Aired on FBi Radio’s Backchat program on March 18, 2017
Aired on FBi Radio’s Backchat program on March 18, 2017
Published in TEN Eyewitness News on December 29, 2016
Boxing Day alone claimed four lives, including a 60-year-old Grafton man, who entered the water in a bid to save his four nieces who were caught in a rip off a beach in the state’s north.
A couple of rips were also found where missing teen Tui was last seen, as Surf Life Saving Sydney conducted their search and rescue mission.
Rescue efforts resumed yesterday morning, after earlier being called off due to poor conditions.
“There’s no doubt that rip currents are one of the biggest dangers on Australian beaches, particularly if you don’t know how to spot them in the water,” said Surf Life Saving Queensland’s operations support coordinator Jason Argent in a recent release.
“Overconfidence can be a big issue when it comes to rip currents, particularly amongst that younger male demographic.”
Of the 280 people who died from drowning in Australian waterways between July 1 last year and June 30 this year, 83 percent were male.
Australian beaches claimed the most lives compared with lagoons, creeks, rivers and other waterways.
“We’ve found that a lot of people who think they can spot a rip actually can’t, and a lot of people mistakenly think they don’t need to worry about rips because they’re strong swimmers,” Mr Argent said.
“It’s important to understand that rips don’t discriminate and, tragically, in the past we’ve seen all sorts of people, from international tourists right through to regular beachgoers, drown after they were swept out to sea by a rip they didn’t even know was there.”
Mr Argent said that beachgoers should always protect themselves against rips by swimming at patrolled beaches only, in between the red and yellow flags.
Rips can be identified by darker channels of water with fewer breaking waves, while sandy-coloured water extending beyond the surf-zone can also indicate the presence of a rip.
Mr Argent said that because these areas often look calmer, swimmers can wrongly assume that they are the safest places to swim, and that’s when they get themselves into trouble.
However, if you do get stuck in a rip, there are a few things you should do to minimise the risks.
“If you find yourself caught in a rip, it’s really important that you try to stay calm, conserve your energy as much as possible by floating in the water, and raise your arm to attract the attention of lifesavers or lifeguards,” he said.
“Whatever you do, never try to swim directly against the current. The majority of drownings attributed to rip currents have come after swimmers have begun to panic and tried to swim against the current, leaving them too exhausted to keep their heads above water.
“Instead, if you’re comfortable doing so, you can escape a rip by swimming parallel to the beach and then allowing the waves to assist you back to shore.”
Published in TEN Eyewitness News on December 29, 2016
With temperatures set to reach the high thirties in Sydney this week and expected to exceed 40C in our west, Dr Fawcett from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science says it’s more important than ever that we keep our companions cool.
“The mortality rate of dogs admitted to veterinary hospital is 50 to 65 percent so it is crucial owners take every precaution to make sure their animal companions are safe and healthy,” she said.
Heat stress can be harmful for dogs in two ways.
Firstly, injuries caused by direct heat or overheating, and then secondly with the after effects of dehydration, shock and poor circulation, according to Dr Fawcett.
“While some animals present with obvious symptoms such as panting, lethargy, noisy breathing and red gums, others will be more difficult to detect and may not even be hot to touch,” she said.
“Diagnosis is often tricky, because many owners have begun cooling their animal prior to veterinary attention being received – the presence of a normal or even LOW body temperature does not rule out a diagnosis of heat stroke.”
These are Dr Fawcett’s top five tips to keep our furry friends safe from heatstroke this season:
Published in TEN Eyewitness News on December 15, 2016
People who travel to Southeast Asia during the holiday season, particularly Bali, are especially vulnerable.
Zika infections exploded in South America earlier in the year, with world health authorities fearing a global pandemic. The virus is primarily contracted through mosquito bites, but can also be sexually transmittable up to six months after initial infection.
Particularly worrying, Zika has been linked to horrific birth defects, including microcephaly, if pregnant mothers are infected.
