All posts by Tash Pearce

Lack of exercise greatest health threat for Australian women

Physical inactivity is the biggest threat to Australian women’s health, posing more of a risk than smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure, reports this week. The research, carried out by the University of Queensland, shows women over 30 who don’t exercise are at the reports

In women aged 22-27, smoking was, as expected, the most serious risk factor but after the age of 30 the risk begins to drop off, with lack of exercise becoming the biggest cause of heart problems. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, tracks the health of more than 32,000 Australia women.

Researchers warned the dangers of an inactive lifestyle were being underestimated, and deserved to be a much higher public health priority. The risks associated with smoking, being overweight and high blood pressure are well known, the dangers of physical inactivity are being under-publicized.

University of Queensland research professor Wendy Brown said the research showed women needed to move more.

“Continuing efforts to encourage people to stop smoking are warranted, but much more emphasis should be placed on physical inactivity,” she said.

“If all over-30s followed recommended daily exercise guidelines – 150 minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity – the lives of more than 2,600 middle-aged and older women could be saved each year in Australia alone.’’

The study is one of the first in developed countries to look at how lack of exercise affects women specifically. Last month the UK government warned the country has become less physically active than at “any time in human history”, reported the Independent. The report called for more funds to be allocated for footpath and cycle track building, as well as an independent body dedicated to improve physical fitness.

In Australia more companies are introducing wellness and health promotion plans into their employee benefits package, reflecting a global trend. reports the Queenslanders Credit Union has introduced initiatives such as free lunchtime yoga classes and fresh fruit provision to keep employees healthy.

Study co-author Dr Toby Pavey said the low levels of physical inactivity in women over 30 could be due to women starting their families later in life. The demands of small children were now falling later.

Working through lunch and staying late ‘damaging employees’ health

Poor work habits like not taking a break, staying late or eating lunch at the desk are damaging the nation’s health, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has warned reports Health Insurance Daily

Apoll of 2,000 employees, released for the CSP’s annual Workout at Work Day, found that 21% worked through their lunch every day.

Of those who do manage to take a break, 48% said they ate at their desk.

In addition, only 19% leave their workplace to go outside for a break and only 3% go to the gym, meaning most miss out on any kind of physical activity during the day.

Some 42% said they often had to cancel evening exercise plans because of work, while 32% said they started earlier or finished later than their contracted hours every day.

The CSP said employers should find ways to support staff to be more physically active during the working day in order to reduce their risk of developing musculoskeletal problems like back and neck pain and more serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Only 30% of workers said their employer provided any kind of exercise opportunities, such as a subsidised gym membership, a lunchtime running club, or an after work fitness class.

Prof Karen Middleton, chief executive of the CSP, said: “Full-time workers spend a significant bulk of their week at work, or travelling to and from it. Finding ways to build in time to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, five times a week, can be a challenge.”

by Emily Perryman

Polio spread is an “international health emergency”

For only the second time in the its history, the World Health Organisation is calling for a global effort to contain polio outbreaks in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In a statement this week the Organisation said the spread of the poliovirus constitutes an international health emergency.

“If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases. It was the unanimous view of the committee that the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern have been met,” WHO said in a statement.

Polio is endemic in three countries, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, while it has been effectively eradicated elsewhere through vaccination programmes started in 1988. However, it is now spreading across borders due to military conflicts, and the breakdown of immunisation schemes.

WHO lists Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, and Somalia as countries at risk of exporting polio in 2014. For people travelling abroad from infected countries, WHO recommends carrying a vaccination certificate to prevent problems as other countries try to limit their risk.

In 2013 WHO recorded 417 cases of polio worldwide. For 2014, 68 cases had already been recorded by 30 April. At the end of last year 60 percent of polio cases were the result of international spread of wild poliovirus, with evidence pointing to adult travellers being the cause of this spread.

In the first half of 2014, known as the low-transmission season, polio has already been spread across international borders notably – Pakistan to Afghanistan, Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea and Syria to Iraq. WHO is calling for a greater international effort to combat these outbreaks and prevent new ones as the start of high-transmission season begins in May/June writes

The polio virus typically affects children under five and can cause paralysis and death. It is usually spread via contaminated water, and around 95 percent of cases are asymptomatic, allowing the virus to spread among a community undetected. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis and five to ten percent of patients die when their respiratory muscles become immobilised. While there is no cure for polio, infection can be prevented by taking the vaccination.

