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June 2009

While you’re Yours to take home

Life in the fast layne Under your skin – keeping a close eye on cancer

Mall walking – window shopping at your own pace

Cover your mouth when coughing – flu facts

Lost your tortoise? Don’t ask your GP!

Foreword Welcome to this second edition of While you’re waiting… – the magazine we have developed for you, our patients. The response to our first edition was magnificent, and we have been overwhelmed by the messages of support we have received both by phone and by email. This edition brings you an equally eclectic mix of stories, and a range of advice on diet, exercise and preventive health.

While you’re waiting… Publisher The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners National Manager Sally Kincaid Managing Editor Denese Warmington Features Writer Rael Martell Graphic Designer Patricia Tsiatsias Publication conditions The authors and editors are not responsible for the results of any actions taken on the basis of any information neither in this publication, nor for any error in or omission from this publication. The information contained in this publication has been compiled using information from other sources. Any person having concerns about the contents of this publication should refer to those sources for more specialist information and advice. The publisher is not engaged in giving medical or other advice or services. The publisher, authors and editors, expressly disclaim all and any liability and responsibility to any person, whether a reader of this publication or not, in respect of anything, and of the consequences of anything, done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance, whether wholly or partially, upon the whole or any part of the content of this publication. Published by: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners 1 Palmerston Crescent South Melbourne, Victoria 3205 Tel 03 8699 0414 Fax 03 8699 0400 ACN 000 223 807 ABN 34 000 223 807 ISSN 1836-6694 Printing Offset Alpine Printing, Lidcombe NSW © The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners 2009. All rights reserved. Requests for permission to reprint articles must be made to the Managing Editor. While you’re waiting… is printed on PEFC certified paper, meaning that it originates from forests that are managed sustainably. PEFC is the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes. PEFC is an international certification programme promoting sustainable forest management which assures consumers that a forest product can be tracked from a certified, managed forest through all steps of processing and production in the supply chain by a Chain of Custody process.

Several well known Australians talk about health issues they have had in their own lives, and they encourage us all to act early if we are concerned about our health in any way. Champion surfer Layne Beachley talks frankly about her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome and the struggle to maintain fitness and condition, whilst competing at an international level. An inspiration to all young sports men and women. As with all good magazines, we hope there is something for everyone, and this edition features another excerpt from well known children’s writer Andy Griffiths’ book Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy. With the current epidemic of obesity among our children, this is a timely look at Jack’s journey from ‘fat boy’ to ‘healthy boy’. This is backed up with a couple of delicious and healthy recipe ideas for you to try at home. Your general practitioner has undergone one of the most extensive and rigorous trainings of any health professional in Australia. This education continues long after he or she start to work as a GP, and each year they update their knowledge and skills to provide you with the best possible health care. But it’s not all hard work. General practice is an incredibly versatile profession. You can work almost anywhere in Australia and many other countries around the world… you can work part time or full time, and you can choose to concentrate on areas that particularly interest you such as sports medicine, complementary medicine or even travel medicine. In this edition we profile a GP from the Sunshine Coast, who for a range of reasons has chosen to spend time working in some of the worlds poorest and most difficult areas, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, the Congo, Uganda and Iraq… choices he describes as ‘…a huge adventure’. So, while you’re waiting, I hope you enjoy While you’re waiting… and take a moment to think about your health, your lifestyle, and any questions you might want to raise with your GP. We truly value the relationships we have with our patients and trust that you do too! Dr Chris Mitchell President, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners


Life in the fast layne Retired Australian surfing legend Layne Beachley talks about life in and out of the surf.

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Walking the retail walk to health When it comes to getting more exercise, your local shopping centre can be more than just a place to grab something ‘noice’.


Check out your bowels Did you know that if you turn 50, 55 or 65 years of age before the end of 2010 you are entitled to a free bowel cancer screening test?


Flu facts Influenza is a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. It is caused by a virus and is not the same as a cold. We give you the facts.


Keeping your skin under scrutiny We talk to two people about the importance of seeing your doctor sooner, rather than later, about skin cancer.


Health care is everyone’s right We discuss the sometimes overlooked area of providing health care to Australians with intellectual disabilities.



A doctor on horseback How does the idea of riding on horseback to work in the Afghan mountains sound? We talk to one Australian GP doing just that.


What’s for dinner? Try these healthy tasty recipes to feed your hungry family.


Walking the dog with Andy Griffiths If you own a dog it is important to make sure that it eats a quality diet, and that it gets a minimum of half an hour a day exercise.


My first time Seeking contraception for the first time.



Where’s my tortoise? Patients sometimes visit their doctor with unusual requests that can be baffling, amusing or a cause for serious concern.

June 2009

While you’re waiting…


is misunderstood and many  CFS people have difficulty seeing it as an illness because of its lack of symptoms and unknown origin. It can strike anyone and its severity can vary between moderate activity levels to being housebound and bedridden

Feature article

CFS, sometimes called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a complex illness affecting multiple systems of the body and, in particular, the nervous and immune systems. It has many symptoms, made worse by physical and mental activity beyond personal limits, and recuperation after exertion is prolonged. ME/CFS can be severely debilitating, significantly disrupting the lives of those affected. CFS is classified as a neurological disorder in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases.


While you’re waiting…

June 2009

Life in the fast layne Retired Australian surfing legend Layne Beachley’s dominance in her chosen sport was due not only to her extraordinary ability on a board, but her attention to staying healthy. Erica Fosbender talks to her about life in and out of the surf. Layne Beachley knows a few things about looking after both her mental and physical health. Being a former elite athlete Layne is conscious about what she puts into her body. And while a young person can be quite extreme and really push their body to the limit, Layne’s experience with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has taught her to listen to what her body is telling her. “Hydration is very important – I drink a lot of water and maintain a healthy diet. I’m aware of what my body needs – recently it’s been dark vegetables, fruit, beetroot and broccoli. “CFS is misunderstood and many people have difficulty seeing it as an illness because of the lack of symptoms and unknown origin. It can strike anyone and its severity can vary between moderate activity levels to being housebound and bedridden.” But Layne says it was very real and threatened her mental and physical wellbeing. The symptoms set in when she pushed her body past its limits and didn’t allow herself enough downtime.

“I use sunscreen on my hair, face, chest and arms. I love the sun but respect what it’s capable of.”

“Childhood obesity is a big problem in Australia – we need to promote kids getting healthy and active.

Although sunlight in moderation helps keep us healthy [it boosts vitamin D levels, which in turn strengthens bones], Layne says that because of the high incidence of skin cancer in Australia, there is a fear factor when it comes to being outdoors.

