Saturday, March 07, 2009

New guidelines say two drinks a day increases risk of death

And who do they think is going to be guided by them? This is just more rubbishy "modelling" (Translation: pretentious guesswork) based on equally pretentious epidemiological speculation. All the big Wall St firms had modellers to save them from doing risky things and look where it got them! And none of the climate models predicted that global warming would peak in 1998 and remain flat thereafter either

Two alcoholic drinks a day - the maximum recommended on a regular basis under new national health guidelines - put people at greater risk of death from alcohol than from drowning, being in a pedestrian accident or an accidental fall. The long-awaited [awaited by whom?] guidelines, released yesterday by Australia's top health advice body, warn that the health benefits of alcohol have been overstated, and that someone consuming two drinks a day has nearly one chance in 100 of dying from alcohol-induced injury or illness. That compares with a one-in-683 lifetime risk of drowning, a one-in-403 risk of being in a pedestrian accident and a one-in-125 risk of a fatal fall, the Weekend Australian reports.

World-first modelling of the health risks of alcohol shows that above two drinks a day, the dangers escalate quickly - taking drinkers closer to better-recognised dangers such as car crashes (one in 54), cancer (one in four) and heart disease (one in four).

The guidelines, published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, also recommend that adults drink no more than four drinks on any one occasion. Children and young people under 18, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and breastfeeding mothers, are all advised to avoid alcohol altogether.

The guidelines, which halve limits set in 2001, were greeted enthusiastically yesterday by health groups. [Yea! New ammunition for dictating to others!]

Despite renewed concern from some experts that many Australians might ignore the advice, some organisations called for even tougher steps. The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation called for mandatory health warnings reflecting the new advice to be put on all alcoholic products, while the Cancer Council Australia said it would have preferred the daily drinking limit for women to be halved again, to one drink.

Jon Currie, chairman of the NHMRC committee that compiled the new advice, said the guidelines were "not telling you what you can and can't do", but were instead designed to help Australians make informed choices about health risks. He said the health benefits of alcohol had been exaggerated and that any positive effect could be achieved by consuming just one drink every two days. In addition, any benefit would affect only middle-aged and elderly people. "There is no level of drinking alcohol that can be guaranteed by scientific evidence as being completely safe," Professor Currie said. [There is no way that Prof. Currie's advice can be guaranteed as completely safe, either]

However, the guidelines have already come in for the same criticism they attracted when released in draft form in October 2007, when they were attacked by some experts as too removed from most people's experience. Alex Wodak, director of the alcohol and drug service at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, said the gap between the two-drink recommended limit and many people's habits was such that "I fear these recommendations will be dismissed by many people".


Qld. police need a watchdog with more bite

The previous watchdog (PCT) was ridiculed out of existence and this one may go the same way. Background to the story here

Civil libertarians have called for parliamentary oversight of the police, saying the service's watchdog has lost its bite after 20 years. The calls come after the Crime and Misconduct Commission rebuked an officer who applied a Taser to a 16-year-old girl and accused the police service of failing to learn from mistakes. But CMC chairman Robert Needham dismissed the call for more oversight and defended the decision to not insist on disciplinary action against the constable in the Taser incident.

Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said the CMC had proved "largely ineffectual" at reining in wayward police behaviour. "If there is a concerning pattern, what's the CMC doing about it?" he said. "It just seems to be a lot of hand wringing at the moment." Mr O'Gorman called for the next government to institute a standing parliamentary committee to supervise police. He said it should not investigate individual complaints but look at policy issues and concerns, such as the misuse of Tasers.

Mr Needham said he had been forced into making his most public attack on police after frustration at their attitude towards the incident. "I've been expressing my view for quite a while and it seems to cause no change of attitude in the Queensland Police Service," Mr Needham said. He said it was the "harshest criticism" he had delivered in his four years at the commission.

Calling his relationship with Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson "good, amiable and friendly", Mr Needham said he disagreed with the police's internal reports on the case. "It speaks of the officer being left with no option but to deploy the Taser and that the officer displayed sound judgment," he said. "In my view neither of those statements is correct." He branded the constable as "gung-ho" but did not believe he deserved dismissal or formal discipline. "It is inevitable that mistakes will be made but my strong view is that police should learn from those mistakes," he said.

He had also accused police of displaying a "concerning pattern" towards the handling of incidents. Mr Needham said up to 60 complaints against police "crossed his desk" every year, of which about 20 troubled him, he said. However, he said his position had been misinterpreted as an attack on Taser usage. "I want to make it clear that I am not saying that there is a concerning pattern of Taser usage," he said.