90% Wikipedia medical articles contain errors, say researchers

Trust your doctor, not the Internet, is the message from scientists this week, as a study finds 9 out of 10 Wikipedia medical entries contain errors. Scientists in the U.S. compared Wikipedia entries for health related issues such as heart disease, lung cancer, depression and diabetes with peer-reviewed research. They found most articles contain “many errors”.

The concept of Wikipedia allows people to create edit, and delete entries, which increases the likelihood of mistakes. Wikimedia UK, the British arm of Wikipedia, said it was “crucial” that people with health concerns spoke to their GP first. Though the articles can be altered by anybody, there are volunteers from the medical profession who check pages for inaccuracies, reports

Wikipedia is the sixth most popular website for research said the authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Researchers found up to 70% of medical students and 47% of physicians use the tool.

The researchers wrote, “Physicians and medical students who currently use Wikipedia as a medical reference should be discouraged from doing so because of the potential for errors.”

The study looked at articles for the 10 most costly conditions in America, including asthma, back problems and osteoarthritis. The articles were printed and analysed on 25 April 2012 and the researchers found 90% made statements which contradicted the latest medical research.

Errors found included an entry which stated to correctly diagnose high blood pressure three high readings needed to be taken over time. This is incorrect and could lead to a dangerous delay in treatment said doctors. Another entry claimed antidepressants were not beneficial for children, but according to the researchers, this is incorrect and could prevent parents from allowing their children to be treated with medication if necessary.

Lead author Robert Hasty of Campbell University said, while many of the mistakes were relatively minor, some “could have clinical implications”. He urged fellow doctors to get involved in editing Wikipedia entries to improve their accuracy.

“Wikipedia is not about truth but about verifiability”

Reported by the BBC, James Heilman president at Wiki Project Med Foundation said he disagreed with the findings, “The conclusions of Hasty’s paper are not supported by the data he provides.

“One example he raises of a so called ‘error’ is Wikipedia’s recommendation around the diagnosis of blood pressure. We stated that three measurements are usually required.

“So does the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK which was our reference. Wikipedia is not about truth but about verifiability.”

ALC Health Director Chairs 8th Asia Health Insurance Conference, Singapore

AWAALC Health director Andrew Apps will be jetting off this month to chair the Health Insurance Asia Conference in Singapore (17-20 June)

After Japan, China has the second highest number of high net worth (HNW) individuals in Southeast Asia, with Forbes magazine naming 162 Chinese nationals breaking the billion dollar mark in its Forbes Billionaries 2014 list. Affluence is causing yet more population migration which is placing pressure on the medical services.

Cities with the worst air pollutioncity air quality

Air PollutionThe levels of air pollution in many of the world’s cities fail to meet the World Health Organisation’s safe guidelines, according to the urban air quality database. Air pollution which exceeds recommended guidelines puts people at risk of respiratory disease and other health problems.

According to the report, issued this week, only 12 percent of people living in the cities which measure air pollution are breathing air which meets the quality guidelines. About half of the urban population being monitored by WHO is exposed to urban air pollution which exceeds the recommended levels by at least 2.5 times.

WHO’s urban air quality database covers 1,600 cities across 91 countries – 500 more cities than the previous database (2011), revealing that more cities worldwide are monitoring outdoor air quality, reflecting growing recognition of air pollution’s health risks.

In cities where there is sufficient data to compare pollution levels today with those from previous years the situation is getting worse. WHO attributes this to many factors, but highlights fossil fuel use, dependence on private transport, insufficient energy use in buildings, and the use of biomass for cooking and heating.

The countries with the highest annual mean levels of PM2.5 (fine particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) are Pakistan, Qatar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Iran. However, half the 20 cities in the world with the highest PM2.5 levels are found in India. Delhi has the highest levels, 153 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3), in the world. This is six times the WHO “safe” level of 25 ug/m3.