“We need to encourage safe and secure spaces for our kids, both for their physical and mental wellbeing.”

“Now I think there is too much fear instilled in people about the sun. There needs to be a healthy balance. “There are health benefits of getting about 20–30 minutes sun a day. It’s important for kids to get fresh air.” Even though Layne is now juggling more projects than a team of people, she has learned how to cope with pressure – and the best way to relieve stress is to go surfing, she says. Layne is an ambassador for numerous health organisations and feels that communicating the right health messages to young Australians is the way to ensuring a brighter future. The National Breast Cancer Foundation is one foundation she feels a strong bond with, having lost her stepmother and several friends and family members to the disease. “There are very few who haven’t been touched by it,” she says. Another growing problem in Australia is childhood obesity, and as part of the New South Wales Obesity Ambassador Program, Layne is sharing her secrets of a healthy lifestyle but believes today’s young people don’t have the same encouragement as previous generations.

“I had ignored my body’s needs up until that point. There are so many demands in life – it’s hard not to succumb to the pressures,” she says.

She is also a motivating force as a Healthy Active Ambassador – a government initiative that started in 2006 to raise awareness about healthy lifestyle.

Layne, who surfed professionally for 20 years and holds seven world titles, has learned to proceed with caution when it comes to sun care.

Layne says it’s sad that children are not taking advantage of the vast open spaces Australia offers and are opting to play video games.

June 2009

Her own Aim for the Stars Foundation was established in 2003 to inspire and help women across Australia to reach their own goals. Having supported herself financially during her surfing career, Layne is now helping women achieve in their chosen field. This year the foundation funded projects and people with beneficiaries including health research, reconstructive surgery and athletes. To return to her first love – surfing – Layne says her heart remains with it and she can’t help but be proud of the talent coming through the surfing ranks. “Surfing has a heart limit – as long as you have the discipline to keep it up physically and mentally.” For Layne her retirement has, however, left her life anything but bereft of interest. She is engaged to INXS guitarist Kirk Pengilly and with her book* now out, there is indeed life beyond the waves. 

 The sun and you  The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends the use of: shade, a broad rimmed hat, protective clothing, sunglasses, and SPF 30+ sunscreen, expecially between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm.

* L ayne Beachley: Beneath The Waves By Michael Gordon and Layne Beachley Published by Random House Australia, $34.95

While you’re waiting…


Feature article

 Did you know…? 

You don’t have to work out like an AFL player to be on the receiving end of the benefits of exercise. Simply walking the dog can result in an improvement in cardiovascular health. Research published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity revealed that people who acquired a dog increased their recreational walking by 48 minutes per week on average, helping them maintain their muscle and bone mass and ability to function independently.


While you’re waiting…

June 2009

Walking the retail walk to health In the Australian sitcom Kath and Kim, the mother and daughter’s favoured shopping centre ‘Fountain Gate’, is amusingly portrayed as an image of every day suburban life. But, as we recently found out, when it comes to looking after your health and getting more exercise, your local shopping centre can be more than just a place to grab something ‘noice’. Queensland researchers say that shopping centres are ‘vital social hubs’ that can help older people feel connected to their community. Shopping centres provide older people with the opportunity for social interaction, says PhD nursing researcher Jenneke Foottit of the Queensland University of Technology’s Dementia Research and Training Centre. “Shopping centres are meeting places for older people and provide appropriate health services, spaces where they can gather socially and make sure they can accommodate walkers and have access to public transport.” This is a topic of interest for a range of professions from health practitioners to urban planners and architects. “Older women use shopping centres as a way of connecting with society. They go there for social activity, to see people, they use it for safe exercise and, sometimes, they mention doing the shopping!” says Jenneke. “This has implications for the building and refurbishment of shopping centres. As our population ages, we must make sure they stay mobile by creating social environments that are safe for them to move around in.” June 2009

While you’re waiting recently visited one of Australia’s largest shopping centres, ‘The Knox’, located in the outer eastern region of metropolitan Melbourne. In this vast complex, a twice weekly health and fitness activity has taken place for the past 14 years. Protected from the wind, sun and rain, men, women and children aged from 8 to 83 years walk for fun and fitness around the mall. The activity is free, it boasts more than 400 members, and local doctors have begun recommending the initiative to their patients. The social aspect is an important element of the ‘mall walking’ program and, after they have had their workout, participants get free juice and/or water. Afterwards, they often go together to the cinema at Knox if there’s a movie they fancy watching. When we visited it was clear what passion the members of the program have for their physical activity. All proudly wear branded, green t-shirts identifying their participation in the mall walking club. Jean Horton has run the program for the past 9 years and she gives a hearty welcome to everyone who comes into her office to log in the number of kilometres they have walked each day. She knows every member of the club by name and it’s clear that she and the members get on tremendously well and share humour and friendship along with their exercise. “Plenty of our mall walkers have had heart and hip operations and this provides a safe way for them to exercise. They are under security surveillance and medical assistance is not far away if needed,” explains Jean. One comment made by most of the walkers who spoke to While you’re waiting is that due to the protective environment in which they are

exercising there is no excuse, such as the weather, to give a day’s workout a miss. June Nash has lost more than 20 kilos since she started mall walking and her husband Roger has joined her on the walks since he retired. “It’s such a safe environment and we are protected from the weather so you don’t have the excuse to say ‘it’s too cold’ or ‘it’s too hot’. It’s also a nice smooth surface with no bikes or dogs to worry about.” Others have taken up mall walking following a heart attack, diagnoses of high cholesterol and blood pressure, and a whole host of other health problems that can be better managed with exercise. Gary Leonard, in his 60s, shares June’s view, “Regardless of the weather I can always walk with the group and it offers a social aspect as well. I always do my shopping when I’m finished so it’s really convenient.”  The Heart Foundation has developed a low to moderate intensity exercise program called ‘Heartmoves’. The program emphasises the importance of regular physical activity but says it does not have to be at a vigorous level to result in health benefits. The Heartmoves exercises are low to moderate in intensity and encourage people to start slowly and work safely at their own pace. They are specifically designed for people managing conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, arthritis, lung and chest conditions and other at risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and depression. For more information contact the Heart Foundation on 1300 36 27 87.

to become a  Want mall walker? 

Call Knox Shopping Centre’s customer service on 03 9801 5966

While you’re waiting…


Check out your bowels If you are eligible for the test you will receive an invitation to do so through the mail. The test, known as the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), can be carried out in the privacy of your own home with the help of a kit that requires placing small samples of your stool on a special card. These then need to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results are returned to you and your doctor. The FOBT result will be designated positive if blood is found in your stools. If this happens you need to contact your doctor immediately to discuss the result. The presence of blood in your stools does not mean you have cancer. It could be due to inflammation, haemorrhoids (sometimes called ‘piles’) or polyps. However, it remains important that the cause of bleeding is investigated.