“If these exotic mosquito species find a way to our suburbs and become established, it creates the perfect conditions for a local outbreak of Zika or dengue,” Dr Cameron Webb, Medical Entomologist at University of Sydney and NSW Health Pathology, said.
“While we can’t prevent people infected with Zika or dengue coming to Australia, we can prevent the establishment of exotic mosquitoes species, so that widespread outbreaks can’t occur.”
Dr Webb, lead author of the Sax Institute’s Public Health Research & Practice journal, published Wednesday, said that we need to be more mindful of what we bring home from our holidays.
“It is very easy for people to unwittingly bring exotic mosquito eggs back into Australia via water bottles, vases or other belongings,” he said.
Some of the species that could carry potentially deadly viruses are the Aedes aegypti, the ‘yellow fever’ mosquito, and the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.
Dr Webb says that while repellents are generally a cheap and effective way to protect yourself, you need to choose the right ones.
“Unless you are prepared to reapply every one to two hours, it’s safer to avoid botanical extract-based repellents available from health food stores, tackle shops and the ‘homebrews’ available from local markets,” he said.
“Australians at home and abroad should instead choose a repellent containing DEET, picaridin or ‘oil of lemon-eucalyptus’. There are hundreds of different formulations to choose from in the supermarket or the pharmacy that will keep you and your family safe.”
Dr Webb says that communities and health authorities need to be monitoring suburban areas as well as wetlands, because these deadly mosquitoes can survive under both conditions.
Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on August 11, 2016
Pat Farmer was 18 when he knew he wanted to run.
Now a holder of several world records, he ended up running around Australia, through the Middle East, and in 2011, more than 20,000 kilometres from the North Pole to South Pole.
“It was, without a doubt, the most incredible feat of endurance I think anybody’s ever done,” he said about the trek, which took more than 10 months.
“I reflect on it now and I don’t even know how I did it myself. You’re in the moment, you plan these things for years, then you just get out there and give it your best shot.”
As a kid, he was inspired by Cliff Young, a potato farmer from Victoria.
Young, at 61, won what Farmer called the “toughest race on earth” – the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon – in the 80s.
“The wonderful thing about that was it showed me that ordinary people could aspire to doing extraordinary things, not just the elite,” he said.
“Cliff will always be the factor behind all my fundraising and everything I’ve done.”
Farmer dedicated his running career to charity from the word go, and has since raised millions for several organisations and causes.
“For me, it’s not even so much about the running, but what I can use the running to do,” he said.
“It’s taking the emphasis on me setting records, running and racing, and putting it on the needy.”
Farmer said that no matter what field he is in, whether it be sport, business or politics, he is always driven by a love of helping others.
Farmer was elected the Liberal MP for Macarthur in 2001, and served in Parliament as the secretary for education, science and training. He says he is disappointed by Australia’s current political climate.
“I think in my days [they] were certainly more focused on public outcomes than their own personal interests,” he said.
“Today’s politicians need to focus on the community that they represent rather than themselves. At the end of the day, you can talk as much as you like, but you really need to hit the ground running and show people what you’re made of.”
Farmer said that if he wasn’t kicked out of the Macarthur seat by his party in 2009 for living out of the electorate, he would still be in politics.
This year, Farmer is training and running alongside the Cancer Council Gold Team – 25 runners doing The Sun-Herald City2Surf, presented by Westpac.
The team hopes to raise more than $165,000 for the charity, and Farmer said they were well on their way.
“As you can imagine, for me, the distance is much shorter than what I would normally compete in,” he said. “But it’s an opportunity to support other runners to realise their best.”
“You’ll see in the City2Surf, ordinary people from all age groups, and even people with a disability, will complete the distance. To me, that’s a gold medal performance and they are the inspiration for ordinary Australians.”
The Sun-Herald City2Surf will be held in Sydney on August 14.
Register online at: www.city2surf.com.au
Published in The Sun-Herald on August 7, 2016
Boris Joy is a bungy jump master – a rare find in Australia, with only three recorded in the 2011 census.
The profession tops the list of the 10 least-reported jobs nationwide last time ahead of this year’s census, on Tuesday.