Surprisingly, no Chinese cities ranked in the top 20 worst cities. Beijing, often in the news for its bad air quality, reported 56 ug/m3 and Chinese politicians have this year declared a “war upon pollution” write

In April 2014 WHO estimated that outdoor pollution was responsible for the deaths of some 3.7 million people under the age of 60 in 2012. The Organisation also highlighted outdoor and indoor air pollution as one of the biggest combined health risks worldwide.

The report notes that individual cities can take local action to improve air quality and thus go against regional trends. And good air quality can go hand in hand with economic development, as indicated by some major cities in Latin America which meet, or approach, the WHO air quality guidelines.

Chikungunya Fever outbreak in the Caribbean

2612506038_9c5c4c9833_mDisease control officials in the Western Hemisphere are on edge about a rising outbreak of chikungunya fever, a brutal mosquito-borne illness that is nearing epidemic status in the Caribbean.

For decades, chikungunya outbreaks were confined to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, in December, it was confirmed for the first time on several Caribbean Islands. The Centers for Disease Control has warned that there is a risk that the disease will be transported to new areas by infected travelers. So, travelers, we need you to pay attention and take steps to protect yourself.

Trust us – you don’t want to contract this disease. People infected with chikungunya fever can suffer from severe pain, high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and rash. Right, it’s no fun. The name is derived from an East African word for “that which bends,” which is a reference to the contorted posture the infected often take on because of the intense pain they suffer from.

Travelers should protect themselves by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites. This means using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.

This is a situation that bears monitoring, so as we always advise, please pay attention to the news, particularly if you’re traveling to the Caribbean

source : the

New benefits added to ALC Prima Healthcare plans

Bubble Strip ClearOver the past few months we have been listening carefully to what you have been saying about how we might add further value to our international medical insurance plans, so from the 1st June we will be introducing either new cover or increasing existing benefits across our Prima Healthcare plans. To find out more, contact your nearest ALC Health sales centre.

Six Travel Etiquette Tips

If you’ve ever travelled before (you have, right?), you’ve likely witnessed or personally experienced an encounter with an obnoxious traveller. From berated flight attendants to loud talkers to the person who reclines their seat so far back, they’re practically resting on your lap—these types of travellers are sadly not uncommon writes the

The Golden Rule is important when you’re traveling too; travelers need to treat others as they want to be treated. In other words, be kind and remember you’re not the center of the universe.

If anything, being a polite and respectful traveler will not only make life easier for those you encounter, but it will provide you with a better traveling experience as well.

Not sure if you’re practicing the proper travel etiquette? Here’s what you should know:

Use Inside Voices The best way to judge if you’re talking too loud? Stop chatting for a minute and listen to how everyone else is talking (or not talking). Either bring your conversation down to a whisper, or match it to the volume of those around you. Appropriateness for how loud you’re allowed to be differs across cultures, especially when in a confined space such as a train or car.

Pack Lightly Although packing less is a great way to save a little money on fees, the fact that you’ll be able to get around with ease makes it simpler for yourself and those around you who would be obliged to help. Plus, this way people won’t be bumping into your bulging backpack all day long.

Don’t Stand In Front of Everything From monumental statues and paintings to entranceways and aisles, avoid making it difficult for people to walk around and/or see important attractions. If you need to have an important conversation with someone or must linger for some reason, try to move to the side.

Be Ready If you’re waiting in line for something, make sure you’re ready when you get to the front. If you’re going through airport security, for example, keep your boarding pass and personal identification in hand and take off your shoes and belt well in advance. This makes the process much faster for employees and those waiting behind you.

Understand Cultural Differences What is accepted in your home country might not be in another. From language to dress to cultural taboos, it’s important to acknowledge these differences and accept them. While you should do as much research as possible about the local culture before your trip, be respectful to others and don’t fight it if you’re told to do something differently.

Limit Mobile Technology Use Texting, talking loudly on the phone, or taking selfies while walking is a recipe for disaster—and can be an extreme annoyance to those around you. Restrain your mobile technology use in public, and you’ll not only make it a more pleasant experience for others, but you might get more out of your travels as well.