The 2010 Federal budget – a healthy balance?

Featured

Cube attended a post-budget discussion yesterday led by Chris Caton, Chief Economist at BT Financial Group, dissecting the 2010 Federal budget announcement. Contrary to 2009 forecasts – made during the height of the global economic crisis – the Government is aiming to drive the budget back into surplus within just three years.

As predicted, health is high on the priority list in this year’s budget. A total new investment of $7.3 billion in the National Health and Hospitals Network over five years hit the headlines yesterday, funded by major reforms and tax increases across three economic sectors.

Where have the savings been made?

The 2010 Federal budget – a healthy balance?

The 2010 Federal budget – a healthy balance?

Increases in tax revenue across three core sectors will be used to fund the pledged health reform. As pre-announced in the media two weeks ago, taxes on tobacco have increased by 25%; a $9 billion Resource Super Profit Tax on the mineral industry was announced last week; and significant reforms within healthcare through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and a new Community Pharmacy Agreement are predicted to deliver a total $2.5 billion in net savings over five years from 2010-11.

PBS reform plans began back in 2007 and are expected to generate about $6 billion in savings. Designed to take advantage of patent expiry, cuts to the price of prescription medicines are expected to generate $2 billion savings to the Government and about $300 million to patients over four years. Economic experts at the post-budget discussion suggested that leaning against the steady growth in PBS spending seen in recent years was an appropriate measure.

Where is the money going to be spent?

Whilst tax increases are not always popular and reforms can take time, the cuts will help fund the Government’s new health commitment. These savings will provide an additional $2.2 billion to meet the needs of Australia’s healthcare system, including:

  1. $355 million for almost 450 GP ‘Super Clinics’
  2. $417 million to enhance after-hours services, making them more streamlined
  3. $523 million to provide practice nurses in all GP surgeries  
  4. $467 million to rollout the national e-Health strategy, introducing individual electronic health records

Distilling the debate down to a grassroots level, patients may receive cheaper scripts, better access to GPs and practice nurses, shorter waiting lists for elective surgery and emergency department care, and better chronic disease management.

The current Government has placed a major focus in the national health system in an election year and time will quickly show the outcome of its decisions.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Battling the cold war

Featured

Flu season looming On a dreary day like today, there is nothing worse than travelling in cramped public transport with someone sneezing, wheezing and coughing all over you. As the chilliness approaches, the cold and flu bug is literally ‘breathing down our backs’.

With swine flu making headlines last year, what lessons did we learn? And at a time of significant discussion about vaccinations, how will we combat the inevitable germs we will be exposed to this winter?

Our own mini poll conducted almost two weeks ago provides a snapshot of 100 Australians’ experience with the winter woes last year – 80% were hit with a cold, almost half took time off work and one-in-five saw a GP as a result.

Of those that visited their GP, the most common diagnosis was a viral infection – very few were diagnosed with influenza.

The poll offers clues to our likely behaviour this year. We asked all participants if they expected to catch a cold this winter and only 21% feel that they won’t get struck down. So what will the rest of us do to fight the dreaded lurgy?

We discovered almost one-third is planning to have a flu vaccination, which is similar to the number of survey respondents who had the jab a year ago.

When asked about cold treatment strategies, short of packing up and moving to a tropical island, heading to a pharmacy for cold and flu medication was the number one remedy by far, followed by resting and taking it easy. Only a small number feel they will need to trouble their GP.

With Australians now urged more than ever to take greater responsibility for managing their own health, these results are encouraging to see. We must be listening. Well at least Cube’s friends and colleagues are! Thank you to everyone who participated in our poll.

So what will you do to contest the cold and flu crusade this year?

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Going the extra mile for a good cause

Featured

If someone asked you to drive a rusty old car worth less than your TV set, don an Akubra and drive 3,500kms through the 45®C unforgiving Australian outback on just $500 worth of petrol, would you say yes? Well someone from Cube did, and for a good reason – to raise funds for Cancer Council NSW.

People from around the world are coming together to take part in the inaugural Sh*tbox Rally this month to raise funds for Cancer Council NSW. On 20 March, 17 teams will each drive an old car of less than $1,000 value – in other words, a sh*tbox – 3,500 kms from Sydney to Alice Springs. The challenge is to get there in one piece – both the cars and the participants!

The 2010 Shitbox Rally Route

The 2010 Shitbox Rally Route

From the gateway of the outback at Nyngan, to Broken Hill, up the Oodnadatta Track, onto Uluru/Ayres Rock and finishing in Alice Springs, the Rally will incorporate some of the most challenging roads in Australia. Participants range from their early 20’s to late 30’s and herald from the UK, Hong Kong as well as various states across Australia including VIC, QLD, NSW and SA.

One of Cube’s very own employees, Polly Lutter, is taking part: “The challenge will be to ensure our old car reaches the destination in one piece whilst raising as much money as possible. Sadly, we all know someone who has been affected by cancer and I wanted to raise awareness of the wonderful work done by the Cancer Council of NSW. It’s also a great way to see some of this amazing country whilst ‘roughing it’ a little along the way!”