If you undertake a FOBT every 2 years, you can reduce your risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to one-third. The Bowel Cancer & Digestive Research Institute Australia recommends that all Australians of 50 years of age and over who do not have obvious symptoms of the disease undertake bowel cancer screening.

Photo courtesy: Bowel Cancer Australia

Did you know that if you turn 50, 55 or 65 years of age before the end of 2010 you are entitled to a free bowel cancer screening test?

 Need to know more? 

If you are over 50, talk to your GP about bowel cancer screening options

News just in… If you received a bowel screening test since 1 December 2008 you should now have been contacted by the Department of Health and Ageing regarding the reliability of your test. There are concerns about discrepancies in results using the screening kits supplied to the Department by Dorevitch Pathology. Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon says: “I would urge any participants who are concerned about the accuracy of their result to contact their doctor.” For further information the Department also suggests you contact the Dorevitch Pathology helpline on 1300 738 365 or for advice on retesting options visit

Men who regularly eat tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon may be less likely to develop prostate cancer. These foods contain the disease fighting substance ‘lycopene’, which is not destroyed by cooking and so is also found in large quantities in tomato sauce! Source: Jian L, Du CJ, Lee AH, Binns CW. Do dietary lycopene and other carotenoids protect against prostate cancer? International Journal of Cancer 2005;113(6):1010–4.

If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Drink enough fluids so you know that you won’t get thirsty – it’s the only way to stop becoming dehydrated. 6

While you’re waiting…

June 2009

Photos © istockphoto/DNY59/Tina_Rencelj/ValentynVolkov/magnetcreative

 Did you know…? 

Flu facts

Photo © istockphoto/mammamaart

Influenza is a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. It is caused by a virus and is not the same as a cold. It can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, especially in the elderly and other people known to be ‘at risk’ such as those who smoke or those with a chest complaint. Influenza causes 2,500 deaths per year in Australia.

How is the flu spread?

• Body chills and sweats

• Cover your mouth when coughing

The flu is spread from one person to another in the spray from coughs and sneezes – this is called ‘droplet infection’. The virus enters the nose or throat and may spread to the lungs through coughing or sneezing.

• Tiredness

• Cover your mouth when sneezing

• Headache.

• Don’t return to work too early, you could still be contagious.

How do I know if I have the flu? It is easy to confuse flu for a cold, but there is an important difference between them. A cold may still leave you feeling lousy, but influenza is more serious, with symptoms that can last for several weeks.

What are the symptoms? Onset of flu symptoms is usually rapid and may include: • Fever • Dry cough • Sore throat • Body aches and pains June 2009

What should I do? • Drink plenty of fluids (avoid alcohol)

Should I have the flu vaccination?

• Take pain relief medication to relieve symptoms

Vaccination may be worthwhile for people at risk such as those:

• Have plenty of rest

• See your doctor.

How can I avoid spreading the flu? Influenza is highly contagious and can be spread 1 day before symptoms appear and for 5 days afterwards. Some people can be infected with the flu virus and have no symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to others. • Wash your hands regularly with soap; both sides of the hands, for 10–15 seconds (when soap and water are not available, antibacterial hand lotions are a good alternative)

• with diabetes • with chronic lung disease • with heart disease • aged over 65 years, and for • people who work with crowds or sick patients. Ask your GP if you think you are at risk. 

 Want to know more? 

While you’re waiting…


Keeping your skinunderscrutiny While you’re waiting talks to two people, each with a different experience of skin cancer. However, they share the same views about the importance of seeing your doctor sooner, rather than later, in order to sort the problem out.

A view from a celebrity Radio and television host John Burgess used to play tennis for around 10 hours a day between the ages of nine and 19 years and never applied suncream or wore a hat for protection. John, who is in his late 60s, told While you’re waiting that he suspects this may have something to do with his discovery 2 years ago of what he calls a ‘scaly irritation’ on his neck. He had already had a couple of scares with lesions that were removed and turned out to be benign. “I was prescribed an ointment and they disappeared,” John explains. But his more recent discovery was more serious. “It began as a scaly irritation no bigger than the size of a pinhead. I recall scratching it and a bit of flaky skin came off.

“I tried using the ointment which I had left over from the benign problem I had and it seemed to clear up. But a few months later I noticed that a redness had started to appear and when I gave the area a squeeze some stuff came out.” John explains that he started to really take notice in September 2008 while he was in Europe and noticed the lesion getting larger. “I put some ointment and a band aid on but at this stage it was around half an inch long and around eighth of an inch wide. It looked quite unpleasant, like an oval shaped blister and my wife Jan was badgering me to get it seen to.” John’s doctor had a look at the lesion and was concerned enough to send him straight off to see a surgeon. “It was clear he was quite concerned. He cut me from down the side of my neck and up behind my right ear. He removed half of my saliva gland and part of my ear lobe.” “He did a great job,” says the former host of ‘Wheel of Fortune’. “As a result I have become a bit of a crusader on men’s health. My message to guys out there is not to think they are bulletproof because they aren’t. “I have always been a procrastinator. Don’t do what I do and leave it until the last minute. I was very lucky.”

have always been a  Iprocrastinator. Don’t do what I do and leave it until the last minute. I was very lucky


While you’re waiting…

June 2009

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends: • People should be encouraged to be alert for new or changing skin lesions by looking for changes regularly (every 3 months); particularly for those aged over 40 years • All people, particularly children, should be advised to adopt sun protective measures when UV levels are 3 or above, especially between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. These measures include the use of shade, a broad rimmed hat, protective clothing, sunglasses and SPF 30+ sunscreen (which needs to be re-applied every 2 hours).

A view from a CEO Lisa McFadyen is the Chief Executive Officer of Melanoma Patients Australia and has personal experience of a skin cancer scare. “It looked like someone had flicked some brown paint on the front of my throat. I saw it in the mirror every day but put off doing anything about it. “My husband said to me at one point ‘that’s getting a bit big’. So I went to my doctor who referred me to a dermatologist. “I was living with my family in Tokyo at the time and came back to Brisbane to see him.” Forty-two year old Lisa explains that the lesion first appeared at around 1994. “I was roughly 28 years old at the time. I was referred to a plastic surgeon and got the lesion excised.