Huge ambulance bungle in Qld.

HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars have been spent on ambulance stretchers that are too high for resuscitation and won't fit in highrise lifts. The stretchers, imported from Canada at a cost of $6500 each, are claimed to be injuring paramedics, sending WorkCover claims though the roof. "They're an absolute disaster," one ambulance officer told The Courier-Mail yesterday. "There has been no end of problems with them. They don't fit into highrise lifts, they're too high to do CPR on and they're injuring paramedics left, right and centre. It's a major stuff-up. The QAS haven't done their homework." The new stretchers are 96cm tall - 13cm higher than the existing models, which can be shortened further.

The revelation is an embarrassment for the Bligh Government in the midst of an election campaign where its economic credentials are on the line. The State Government has been trumpeting its decision to buy the stretchers, capable of carrying patients up to 228kg, as part of a $17 million roll-out of new ambulances across Queensland. "These pieces of equipment make ambulance transport safer and more comfortable for both patient and paramedic," Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts boasted in a press release last November.

But paramedics and their union say the stretchers have been nothing but trouble since coming into service six months ago. They said WorkCover claims by paramedics had skyrocketed by millions of dollars as they struggled with the "unstable and unsteady" stretchers. "Some paramedics are refusing to use the stretchers because they're afraid of being injured, but we're being forced to use them against our will," one officer said. "The QAS is breaching its own workplace health and safety policies by making us use them. The number of handling injuries is diabolical."

He said two paramedics were needed to lift the stretchers but many rural ambulance stations were one-man operations. The QAS had designed its new ambulance fleet around the new stretchers rather than the other way around, he said.

Prebs Sathiaseelan, president of the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, said QAS management had refused to listen to the concerns. The Department of Emergency Services yesterday did not respond to a list of questions from The Courier-Mail, with its media unit saying QAS senior managers were tied up in meetings.


Migrants 'vital to recovery'

Do-gooder BS. Make dumb assumptions and you get dumb conclusions. He thinks he can predict what will happen in 20 years' time

The Rudd Government has been told to resist pressure to slash Australia's permanent immigration intake in the face of lengthening dole queues, or risk stifling the nation's eventual economic recovery. Leading demographer Peter McDonald has warned against short-sighted immigration decisions, saying overseas migrants will be the key drivers of economic growth over the next 40 years as millions of baby boomers move into retirement.

"At present, Australian labour force policy tends to be more a matter of reaction than of long-term planning," Professor McDonald wrote in a report presented to the Immigration Department this week. "Labour shortages emerge, and attempts are made to plug them through training or immigration. This approach often leads to short cycles of under- and over-supply, as has been evident in the IT industry in recent years. "In the short to medium term (the next 20 years), immigration is the only means available to meet large aggregate labour demand in Australia."

Professor McDonald, director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, said immigration levels tended to move behind the economic cycle: highest when peak economic activity tips over into recession, and savagely cut just at the time more workers were needed to help rebuild the economy. When the 1974 recession hit, net overseas migration was 87,000. The following year it was cut to 13,500 and only returned to 1974 levels in 1980. In the 1982-83 recession, net migration fell from 123,000 in 1981 and 103,000 in 1982 to 55,000 in 1983, only returning to 1981 levels six years later.

"Immigration has a long lag-time," Professor McDonald said. "Targets are set well in advance, visa grants often take a long time, and then the immigrant has many months to actually take up the grant. We shouldn't let the numbers drop off as dramatically as they have in past recessions. We should be evening out the peaks and troughs." Record numbers of migrants came to Australia last year and more than 200,000 are expected in 2008-09.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has flagged cuts to the number of foreign workers allowed into the country in the wake of the global financial crisis, saying the Rudd Government is committed to protecting Australian jobs.

Professor McDonald said no immigration strategy could prevent a fall in labour supply in the 2020s as the population aged. His modelling found the optimum number of migrants to maintain a growing economy in coming decades in response to the changes in age structure was about 180,000 a year. "Migrants do provide their own economic stimulus," Professor McDonald said. "They come into the country with money, they spend it to buy houses and set themselves up."

But immigrants create pressure on existing infrastructure, and housing supply is already a problem in the capital cities, particularly Sydney. "A plan relating to Australia's future levels of immigration must be co-ordinated with policy for urban infrastructure, especially housing, transport, water and appropriate energy supply," Professor McDonald said.


No comments: