Health round-up: Sleep Awareness Week, asthma and cancers affect on getting pregnant

Richard Laycock 6 July 2017

Woman lying in bed alone peacefully asleep

A weekly round-up of Australia's latest healthcare news.

Switch your workplace lights from fluorescent to LED

As a part of Sleep Awareness Week, the Sleep Health Foundation and Alertness CRC have launched a website called WorkAlert.

The initiative is designed to encourage employers to switch the lights in their offices from fluorescent to LED. LED lighting will not only save business owners money on electricity bills but it can improve and employees overall health.

Switching from dull fluorescent lighting to the blue‐enriched white LED light bulbs improves an employees alertness and performance.

Poor alertness results in roughly 10,000 work injuries and 25,000 road accidents every year.

Alertness may not just be all to do with fluorescent lighting at work. Studies suggest that our sleeping patterns are hard coded into our DNA, meaning that the 9-5 work day is not suitable for everybody.

Cancer may affect your chances of getting pregnant

Women who survive cancer are a third less likely to fall pregnant, according to a study conducted by a research team at Edinburgh University.

The study, which analysed the medical records of over 23,000 women who survived cancer between 1981 and 2012 found that they were 38% less likely to fall pregnant than the general population.

For women who'd never fallen pregnant before, the chance of conception after being diagnosed with cancer fell by almost half, to 20.6%.

Antibiotic could reduce asthma attacks

Help may have arrived for adults with uncontrolled persistent asthma, as Australian researchers find that taking azithromycin may halve the number of exacerbations.

The research conducted by the Hunter Medical Research Institute in Newcastle found that by taking the macrolide antibiotic, which is normally used to treat chronic lung diseases, "Adults with persistent symptomatic asthma experience fewer asthma exacerbations and improved quality of life when treated with oral azithromycin for 48 weeks."

The proportion of patients experiencing at least one asthma exacerbation was reduced by 44% for patients in the azithromycin group.

Medicare details being sold online

Earlier this week, a Guardian investigation found that Medicare numbers were for sale on the "dark web".

According to the report, if you know someone's name and date of birth, you can buy their Medicare number for 0.0089 bitcoin, which is about AU$30.

The Minister for Human Services, the Honourable Alan Tudge MP, said that while the any unauthorised access to Medicare numbers is concerning, the information available for purchase is not enough to allow someone access to any personal health record.

However, the sale of Medicare numbers opens the door for identity theft by criminal syndicates.

The government was quick to refer the matter onto the AFP.


What else is happening?

In other news, flu season has come earlier than usual, with NSW officials predicting flu cases to peak in the coming weeks. Flu cases jumped week-on-week by 62%, for the week ending 25 June.

Both QBE and Cover-More have dropped their general exclusions for mental illness from their travel insurance policies. The move by these to insurers is a possible sign of changes to come in the industry with regards to the treatment of mental health disorders.

Each week our round-up offers a summary of the latest developments impacting Australian healthcare and most importantly, you, the consumer. Check in every Thursday to find out what's happening in health.

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