Lisa says that she is now acutely conscious of lesions on other people. “I will go up to people with moles that look suspicious to me and speak to them. It makes my husband extremely embarrassed.” She says that because she was in her 20s when the lesion first appeared she did not take it too seriously and didn’t ‘listen to her body’. “As you get older you become more aware of your mortality and are less likely to be too complacent about skin cancer. “In spite of all the ad campaigns about skin cancer, people still have misunderstandings about it and the need to protect yourself.” Lisa’s own experience has made her more vigilant about taking care of her two young daughters when they are vulnerable to the sun, she says.

 Did you know…? 

She is also concerned about the misunderstandings that surround skin cancer. “People think that it is something that can get solved by cutting out a lesion and don’t realise that it can invade your organs and your lymphatic system. “I think people in Australia should be getting their skin checked from their adolescent years onwards.” 

you get older  As you become more aware of your mortality and are less likely to be too complacent about skin cancer

• The most important feature of a melanoma in predicting its outcome is its thickness • Australia has the world’s highest incidence of melanoma Want to know more?   • Melanoma represents 10% of all cancers Source: Cancer Council Australia

June 2009


While you’re waiting…


 Australians with intellectual disabilities tend to have more severe health problems than the general population

Feature article

There are more than 300,000 Australians with intellectual disabilities. Research suggests that: • In people with intellectual disabilities only 29% of health conditions are diagnosed and appropriately treated. Half of the diagnosed conditions are inadequately managed • Obesity is up to 3 times higher in this group than the general population • Dental disease is up to 7 times the level of that of the general population • Life expectancy is much lower than that of the general population, and approximately 20 years lower for those with severe disabilities.


While you’re waiting…

June 2009

Health care is everyone’s right For example, obesity is up to three times higher among this group of people and dental disease up to seven times more frequent. In addition, 42% of people with intellectual disabilities who die in care are underweight and some die due to critical illnesses being untreated. Life expectancy is unacceptably lower than that of the general population and for those with ‘severe’ intellectual disabilities this figure can account for a 20 year difference. His view is that preventive health care is the key, and that although this group of patients presents challenges for GPs, they are not insurmountable. With collaborative health care, the lives of people with intellectual disabilities can be ‘substantially improved’. 

Research suggests that people with intellectual disabilities have more health needs than the general population and that some of these needs are going undiagnosed. While you’re waiting talks about this sometimes overlooked area of health care. Are you a friend, parent, or sibling of someone with an intellectual or learning disability such as Down’s syndrome or the developmental disorder autism? If so, you would be aware that it’s important that people with an intellectual disability, and those who care for them, have the right to see a health care professional, in just the same way as any other Australian. However, according to Professor Nicholas Lennox of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Intellectual June 2009

and Developmental Disability, the Australian health system is not currently satisfactorily addressing the needs of people with intellectual disabilities. “Health promotion campaigns and research have a tendency to ignore people with intellectual disabilities needs. “It is time for us to face up to our responsibilities for the 300,000 people with intellectual disabilities living in Australia,” he says. Drawing on a wealth of international research, he explains that only 29% of health conditions in people with intellectual disabilities are diagnosed and appropriately treated, while 42% of health conditions go undiagnosed. “Half of diagnosed conditions are inadequately managed.” he says He points out that Australians with intellectual disabilities tend to have more severe health problems than the general population.

The bigger picture Autism, estimated to affect 120,000 people in Australia, is a life long developmental disorder that varies in severity and has a dramatic impact upon the lives not only of people with the condition but their friends, loved ones and families. The AFI award winning Australian film ‘The Black Balloon’ deals with the impact of the condition of the autistic young man Charlie (played by Luke Ford and pictured in both these photographs wearing a hat) upon his brother Thomas (Rhys Wakefield). The story follows Charlie’s relationship with Thomas who has recently begun a romance with Jackie (played by Gemma Ward). The movie examines the pent up frustrations that Thomas experiences as he is required to look after Charlie when his Mum (played by Toni Collette) becomes pregnant.

 Want to know more? 

While you’re waiting…



The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that a staggering 30 million people worldwide are currently uprooted by violence and persecution.


Whether it is poverty, war, religious persecution, or a natural disaster that forces someone to have to flee their homeland and travel to a strange place, leaving behind their home and their loved ones, it is a desperate decision to have to make. Some of you reading While you’re waiting may be a refugee, or have a friend or know someone who is a refugee. “The war was devastating. Everywhere was a dead corpse. My mum and dad decided to escape, which was one of the hardest things they had done. “I was overwhelmed by the opportunity Australia has given me. I arrived the same year they sponsored me by plane. “However, when I flew past my country I saw many figures on the ground and when I asked what they were, they said that they were corpses. “Australia has given me the opportunity to restart my life and a chance for freedom.” Charlie fled Cambodia when he was 9 after the Pol Pot regime took control of the country. He is now in his 30s and a married Australian citizen living on the Gold Coast. This excerpt is taken from the UNHCR publication Refugees: Telling Their Stories 2005 which can be found


While you’re waiting…

But for many of us living a relatively comfortable life in Australia, the histories of these people and the conditions in which they lived and the journey they have made to seek a haven in Australia is a mystery. That is why every year on 20 June the UNHCR asks us all to think about the plight of refugees. The theme for 2009, ‘Real People Real Needs’, highlights the central idea of international refugee protection – that those people who flee their homes because of persecution and conflict need sanctuary from danger. It also reminds us that refugees have real and pressing needs for education, shelter, health care, water, safety, and empowerment to protect their rights and help rebuild their lives.

 Want to know more? 

June 2009



What is that?

A word in your ear Most of us at one time or another will have had an ear infection and know how excruciating it can be. Our experience will probably have involved paying a visit to our GP who takes a look into our ear canal with a light instrument called an ‘otoscope’.

who is an expert on the RACGP’s archive and the college’s honorary curator, describes the instrument as ‘as rare as hens’ teeth’.

If your doctor notices that your ear drum is red and bulging they may diagnose you with an ear infection and prescribe you medication to clear up the problem.

“As an instrument it is a masterpiece,” he says. “It was a great step forward. It is a gem.”

However, things were not always that easy. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has an extensive archive of medical instruments, some of them interesting, some of them interesting but grim, and some of them just plain stomach churning. How about his one… a saw that was used to amputate people’s limbs before the days of anaesthetic! Less gruesome is an implement known as a ‘Lauder Brunton Auriscope’. This is dated from around 1862, comes from the UK and is made from brass. Later it was manufactured with steel. In the 19th century it was this rather than an otoscope that was used to diagnose ear problems, including infections. The inventor, John Brunton, first described it in the publication The Lancet. Retired GP Dr John North,

Inscribed Lauder Brunton auriscope, circa 1862

He explains that it works by the light from a candle or lamp being placed under the circular element of the contraption which you can see pictured. It is reflected onto a plane mirror and this enabled the doctor to see inside the patient’s ear cannel. Other types of auriscope also emerged on the market after the 1862 invention, but none of them ever achieved the popularity of John Brunton’s invention. So next time you’re having an ear inspection you could always impress, and perhaps baffle, your GP by saying, “Of course, you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing if it wasn’t for a certain Johnny Brunton.” 

