Category: Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

Stay well, play well

Stay well, play well

Most musicians ensure their musical instrument is kept in perfect condition, but do not look after their own physical and mental performance health in the same way. Sound Performers has been developed by an interdisciplinary team led by Suzanne Wijsman at The University of Western Australia and Bronwen Ackermann at the University of Sydney. Sound Performers is a globally accessible online tool to help teachers educate musicians at all stages about their occupational health, and optimise their performance through healthy practice.

Folate fortification reduces neural tube defects

Maternal dietary folate deficiency in the first weeks of life carries a higher risk that the fetus’ neural tube will not fuse, leading to the development of either spina bifida or anencephaly. For two decades Bower et al. followed a dedicated pathway to impact by lobbying the Australian Government’s Health portfolio’s statutory authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to introduce mandatory fortification of wheat flour. In 1995 voluntary fortification was allowed and in 2009 fortification of wheat flour with folate became mandatory. From 2011 to 2016, NTD births dropped, regardless of mother’s culture, age, educational attainment or choice of hospital system.

The power of people in shaping good health

A team of researchers at the Psychology of Active Healthy Living group at The University of Western Australia have dedicated their research to understanding the power of others in shaping healthy behaviours. Their community-based programs including Mummy Buddy and MAN v FAT Soccer have shown that the presence of a strong support network can have positive effects on a person’s general health and mental well-being.

Parkinson’s: when you sleep better, you feel better

Sleep is one of the pillars of health. However, sleep disturbances can be a common symptom in Parkinson’s, affecting up to 98% of patients.

From their studies, and from what is known about how the brain works, Dr Maria Pushpanathan, UWA School of Psychological Science and her colleagues have shown that there are relationships between sleep and daytime function. By improving sleep symptoms, potentially, the progression of Parkinson’s may slow and, subsequently, the quality of life may improve. Translating this new knowledge could also have major clinical implications for the treatment of problematic sleep issues in people with Parkinson’s.

What’s a breastfeed?

Over the last hundred years there have been huge advances in medical care for pregnancy and childbirth such as: assisted reproductive technologies, blood tests for hormone levels, ultrasound assessments of pregnancy and neonatal intensive care units. However, we are not seeing similar advances to treat issues relating to lactation.

Stopping the spread

Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) has been on the rise in Western Australia (WA), with nearly half of the cases presenting as MenW. Since 2013, a team of researchers at UWA led by Associate Professor Charlene Kahler have been researching IMD and MenW and have been instrumental in informing the WA government of the need to act in delivering vaccinations to the community, the most effective preventative measure to eradicate this disease.

Innovations in Breast Cancer: better diagnosis, better surgery

Around 1.7 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer world-wide each year, with more than 15,000 women and over 100 men affected in Australia. Of these, around one in four will need repeat surgery to remove tumour cells, often missed in the initial surgery. Microscope-in-a-Needle is a highly miniaturised medical device that fits inside a needle and is capable of detecting cancer cells with high resolution 3D imaging. The Optical Micro-Elastography device will image the stiffness of malignant tissue at a microscopic level, allowing surgeons to feel whether all the tumour is gone. Both devices will be commercialised for theatre use and will significantly improve detection and removal of tumour tissue and reduce or eliminate the need for repeat surgery. These technologies will impact the lives of women and men world-wide.

SWANS: safer, more productive operating theatres

In Australia, 22 percent of surgeries suffer from an ‘adverse event’. Whilst most events are minor and cause no permanent harm, 13 percent result in some form of disability 18 months later. 48 percent of these adverse events are preventable and as many as 70 percent are due to communication failures. Added to this are growing hospital wait lists and an ageing population. Public hospitals are now looking to implement efficiencies that can relieve the pressure. The SWANS team have come up with a simple, yet fresh approach of introducing pre-surgical briefings to operating theatres, and their pilot studies have already demonstrated very promising results.