After 10 years in the business, Mr Joy thinks he has one of the best jobs in the country.
“I had been in banking for eight years and decided to do something I’d never imagined I would do,” he said. “I just answered a job for a receptionist, funnily enough, and there you go.”
Being a jump master means that Mr Joy controls the bungy jump deck and is responsible for equipment and the safety of jumpers who visit AJ Hackett in Cairns, Queensland.
He loves being able to engage with people and see how they handle stressful situations.
Mr Joy says there are so few bungy jump masters in Australia because there are only two companies that offer the activity.
“People are always surprised to hear that we’re one of the only ones,” he said. “It’s a difficult business to start up without specialised knowledge of the industry.
“It’s basically as per a need basis. If we need more, then more will get trained up.”
Mr Joy thinks that people may be deterred by the dense Bungy Jumping Code of Practice and complicated insurance process for businesses.
This may explain the remainder of the top 10 most unpopular jobs in Australia – five are in the adventure sports industry.
This job requires employees to be properly licensed hunters. Hunting licences are difficult to obtain, and guides are mostly required to work out of fully-licensed outfitters who are responsible for staff and insurances. Potential business interests are deterred by complicated processes and hunters often work independently without the assistance of a guide.
These guides have the task of leading groups or individuals through mountain ranges and glaciers, where they often partake in high-risk activities such as fishing and hunting, climbing and whitewater rafting. They are responsible for equipment and the safety of participants.
Their work requires them to lead groups or individuals over long walking distances, often through hazardous terrain. Trekking guides must assess the risks involved in a trek and ensure the safety of patrons.
Guides, usually employed by licensed outfitters, are responsible for ensuring the safety of participants during this hazardous activity. The adventure sport also relies on a specific natural environment to work; rapids that are particularly dangerous may pose too many risks to customers.
Operators control mixing and grinding machines to prepare powders and liquids used to make plastics. They are also responsible for the recycling of materials. Machine operators are now largely redundant as most Australian manufacturing is done by machinery.
Deer farms serve as hunting attractions or for the production of livestock. There is relatively little demand in Australia for venison in comparison to other meats such as lamb, beef and chicken. Hunting is generally done on larger grounds, and deer farms only provide limited game.
Special class electricians service and repair intricate or complex circuitry. They are typically called upon when tasks exceed the capabilities of general electricians.
Haematologists are concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders. As this is a specialist field, demand for these practitioners is less than general medical personnel.
These surgeons deal with fetuses, infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Although general surgeons are equipped to operate on most younger patients, there are some cases where paediatric surgery is ideal or necessary.
Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on July 21, 2016 – co-authored for Kate Aubusson
Michael Forno reckons he would rack up 10 to 20 alcoholic drinks when he’s out with mates, once a week at most.
“I drink to have fun with friends … it helps the conversation move and to get along,” the 23-year-old said.
Nicolette Barbas got her first drink – a Vodka Cruiser – from her mum when she was 16. These days the 21-year-old sips three to six during a night out.
“I know I’m sensible and I won’t go overboard … [but] everyone sort of does silly things when they’re drunk. It’s part of the fun,” she said.
Kahli Gifford’s mum also bought her first drink when she was 16. She averages about six drinks twice a week.
When young people drink they tend to go pretty hard, judged against national health recommendations.
But the latest NSW Chief Health Officer’s report shows 16 to 24-year-olds are the least likely to drink daily.
The biggest daily drinkers in the state are overwhelmingly over 65.
It’s a stark generational disparity often overlooked in Australia, where the short-term harms of alcohol can often take precedence over the health effects of long-term drinking.
It’s the difference between an intoxicated teen falling over and hitting their head, and a budding retiree with liver failure.
Less than 1 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 drank daily compared to roughly one in seven people (14 per cent) over 65, the report released on Thursday found.
Over-65s also had two times the rate of hospitalisations for alcohol-related problems compared to the 15-24-year age group.
Alcohol risk awareness campaigns had predominantly targeted youth drinking, addiction specialist Adrian Dunlop said.