Lauder Brunton auriscope in original case, circa 1860

Elisabeth Bennon’s fascinating book Antique Medical Instruments published by Sotheby’s Publications 1979 and University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, was a useful source for this article.

What is that test? If you are reading this in your GP’s surgery it is likely that you, your partner, your child or a parent is unwell. Your GP may suggest a blood test, or they may take a biopsy or order another type of pathology test. Lab Tests Online is a free, on-line information service that provides access to information on many types of tests that doctors’ order. The information on the website is prepared

June 2009

by pathologists and scientists and outlines the tests your doctor may want you to undergo. It explains the sample you may be required to provide, how it will be collected and what is being measured.

 Want to know more? 

While you’re waiting…


A doctor on horseback How does the idea of riding on horseback to work in the war torn Taliban run Afghan mountains while sorting out a measles epidemic sound? We speak to one Australian general practitioner who chooses to work in such circumstances – and thrives on it!

Dr John Parker, originally from Liverpool in the UK, is a GP who works on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. However, a few years ago he decided he needed a challenge. “I was getting too comfortable and too fat,” he half jokingly explains. “I wanted a change.” It was this reasoning that has taken John to such dangerous parts of the world as Afghanistan, the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda and Iraq.


to people living in some of the most dangerous and unhospitable places in the world. MSF is a non-profit making organisation formed by a small group of doctors and journalists more than 30 years ago. Its ethos is that all people have an equal right to emergency medical relief, irrespective of their circumstances.

A colleague suggested that he consider the option of working for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

John’s unconventional inclinations have meant he found himself in Afghanistan in 2001 which he understatingly describes as ‘frightening but a huge adventure’.

John contacted the Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation that provides emergency medical relief

The challenges were immense. “We were in a Taliban area and the Taliban were completely

While you’re waiting…

disinterested in what we were doing. Afghanistan was isolated by United Nations sanctions. There weren’t any telephones and a lack of air transport. “We were encountering malnutrition and trying to tackle areas where measles was rife and trying to contain the problem through a vaccination program. “Because of the nature of Taliban controlled areas, the clinics had to be segregated between males and females who were treated in separate areas. “I have had some surreal moments such as travelling around the Afghan mountains on horseback on my way to work!”

June 2009

Photo © istockphoto/bertie1512

However, nothing seems to put John off. In 2006 he worked in the north of Nigeria where a meningitis epidemic presented a challenge in what he calls a ‘very isolated area’. He has also worked in a burns and trauma unit in Iraq, which at one stage involved meeting a director of health who had the protection of 25 bodyguards. Putting himself in such danger does beg the question of how his wife and three children cope in his absence. John says simply, “They have been very supportive and realise it’s something I need to do. “I would encourage anyone who needs a change to do what I have done.”

June 2009

He also says that it puts the Australian health care system into perspective. “I have taken great delight in coming back to the Australian medical system. It can irk you when you return to Australia and people are complaining, when you have seen how difficult it is for some people overseas.” Returning home after riding the Afghan mountains on horseback and dealing with meningitis epidemics in isolated parts of Africa can also be an anticlimax. This is something people working for organisations like the Red Cross and MSF need to be aware of, he says. “When you come back from places like Afghanistan people show an

interest in your experience for maybe 10 or 20 minutes, and then they want to change the subject. “After a while you get to understand that you are being really effusive about your experience but people only have a limited tolerance for how much they want to hear.” John is currently writing a book about his extraordinary life as a worker in war torn and deprived areas of the developing world. We will keep you posted on its progress and publication date.

 Want to know more? 

While you’re waiting…





1.5 kg beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 4 cm pieces

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 litre chicken stock 2 large carrots, cut into bite sized pieces 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar 100 mL tomato paste Steamed rice, cooked fresh rice vermicelli or baguettes, to serve

1 teaspoon coriander seeds 2 tablespoons salt 1 onion, finely chopped 2 tablespoons finely chopped galangal 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger 2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass (about 2 stalks, white part only) 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped ¼ cup sweet paprika ½ teaspoon five spice powder ¼ cup granulated white sugar

Photo © istockphoto/bambuh

¼ cup soy sauce

For the marinade, dry-fry cumin seeds, then coriander seeds, in a small frying pan over low heat for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Remove and grind into a fine powder with a pestle and mortar. Mix with remaining ingredients until well combined, then use to coat meat. Cover with plastic film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you have time. Place meat and marinade in a heavy based saucepan and add chicken stock. Bring to the boil over high heat, then cook for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 2 hours. Add carrots, sugar and tomato paste, then stir well to combine. Cook for another 30 minutes or until carrots are tender. Serve with steamed rice, noodles or baguettes.

This recipe is taken from little vietnam By Nhut Huynh Published by Penguin Australia, $49.95 Available July 2009 Reprinted with permission


While you’re waiting…

June 2009

Photo © istockphoto/seanrmcdermid

Beef stew with carrots and paprika

What’s for dinner? Facts about cranberries When it comes to urinary tract infections (UTIs), cranberries may just be a girl’s best friend! The anti-adhesion effect of cranberries causes bacteria to be flushed out of the urinary tract before an infection in the bladder or kidney can occur. Cranberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits. Cranberries were first used by Native Americans to treat wounds and alleviate pain. Native Americans also discovered this wild berry’s versatility as a food and fabric dye, in addition to a healing agent. Cranberries can float in water, thanks to four air chambers found inside each berry. Cranberries can also bounce!

Fruity cranberry couscous salad SERVES 4 1 bunch spring onions 1 tablespoon olive oil 75 g dried cranberries ½ teaspoon dried mint ½ bunch fresh mint 250 g instant couscous 50 g pine nuts 2–3 oranges 250 g plain yoghurt 1–2 tablespoon lime juice Honey

Photos © istockphoto/EnjoyRomania/timsa

Salt, pepper

Clean and wash spring onions. Chop the green parts to rings and the white onion to small cubes and sweat the cubes in hot oil until transparent. Add cranberries and 400 mL water and cook. Take the pot from the stove and add salt, dried mint (in a tea filter) and couscous. Leave to stand for 5–6 minutes. Wash the fresh mint and chop leaves. Roast pine nuts until golden (without oil). Fillet the oranges (save the juice). Mix yoghurt, the saved orange juice, and lime juice to a smooth paste. Season with salt, pepper and honey to taste. Remove tea filter from couscous mixture and fold in the yoghurt dressing, green onion rings, orange fillets, pine nuts and fresh mint.

‘Wee Week’ Kidney Health Australia’s mission is to promote kidney and urinary tract health to all Australians to prevent related diseases. In 2009, ‘Wee Week’ will be held on July 19–25.

June 2009

 Want to know more? 

While you’re waiting…


Meet Jack. Jack is an ordinary boy living in an ordinary Australian suburb. Jack is overweight, just like 25% of all Australian children. This story, by best selling children’s author Andy Griffiths, brings overweight Jack’s world to life as a brilliantly funny case study that seriously highlights the issues of unhealthy eating habits. Filled with practical advice from a personal trainer and a nutritionist, Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy follows Jack on his journey from ‘fat boy’ to ‘healthy boy’.

Kids’ corner

percent of  Forty domestic Australian dogs are currently overweight. If you own a dog it is important to make sure that it eats a quality diet, and that it gets a minimum of half an hour a day exercise


While you’re waiting…

June 2009

Walking the dog All rest and no walkies make Rusty a fat dog Dad and I are in the living room watching Formula One when Mum bustles into the room.

Mum glares at me. “That’s very rude, Jack.”

“I will, all right?” says Dad. “But not today.”

“Why is it rude?” I say. “I said ‘please’.”

“If not today, then when?” says Mum.

“When’s the last time either of you took Rusty for a walk?” she says.

Mum’s only response is to pick up the remote and turn the TV off.

“Tomorrow,” says Dad. “I’ll feel better tomorrow.”

I look at the great pile of matted red hair lying outside the back door. Somewhere underneath it is a dog. But I haven’t seen him for a while.

“Hey!” says Dad. “I was watching that.”

“You’ll feel better tomorrow because you’re going to go for a walk today,” says Mum firmly. “Now where is the leash?”

Dad and I both shrug. “Well it’s about time you did,” says Mum. “He needs exercise. And so do we.” “I don’t,” I say. “I don’t like exercise.” “Don’t be silly,” says Mum. “I’m not being silly,” I say. “I’m telling the truth!” “That’s not the point,” says Mum. “Whether you like it or no, you need it. And so does Rusty.” “But my knee…” I say.

“Me, too,” I say. “You’re always watching that,” says Mum. She pulls the curtains apart and daylight floods the room. “Welcome to the day!” “But what about the racing?” I say. “Racing, football, golf, cricket…” says Mum. “It never ends! Now what I want to know is, where is Rusty’s leash? We’re going for a walk!” “I can’t,” I say. “Giant Fighting Robot Man is on at four o’clock. A special one – hour episode.” “Record it,” says Mum.

“Then you’ll either have to learn or you’ll have to miss it,” says Mum. “I’m sure you can manage without it for one afternoon.”

“I can’t help it,” I say.

“I can’t go either,” says Dad. “I need to take it easy. Doctor’s orders.”

“Mum,” I say, waving her out of the way. “Yes?” she says, standing her ground. “Can you move, please? I can’t see the television.”

“Get up and do it yourself,” she says, placing the remote on top of the bookshelf. “Get at least that much exercise.” “Fine,” says Dad. “Can you turn the TV on, Jack?” 

“I don’t know how to work the timer,” I say. “It’s too complicated.”

“Oh yes, I forgot,” says Mum. “Your mysterious sore knee which the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with and which only ever seems to get sore when someone suggests you exercise or play sport.” Mum stands in front of me, her hands on her hips. “Well I can,” she says.

Dad and I look at each other blankly. “We don’t know,” I say. “Too bad. It was a good idea. Can we turn the TV back on now? Please?”

Great. Dad’s got health problems and now Mum’s lost her mind.

“The doctors orders were to get some exercise,” says Mum. “But I’m still recovering!” says Dad. “Nobody’s suggesting that you do a triathlon,” says Mum. “Just a nice slow, easy walk.”

Dog and human care • Ensure your dog has a properly balanced diet. This should contain proteins to repair and build the body, carbohydrates for energy, fats to absorb and move nutrients in the body, and vitamins and minerals for body maintenance, health and to protect against disease. • Ensure that YOU have a properly balanced diet. This should contain proteins to repair and build the body, carbohydrates for energy, fats to absorb and move nutrients in the body, and vitamins and minerals for body maintenance, health and to protect against disease.

Photo © istockphoto/UTurnPix

• Exercise your dog for at least 30 minutes at least once a day. Forms of exercise can include walks, off-the-leash runs and structured play. Why not do this with your dog? • Teach your dog new tricks to keep its brain sharp and alert. • Teach yourself new tricks to keep your own brain sharp and alert.

June 2009

While you’re waiting…


Let’s talk about sex By Heather Franklin It’s been another busy week in the Franklin household. You may have come across my larrikin husband Shane in the last edition of While you’re waiting. Perhaps you thought ‘too much information’ when he started talking about fingers, doctors and bums, but in this house we like to tell things like they are. Well, for this edition of the magazine it’s my turn. Actually, it’s the turn of me and my daughter Kylie who just turned 16. The conversation came as a bit of a surprise. I don’t know why as she’s always been a free spirit, which is one of the reasons she’s so special but also infuriating to me, Shane and her brother Craig. Anyway, I can hardly talk, I was her age when boys and sex became an issue. It was a couple of days after Kylie’s sixteenth, she walked into the kitchen, grabbed some chips and the conversation went something like this. “Mum, I’ve met this guy at high school, Gary. He’s not tall, dark and handsome and, no, he doesn’t look like Hugh Jackman and he’s not the brightest spark in the world, but I don’t care if you approve or not. He’s just different.” Like I said, she’s 16 and politeness and the ‘dutiful daughter’ routine aren’t big on her agenda. I knew where the conversation was going. Been there, done that. “So Kylie, you want to talk about sex?” “Mum!” she said. “You’re so embarrassing.” “Well that is what this is about isn’t it?” I said. “Well, yes, but it’s not really any of your business,” said Kylie.

