Sunday, August 31, 2008

Traditional fried breakfast a cancer risk?

Another volley in the puritanical war on fried foods below. It is all speculative (epidemiological) nonsense that has been contradicted by the double blind studies. See e.g. here and here

It has been called a "heart attack on a plate" but now the traditional Australian fry-up has also been branded a cancer risk. Experts claim those who regularly tuck into a fried breakfast with the lot have a 63 per cent increase in the risk of bowel cancer. Data from the World Cancer Research Fund warns that eating 150g of processed meat a day - equivalent to about two sausages and three rashers of bacon - increased the chance of diagnosis by two-thirds.

According to the charity, the evidence was so strong we should avoid eating these foods as much as possible. And it wasn't a matter of all or nothing, they said. Even a sausage a day could increase the risk by a fifth. The extra calories can also lead to obesity, which is linked to six types of cancer - including bowel and breast cancers - as well as heart disease.

Apart from smoking, excess weight is considered the biggest cause of human suffering from disease. Bowel cancer is the second most common in Australia, after prostate cancer. In 2005, there were about 14,237 new cases - 7765 in men and 6472 in women. The cancer kills more than 4000 Australians each year, claiming 80 lives a week - almost three times the national road toll.

Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the WCRF, said: "For some people, having a fry-up with bacon and sausages might seem like a good way to start the day. But if you are doing this regularly, then you are significantly increasing your risk of bowel cancer."

But food experts say you do not have to say goodbye to your favourite breakfast because simply changing the way the food is cooked can transform a coronary platter into a nutrient-packed plate. Dr Tim Crowe, senior lecturer of nutrition at Deakin University, said poaching eggs, adding cancer-fighting tomatoes and ensuring you don't over-cook meat can reduce the risk. He also said the findings did not mean people should avoid meat altogether. "Red meat is an important part of a healthy diet because it contains valuable nutrients - it's the processed stuff you need to be careful of," he said.


Public hospitals counting chairs as beds

The State Government has been accused of fudging hospital bed figures in the troubled health system by including chairs and other furniture. The 2008-09 State Budget, released in June, said there were 10,234 beds in Queensland public hospitals. But what it didn't reveal is that almost 14 per cent of those beds are not beds at all. Figures obtained by the State Opposition show that 1370 so-called beds included chairs, trolleys, cots, stretchers and lounge suites. Sources said some patients admitted to hospital never got to lie in a bed - instead they spent hours sitting in a chair, sometimes being treated there.

Liberal National Party Deputy Leader Mark McArdle slammed the Government for playing with the figures, and claimed the number of proper beds had been cut. The Opposition health spokesman said the fine print in Queensland Health Budget documents revealed the picture on alternative beds. "This Government has been caught out deliberately fudging the true number of public hospital beds by changing the definition of 'bed'," Mr McArdle said.

In the Budget papers, in Queensland Health's service delivery statement, it records a new measure of the "number of available bed and available bed alternatives for public acute hospitals". In notes, it says the "Queensland Health Data Dictionary defines an 'available bed' as a bed which is immediately available to be used by an admitted patient if required and an 'available bed alternative' as an item of furniture, for example, trolley and cot, non-recognised beds occupied or not, which is immediately available for use by admitted patients". Further documents revealed that "available bed alternatives" included a "number of items of furniture (eg trolleys, chairs, cots, non-recognised beds, etc)".

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the Beattie-Bligh Government had consistently recorded alternative beds in its figures and never hid them from the public. Mr Robertson said there were 1370 available bed alternatives as of June 30 and of those, 1246 were renal dialysis and chemotherapy chairs. Others included day surgery chairs, day therapy chairs, discharge lounge/transit lounge chairs, emergency department chairs, trolleys and stretchers, and non-neonatal cots. He disagreed that it was misleading the public to identify these as beds. "I don't think the thousands of people coming into our major hospitals every day for renal dialysis or chemotherapy would agree with that," Mr Robertson said. He said the figures were kept that way to remain consistent with all hospitals and other states.


Mathematics and science teachers to get university tuition fee relief

A move in the right direction but it does nothing to deal with the major problem that is keeping men out of primary teaching: Fear of false child abuse accusations

Mathematics and science graduates who choose careers in primary teaching will have their HECS repayments halved under new government initiatives to raise numeracy standards in schools. Graduates who take up primary school teaching positions, bringing their specialist expertise, will now be eligible for a 50 per cent refund on their HECS-HELP repayments for up to five years, Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday. This would amount to an individual benefit of up to $1500 a year for five years.