“But we’re trying to have a more meaningful dialogue about alcohol-related harms,” he said.
The findings among older Australians showed a “worrying trend”, especially when this group exceeded four drinks a day, he said.
“We need to think about the older populations a lot more and how alcohol is contributing to chronic disease [including] cirrhosis damage and alcohol-related brain injury,” he said.
The younger crowd still out-binged drink their elders, the report showed.
More than one in three 16-24-year-olds drank at levels that increased their long-term health risks compared to one in eight over-65s. Almost one in five 12-17-year-olds who drank reported doing so to get drunk.
Roughly one-third had been given their first drink by their parents and about three in five had their last drink under adult supervision, the report showed.
Excessive alcohol consumption is the leading contributor to illness and deaths in Australia for people up to 44 years old, costing the NSW economy more than $3.87 billion a year.
One in four adults drink at levels that put their long-term health at risk, a decline of 5.5 per cent over the past decade, the report showed.
It also found Aboriginal people were equally likely to abstain from drinking alcohol as non-Aboriginal people, though Aboriginal people who did drink were more likely to do so at risky levels.
But Australians’ attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol were clearly shifting.
Young people were delaying their first drink, and drinking at less hazardous levels than they used to, the report showed.
High school students who reported drinking in the past 12 months dropped from three in five in 2005 to two in five in 2014, and binge drinking was down from one in 10 to one in 20 over the same period.
The rate of 15 to 24-year-olds presenting at emergency departments with acute alcohol problems also declined from more than 3500 in 2007 to about 3000 in 2015.
“There are benefits to drinking aside from health. It’s part of Australian culture for many people. It’s how we celebrate birthdays and Christmases and socialise generally,” Dr Dunlop said.
Older generations needed to shed the misinformed belief that a glass of wine a day had any health benefit.
“That theory has been blown out of the water,” he said.
The tipping point between acceptable and risky drinking was also unclear for many people, Dr Dunlop suspected.
National guidelines recommend men and women drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce their lifetime risk of alcohol-related harms.
To reduce short-term risk of injury men and women should stick to no more than four standard drinks on any occasion.
NSW’s Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said it was encouraging to see decreasing numbers of adults drinking at levels that increase long-term risk of harm, but more needed to be done.
“[Excessive drinking] not only affects the drinker but can also contribute to relationship and family problems, public intoxication, and other criminal offences”, and increased the likelihood of aggressive behaviour, she said.
With Cassandra Morgan
Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on July 20, 2016
Yoga should be made a mandatory part of the school curriculum, the founder of Connect Kids Yoga believes.
Cynthia Levin said the health benefits of yoga outweigh those of any sport offered in the public school system.
“If yoga was in schools, our kids would be so much calmer and they would be able to cope with all the stuff that they have to do,” Ms Levin said.
“There’s so much pressure on them in society these days that tells them what to do, what to wear, how to feel, how to think, and pressure from their peers and school. Yoga deals with all of that.”
Ms Levin said that kids should start doing yoga as early as possible.
“We teach kids from two, but there are opportunities for kids to be involved even younger than that,” she said.
“There are mums and bubs classes that are available out there as well. The more exposure kids can get, as early as possible, the better.”
US research suggests that yoga can also help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The research claims it can improve core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, and hyperactivity.
“What yoga gives students that no other sport offers is that their mind, body and soul are enhanced and grown,” Ms Levin said.
Connect Kids Yoga classes will be one of the main attractions at this year’s Kidtopia Festival at Parramatta Park, which will run in the next school holidays from October 7 to 9.
Ms Levin will be holding two classes a day, one for kids aged five to eight and one for children aged nine to 12.
“They just love coming to yoga,” Ms Levin said of the classes for children aged under eight.
“They haven’t got those inhibitions that the older kids have. They really throw themselves into it, it makes a big difference that they haven’t gotten to that age where they’re worried about what people are going to think.”
The Kidtopia Festival will also include attractions such as a circus school, science shows and a petting zoo.
Ms Levin said that preschool aged children will particularly benefit from the tools they learn in class.