Organiser and founder of the Sh*tbox Rally, James Freeman, who recently lost both his parents as well as his brother (five years ago) to cancer, hopes not only to raise funds for Cancer Council NSW, but also help support the greater community of people the disease affects. “Like me, the type of people that are doing the Rally want to make a bigger and more meaningful contribution to the fight against cancer.” 

Cancer Council NSW funds vital cancer research, prevention, information and support services like the Cancer Council Helpline. Help the team reach their fundraising goal by donating online at Everyday Hero.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Doctor or dotcom – is a digital diagnosis more important than the doc?

Featured

Have you ever found yourself reaching for your keyboard to research an ailment you are convinced you are a perfect candidate for? “Feeling fatigued? Check! Some weight gain? Yes! General muscle pain? That confirms it, I have contracted an incurable disease,” you hear yourself say.

If this is vaguely familiar, consider yourself an active contributor to a nation of ‘cyberchondriacs.’

Most of us will admit to Googling ‘[name of an exotic/obscure illness] + symptoms’ following a late night viewing of Medical Mysteries – but are Aussies taking their health too lightly by substituting doctor with .com?

New research from research company TNS found that 1 in 4 Australians will search the internet for medical advice to self-diagnose and even treat themselves. Over a quarter of this group feel that they are able to diagnose and treat an ailment without the need of a healthcare professional.

Considering ‘pregnancy’ and ‘cancer’ are the top two Googled health conditions (generating around 7.7 million search queries each month) and the fact that anyone can publish anything online (Wikipedia, anyone?) – these findings are somewhat concerning. 

A recent HCF survey also reveals that Gen Y and women are the most common web medicos. Could this be because more than half of those aged 18-34 said they were too embarrassed to talk to a GP?

Searching for health information online

Searching for health information online

Both TNS and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) agree that while the internet has its uses, those searching for health information must be careful. People may be at risk of diagnosing non-existent symptoms and possibly using treatments which may not be appropriate.

So, next time a mystery illness on hospital drama House prompts you to e-diagnose, remember to take the information with a grain of salt and speak to your pharmacist or GP                                                                                                     if you have concerns.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Lung cancer network finds its voice

Giving lung cancer a voice at Kirribilli House in Sydney

Giving lung cancer a voice at Kirribilli House in Sydney

Cube was lucky enough to attend a momentous event at Kirribilli House a couple of weeks ago in which lung cancer patients, advocates and clinicians united to call for urgent, higher priority for lung cancer, led by The Australian Lung Foundation.

Since 1956 Kirribilli House has been the official Sydney residence of the Prime Minister. However, when Kevin Rudd came into office, he announced that selected charities would be invited to use Kirribilli House to help them raise funds and awareness for their important work.

Attended by over 130 people, the event recognised some of the extraordinary individuals who have contributed to raising much needed awareness, via personal video stories. One lung cancer survivor spoke of her incredible journey, being diagnosed with lung cancer by chance. The diagnosis came as a huge shock as she had never smoked a cigarette in her life. Her story echoes many others – more than 20 Australians die every day from lung cancer, one in six of whom has never smoked.

What is clear is that survival after a lung cancer diagnosis in this country is far too short and this disease has, until now, been very low on the health agenda. Yet early lung cancer is actually a curable disease.

Thanks to the incredibly strong network of patients and carers, the Lung Foundation has created a powerful, unified voice which is starting to be heard within the community. Hopefully this unforgiving disease will begin to get the recognition it rightly deserves.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

The rise and rise of swine flu

The rise and rise of swine flu

The rise and rise of swine flu

Despite continued Global media coverage, swine flu seems to be in decline within Australia, or at least within manageable limits.

The media first coined the phrase ‘swine flu’ back in April this year after a new strain of influenza containing genetic fragments of swine, bird and human viruses was detected. The WHO declared a Global pandemic in June after the number of infections reached 28,774 in 74 countries, including 144 deaths.

Whilst the potential impact of new, fast moving viral strains can rarely be quantified, it has to be said that everyone likes a good health ‘scare’. A random Google search for ‘swine flu’ today came up with over 34 million hits, the vast majority being media coverage. Yet much of the online buzz was propelled by social networking sites with swine flu rating as a trending topic on Twitter for several weeks.

At the time of this blog post, the death toll in Australia is said to have reached 128, with 460 in hospital and 94 of them in intensive care. However within Australia at least, the virus is now perceived to be manageable. Health officials announced last week that vaccinations may start within the month, making Australia the first country to begin mass vaccination against the H1N1 virus.

The swine flu ‘buzz’ continues due to the ongoing impact overseas. Just today, in a bid to halt the spread of the virus, the mayor of a small French town banned spitting and wrote to football chiefs to demand that footballers who spit be sent off, putting the issue back on the front page.

As the northern hemisphere goes into the winter flu season the swine flu ‘noise’ is set to continue, circulating via the global media. Potential new strains, mass vaccination and a resurgence of other influenza viruses like bird flu may add further fuel to the fire.

One thing is for sure – this health story is not going away anytime soon.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon