murdoch press in Australia is already favourably disposed to the miners and the Minerals Council view of the world. Fairfax provides an alternative view. And one that Gina no doubt wants neutered, silenced or turned around. Perhaps by Gina’s favourite columnist, Andrew Bolt?
Whether Australia retains an independent and semi-pluralist media will become clear within the near future. In the meantime, The Conversation will keep a close eye on this matter of national importance.