“Yoga teaches them to be able to identify when they are feeling a little bit stressed out,” she said.
“The tools that are taught in class help them to calm themselves down.”
The Fairfax Kidtopia Festival is on October 7 to 9, 2016, at Parramatta Park
Tickets are available online at kidtopiafestival.com.au
Published in The Sun-Herald on July 3, 2016
Children with intrusive parents are self-critical, anxious and, in some cases, depressed, according to a study by the National University of Singapore.
The findings were backed by Australian academics, including Mark Dadd, director of the Child Behaviour Research Clinic at the University of Sydney, who said children with intrusive parents were at the same risk in Australia.
The study was conducted from 2010 to 2014, and assessed 263 seven-year-olds from 10 schools.
To find out if parents were intrusive, researchers gave each child a puzzle to complete within a time limit and told their parents they could help at any time.
Parents who regularly interfered with their children’s problem-solving attempts were further assessed for controlling behaviours.
Analysis showed that 60 per cent of the children were increasingly self-critical as a result, and 78 per cent were high in socially prescribed perfectionism, a rejection of personal flaws based on the expectations of society.
Children who demonstrated these traits had increased risk of developing symptoms of anxiety, depression and even suicide.
They became afraid of making mistakes and often put blame on themselves for not being good enough.
Professor Dadd said this finding had been demonstrated a number of times in Australia.
“This is not a new finding, this is something we’ve known for many years,” he said.
Professor Dadd said Australian parents needed to hang back and let their children be independent problem solvers so they could thrive into adulthood.
“The study speaks to the importance of parents being able to pull back and help the child problem solve themselves rather than just jumping in,” he said.
Professor Dadd said that it was vital information warning parents of the risks of controlling behaviour was made freely available.
“It’s about helping parents, not in a coercive or blaming way, but empowering parents to have the skills to facilitate their children’s ability to independently problem solve,” he said.
“It’s important that we make this good education available online and in parenting programs, to point out the importance of encouraging independent problem solving in children.”
Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on July 1, 2016
The health benefits of bread are proving greater than ever for Australians.
That is the finding of a new study into the impact of the mandatory introduction of folic acid and iodine as ingredients in bread production.
The report shows that neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, where the spinal chord does not fuse properly during foetal development, have declined 14.4 per cent since the government introduced the initiative in 2009.
“Most people eat bread, so putting folic acid in it acts as a safety net for people,” said Ann Hunt, head of the Population Health and Primary Care Unit at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
“It puts increased folic acid into some of these groups that were harder to reach with educational strategies and telling women to take folic acid supplements.”
In teenagers, defects have declined by 55 per cent, says the report, Monitoring the health impacts of mandatory folic acid and iodine fortification. In Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander women, the response has been even greater with a 74 per cent decrease.
Prior to the change, Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander women had twice the amount of neural tube defects as non-Indigenous Australians.
Bread is a staple item in most Australian homes, so health benefits are more easily accessible in comparison to costly vitamin supplements.
Prue Watson, manager of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Westmead Children’s Hospital, said the report’s outcomes represented a step forward for birth defect prevention.
“The benefits from the decreased rate of NTDs in Australia demonstrated in some of our most vulnerable population groups is a very good outcome,” she said.
Ms Hunt says that even if women do increase their intake of folic acid to prevent developing birth defects during pregnancy, it can often be ineffective.
“Pregnant women really need to take folic acid supplements a month before conception and then three months after in order to have the added benefits,” she said. “But nearly half the pregnancies are unplanned, so quite often women find out they’re pregnant when it’s too late.”
Iodine is vital to the thyroid, which controls metabolism and is essential for foetal and infant development.
According to Ms Hunt, the level of iodine deficiency in Australia was impacting the country’s overall IQ, resulting in a ‘less intelligent’ nation.
By putting iodine in bread, Australia no longer had a deficiency problem.
Ms Hunt said the health of future generations relies on the continued support of the Australian government for the initiative.
“We think that it would be good if we could have ongoing monitoring to ensure that these early promising results are accurate and sustained over time,” she said.