I said: “I’m not going to interfere. You’re practically an adult and you wouldn’t take any notice of anything I would say anyway. “But, for what it’s worth, if you and Gary are thinking of sleeping together then you need to go and see our GP for advice.” Kylie called the local surgery, made her own appointment, and it sounds like the GP did a great job. I was so grateful. I remember when I was 16 and went to the GP for the same advice. I was scared stiff that he would tell my Mum or Dad what I was up to. I could barely get the words out of my mouth, but things have changed since then, thank goodness. Apparently, before the GP started talking about how to make sure Kylie and Gary didn’t end up pregnant, they had a brief discussion about music – some band called Kings of Leon – which made Kylie feel comfortable. “More interesting than our conversations Mum,” she said. Oooh, she makes me cross sometimes but I bit my tongue as I was quite proud of her. Anyway, I don’t know where Kylie keeps her ‘pill’ but I know it’s around somewhere as I’ve seen the prescription receipt. These days Gary comes round and, yes, ‘different’ could be one way of describing him. But he’s a good bloke and while he may not be Hugh Jackman, if I was 25 years younger… whoops, too much information from the Franklins again! 

Photo © istockphoto/milosluz

My first time

Kathryn O’Connor is a GP working in Melton, Victoria. She is also an associate medical editor at The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. These are her thoughts on providing contraceptive advice to a female adolescent considering entering a sexual relationship. “One of the first things I would want to do is try and establish a rapport with the teenage girl. I may start by asking them about a topic that interests them such as music, films, holidays or their plans for the future. “I would then want to ask them about the age of their partner. I would also want to be absolutely sure that this was a consensual sexual relationship; that it was something being entered into of their own free will. “It’s also important to discuss the issue of sexually transmissible infections (STIs), and particularly chlamydia, which is common in the under 25 years age group. I would tell them that this is a major risk from unprotected sex. “I would explain how a condom can reduce the risk of STIs. But if they were in a committed monogamous relationship and wanted to go condom free I would suggest that they have a check up for STIs before having sex without protection.” Kathryn says that the issue of contraception needs to be discussed in detail with all young people seeking advice on sex. “Young women need to know the range of options available to them including the pill, contraceptive implants which last for 3 years and contraceptive injections which last for 3 months. “The side effects of the forms of contraception need to be discussed. The implants and the injection can occasionally cause bothersome bleeding. “It’s also important that they are made aware of remembering to take the pill within a 12 hour window.”


While you’re waiting…

June 2009

“Where’s my tortoise?” Patients sometimes visit their doctors with unusual requests that can be baffling, amusing or a cause for serious concern. One of the more, but by no means the least bizarre, requests to a GP was from a woman asking: “I’ve lost my tortoise. Can you help me find it?” While ostensibly amusing, such requests represent a more serious problem. Queensland based GP, Dr Lynton Hudson, has an interesting take on the matter. “I take all requests seriously. If the request was odd, I would be exploring whether the patient was mentally unwell.” He suggests that if the inquiry was particularly strange he would consider whether a diagnosis of dementia, schizophrenia or mania was a possibility. “As a GP, the patient’s health is my job and that is whether it is physical, mental or social.” A number of GPs have spoken to While you’re waiting after we asked them for examples of inappropriate, unusual or surprising requests made during a consultation. They included patients’ questions about the health of their pets, the law, the stock exchange and mechanical conundrums. 

The animals I have been consulted on the right arthritic medication for old dogs and the use of tetracycline antibiotics in fish tanks. A Queensland based GP

“Can you teach me how to milk a cow,” I was asked at the end of a consultation from a lady. Having been brought up in a farm in the UK before we had a milking machine, I was just the right person for this somewhat unexpected question. She left with full operating instructions. A Queensland based GP

The children

The domestic issues

One patient brought her feckless son in so that I could write a letter authorising him to wear brogues to school rather than lace up shoes. When I queried the medical condition the reply was, “None… I just like them and I need a doctor’s letter.” I wrote a letter stating that his mother requests he be allowed to wear them as his mother liked them. She took the letter to school… not surprisingly, the approach failed.

In suburban practice I was asked one day by a very wealthy patient if he could have his arsenic levels measured. He told me had been having very severe indigestion and thought his wife was poisoning him. The test was done, the results showed lots of arsenic and they divorced. A New South Wales based GP

A Queensland based GP

[Names have not been included in order to protect doctors’ privacy and patient confidentiality]

Photo © istockphoto/GlobalP

General practitioners are often asked for legal advice from patients even if it does not relate to a health issue, says the Victoria Law Foundation. To help overcome this, the organisation has developed a brochure on free and low cost legal services in Victoria. A spokesperson for the Victoria Law Foundation said, “We would like the brochure to be of use to GPs to give to patients asking for help with legal issues, as well as making the brochure directly available to patients in GP waiting rooms.” June 2009

 Want more information?  Phone the Victoria Law Foundation on 03 9604 8100 or visit

While you’re waiting…


The internet and your health It is likely that you, and many patients like you waiting to see your GP, have already done a bit of internet research of your own regarding what you are about to discuss. But how reliable is this information? Well, there is the possibility it is accurate and written by doctors or other highly trained health professionals. There is also the chance that the information you have gathered is unreliable and inaccurate. One of the wonders of the internet is the wealth of information you can access at the touch of a button, and one of the drawbacks is the reliability and lack of professional scrutiny of such information. There is, after all, nothing to stop this writer, if they had a bit more technical knowhow, from putting together a fairly convincing looking news page online declaring that, ‘Elvis is living undercover on the Gold Coast with the pseudonym Hilda Sidebottom and working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’.

Due partly to concern over the information that patients’ access online about health, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has worked with Dorling Kindersley to launch an online version of their book, Family Doctor Home Adviser. It is very important that the public realise that it is no substitute for seeing a GP. As the RACGP’s President Dr Chris Mitchell points out, “If you or a member of your family needs medical attention, you should see a GP. If the matter is a medical emergency you should present to a hospital or call an ambulance.” However, Dr Mitchell also says that Family Doctor Home Adviser Online provides ‘credible, evidence based medical information’ in an online age where increasingly patients seek advice on the internet.

“Want information you can rely on?”

 Did you know…? 

Drinking alcohol before bed may help you to get to sleep, but it disturbs the natural sleep pattern and stops you feeling refreshed in the morning, even if you don’t have a hangover.


While you’re waiting…

Photo © istockphoto/jjpoole

Child and teenage brains are highly sensitive to damage from alcohol and many researchers now believe that there is no safe drinking level for young people.