The HECS exemption marks an extension of the Government's existing $625.8 million package of incentives to lift the number of maths and science students and graduates entering teaching at primary schools. The initiative is in response to alarming figures revealed in the preliminary National Report on Schooling in Australia for 2007, which indicated that while 93.2 per cent of year 3 students achieve numeracy benchmarks, this declines over the ensuing primary years. By Year 5 the percentage of students meeting numeracy benchmarks falls to 89 per cent and by Year 7 it is 80.2 per cent.

The National Numeracy Review, released in July, concluded that systematic teaching of numeracy in the early years of schooling, in maths lessons and across the wider curriculum, was essential if these trends were to be reversed. The measure builds on the Government's investment of $40.2 million in 29 literacy and numeracy pilot projects in schools across Australia. "We must act urgently to improve our children's performance in maths and encourage those with aptitude to go on to study it," Ms Gillard said. "Literacy and numeracy in the primary years are crucially important to ensuring all students participate in education and make a positive transition to work and learning in adult life. "Students who do not achieve the minimum standards in literacy and numeracy are least likely to stay on through secondary school or to end up in further study and employment."

Already from January 1 next year, new students in maths and science will have their HECS contributions reduced. For a new full-time student, this could mean a reduction from $7412 to $4162 in 2009, at a Government cost of about $562.2 million over four years.


Childcare for babies is 'abuse', says author Mem Fox

"Babies have much higher levels of stress in childcare." This is indeed what the research shows. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels among young children spending long periods in institutional care are often disturbingly high

Putting babies into childcare is a form of abuse, leading children's author Mem Fox claims. Fox, a children's literacy advocate and author of the best-selling Possum Magic, said she believed society would look back on the trend of allowing babies only a few weeks old to be put into childcare and wonder, "How could we have allowed that child abuse to happen?".

"I just tremble," she said. "I don't know why some people have children at all if they know that they can only take a few weeks off work. "I know you want a child, and you have every right to want a child, but does the child want you if you are going to put it in childcare at six weeks? "I don't think the child wants you, to tell the honest truth. I know that's incredibly controversial."

She said a Queensland childcare worker had told her earlier this year: "We're going to look back on this time from the late '90s onwards - with putting children in childcare so early in their first year of life for such long hours - and wonder how we have allowed that child abuse to happen". "It's just awful. It's awful for the mothers as well. It's completely heartbreaking," Fox said. "You actually have to say to yourself, 'If I have to work this hard and if I'm never going to see my kid and if they are going to have a tremendous stress in childcare, should I be doing it?' "Babies have much higher levels of stress in childcare."

Fox, 62, who has a daughter Chloe, 38, said parents were sometimes distracted by "the trappings" of having a baby, such as designer clothing and decorated nursery. "When they have the good house, the good car, the good job - we're talking about very advantaged people - they have everything and they think, 'Now we need a baby which we can dress up and make look perfect'," she said. "But do they realise that a child needs love more than anything else in the world? It needs love, time and attention."

A Federal Government census of childcare services released this year found 757 children were attending long daycare services for at least 60 hours a week in 2006. A further 9426 children were in care for between 50 and 59 hours a week. An Australian study that measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in more than 100 children in childcare found children in centres with lower standards became more stressed throughout the day.


Citizenship test overhaul

A bipartisan approach seems important for this so it is appropriate for the Labor party to have its input. The present test was largely written by one man: John Howard

AUSTRALIA'S citizenship test set-up by the Howard government is set for a major overhaul after a review found it to be flawed and discriminatory. Richard Woolcott is the head of a committee commissioned to review the test said the 2006-document needs reform, News Ltd reports. The committee is believed to have forwarded its opinion to Immigration Minister Chris Evans in a report. The standout recommendation would be that the present test is flawed and seen by some as intimidatory and needs substantial reform,'' Mr Woolcott told News Ltd.

While Mr Howard continually defended the test, it faced much criticism for including questions which opponents claimed focussed too much on historical knowledge and the English language. "Many of the (review) submissions thought that the standard of English required was too high and discriminated against non-English speaking migrants, of which there are of course an increasing number,'' Mr Woolcott said.

The committee received 170 submissions from members of the public and has forwarded 32 recommendations to the government. Mr Woolcott declined to comment on what those recommendations are. Senator Evans' office confirmed receiving the report and a spokeswoman said it is being considered.


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