June 2009

W Y W reviews

Press play… Being Dad Surprising Pregnancy Insights from Men Beyond Home Entertainment, 2008

Being Dad 2 Surprising Baby Insights from Men Beyond Home Entertainment, 2008 For a lot of men, preparing to be a dad is a bit like preparing for an alien invasion: you know things are going to change, you’re just not sure how. So wouldn’t it be great to sit down with some blokes who’ve been there before and get the inside information over a few beers? That’s exactly what you get with the ‘Being Dad’ DVD series: forty dads from a range of backgrounds, stubbies in hand, having a yarn about the worries, the joys and the practicalities of being a parent. Our dads talk about how they felt the moment they found out they were going to be a father, about supporting their partners through morning

sickness (‘imagine yourself hung over all the time!’), working out the finances, experiences with miscarriage, the first ultrasound, different birthing options (home births, for example), the moment they met their babies, and maintaining a social group after the birth. Nothing’s off limits. The dads talk openly about sex during pregnancy (mostly about their failed attempts to acquire it), their feelings of helplessness (but in some cases empowerment) during the actual birth, and dealing with nappies (a bit like opening a fortune cookie, one dad reckons – you never know quite what you’re going to get).

The DVDs also feature expert advice from obstetricians, financial planners, nurses and psychologists to shed some more light on the issues the dads bring up over the course of their boozy chats. Watching the DVDs brought back a lot of memories and had me and my partner laughing in sympathy and recognition. It’s honest, informative and entertaining – everything a good yarn over a few beers should be! Highly recommended for soon-to-be mums and dads alike.

And there’s footage of an actual birth. Just so you know.

Christopher Miles, Thornbury, Vic

possible to pause the DVD at any time and skip certain exercises if you find them unsuitable. As the instructor is also pregnant, I felt confident that the exercises were safe for both me and my baby.

There is also the option of doing the workout with or without music; I prefer using the music as I find it very relaxing.

pilates for pregnancy Tasha Lawton Available from $49.99 set of 4 DVDs Pregnant with my second child, I found myself suffering the same lower back pain as I did during my first pregnancy. The ‘pilates for pregnancy’ DVDs proved to be a godsend! Three 45 minute sessions a week has reduced my back pain significantly. There are four DVDs in the ‘Pilates for pregnancy’ set, one for each trimester and one designed for a postnatal workout. It is ideal to have a set of exercises designed specifically for each stage of pregnancy. The average workout time for each set of exercises is 45–50 minutes, but it’s June 2009

All exercises focus on the pelvic floor muscles and I have become a lot more conscious of strengthening these muscles whenever I remember to, not just when watching the DVD! Results are very positive, which encourages you to keep it up!

As a fulltime working mum, it’s great to have the convenience of exercising with a DVD at home, with no pressure to rush off to a class after work, or to keep up with others in a class. For exercises that are relaxing and at the same time provide a good workout, I would recommend ‘pilates for pregnancy’! Kirsten Bennett, Melbourne, Vic While you’re waiting…


WYW news file WYW news file WYW news file WYW news file WYW news file WYW news file WYW news file WYW news file WYW news file WYW news fileWYW news file WYW news file Food for thought

A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products could prolong the lives of women with early stage breast cancer, new research suggests. USA experts also say that eating less red meat and refined foods may improve women’s overall health and prevent other cancers and chronic diseases. They asked almost 2000 women with early stage breast cancer about their diet, exercise regimen, weight and other health factors and tracked them for up to 8 years. The researchers found that women who took care of their diet at the beginning of the study had a lower chance of dying than those who ate a Western influenced diet. They describe this as including a lot of red and processed meats, high fat dairy products, refined grains such as white bread and snack foods. Even when they took into account high health risk factors such as smoking and the size of the breast tumour, the results still stood, they say.

Alarming ignorance of emergency contraception Tertiary students in Australia have a surprising lack of knowledge about the facts surrounding emergency contraception, new research from Queensland reveals. Four hundred and sixty tertiary students in Cairns responded to a questionnaire about emergency contraception and 29% said they had used it in the past.

Australian children commonly live with a mentally ill parent Almost one in four Australian children live with a parent with a mental illness, according to new research.

Of these children, just over 1% live with a parent that has a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression). The discovery of the incidence of children living with a parent with a mental illness in Australia is important, as in the past the estimates of how common this phenomenon is have emerged from the United States. The authors from Charles Sturt University and LaTrobe University published their findings in Psychiatric Bulletin. They say their discovery could provide valuable information to people who develop psychiatric policy and programs.

Forty winks fights off the cold Getting a good night’s sleep can slash the chances of developing the common cold, according to USA researchers. They looked at more than 150 healthy men and women between 21 and 55 years of age and asked for information about their sleeping patterns over the course of a fortnight. They wanted to know both how long they slept and their ‘sleep efficiency’ (the amount of time spent in bed while actually sleeping). After 14 days participants were administered nasal drops containing a rhinovirus which is a cause of the common cold.

However, only 20% understood the timeframe in which it can be used, believing it to only be effective the ‘morning after’ sexual intercourse and unaware of the fact that it remains effective up to 72 hours afterwards.

After exposure to the virus those individuals who reported sleeping less than 7 hours a night were almost three times as likely to develop a cold compared to those who slept 8 hours or more.

While emergency contraception has been available without prescription in Australia for 6 years, 40% of respondents did not know that it is available over-the-counter in pharmacies.

The vulnerability to contracting a cold could not be explained by other factors such as the season of the year, or health factors such as body mass.

Even of those who did know of its availability from pharmacies, 20% said they would be reluctant to ask for it as their identity may be known, particularly if they came from small town or community settings.

‘Poorer sleep efficiency and shorter sleep duration in the weeks preceding exposure to a rhinovirus were associated with lower resistance to illness,’ say the researchers in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

nd…action! a a a a … s a r e Lights, cam Producers of Channel Seven’s popular TV series Packed to the Rafters turned to the magazine that’s in your hands when filming a possible future episode of the comedy drama. The scene, which may be broadcast later this year or early 2010, features Hugh Sheridan playing Ben Rafter (left) alongside George Houvardas who plays Nick Karandonis. The two actors appear engrossed in While you’re waiting as they sit together in a hospital waiting room during the second series of the popular program.


While you’re waiting…

June 2009


Do something special. Give blood. Call 13 14 95 or visit



Did you know:

• 5 men die every hour in Australia from potentially preventable causes? • men have a higher death rate than women for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, accidents and suicide? • men die about 5 years younger than women? • men are less likely to visit a GP?

You can be the one to break the cycle. Start by making your health a priority, not something you keep putting off. Five steps can make a difference: 1. Share your family history with your GP 2. Know your healthy weight 3. Check your blood pressure 4. Stop smoking – it’s the only healthy option 5. Maintain a healthy mind and a healthy body.

What are you waiting for? Look after your own health. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones. We are all a father, son, brother, partner or a friend. Your GP can help you to improve your health.

While you're waiting June 2009  

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the organisation that sets the education and practice standards for Australia’s 25 00...

While you're waiting June 2009  

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the organisation that sets the education and practice standards for Australia’s 25 00...