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the newsletter for rt health fund members

winter 2007

drive time... NEWS, HEALTH, ADVICE AND MUCH MORE...


be well.

from the CEO Over the last 18 months I have taken great pleasure in experiencing the genuine sense of community that we share with our members. It’s inspirational, especially as having a real relationship of trust and care with an organisation is becoming a thing of the past. Despite the many changes rt has undergone over the past year we have strived to maintain that wonderful sense of community and to ensure that our members remain our top priority. We had an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to members in NSW a number of weeks ago when parts

of Newcastle and the Central Coast were severely damaged by storms and flooding. Recognising that the clean up and related costs would affect many people, we wrote to 1,700 members living in the flood-affected areas offering them the opportunity to defer their health cover payments for up to three months, to help ease the pressure that many people faced with unexpected expenses. We’ve been amazed by the many, many responses we’ve received from these members, letting us know that they are okay, expressing their gratitude for the offer of help and reminding us that we are so much more than just a faceless organisation. We have included some of these letters in our ‘membertalk’ page. We thank everyone who took the time in this busy period to reply to us and hope that everyone affected by the storms is doing well.

It’s an important time of year for our board of directors as we announce three board positions that will be contested at our October Annual General Meeting. Two of our current board members will stand for re-election and we have a currently vacant position to fill. In this issue you can read more about how you can nominate for a position on the board. I also talk a little about how we set and manage the price of health cover for members, and we take a look at some health-related issues – colds and flu, health for professional drivers, and the important but often hidden issue of depression in men. Plus, we have a fantastic referral offer for you to help us share the benefits of rt membership with your work colleagues. As always, we appreciate your feedback, and look forward to hearing from you.

We have a lot to bring you in this issue, Glenn Campbell CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER including great news about our new website (if you haven’t already seen it, visit us at www.rthealthfund.com.au and let us know what you think – and don’t forget to keep coming back as we update information and add new features), the roll out of HICAPS cards, and an update on lifetime health cover and tax statements.


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

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contents

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EDITOR Simone Tregeagle

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DESIGN Scope Design Group scopedesign.com.au The health information provided in ‘be well’ is intended to be informative only and should be carefully evaluated for its source, accuracy, completeness and relevance for your purposes. It is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. You should always obtain appropriate professional advice relevant to your particular circumstances. railway + transport health fund ltd (abn 93 087 648 744) is a registered health benefits organisation.

14 – drive time How can professional drivers make sure that they are up to the job, every day?

2 – membertalk We hear from members in flood-affected areas

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4 – board nominations Your opportunity to get involved 6 – rt opens Sydney branch rt’s new branch right in the heart of the city 7 – we launch our cover for single parent families Making hospital cover more affordable

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8 – have you visited our new website yet? Our new website is up and running

9 – keep an eye out for your new HICAPS card HICAPS claiming is here 10 – healthy and wealthy Take a look at how private hospital cover can save you tax 12 – managing the costs of your health cover How rt is keeping your contributions as low as possible

16 – ‘tis the season to be sneez’n It’s that time of year again, we look at how you can boost your defences 18 – even cowboys get the blues Depression in men – it’s a silent problem having a huge impact on many families 20 – it’s magic Are your kids taking the best possible care of their teeth? 22 – join rt We have great rates – make sure you refer your mates 24 – rt in the community Out and about with rt


be well. 2

membertalk We love to hear from you Your team at rt is committed to giving you the care and service you need. Your feedback lets us know how we’re doing, tells us what’s important to you and where we need to improve. If you have any comments or suggestions we’d love to hear from you.

“I would like to express my gratitude, I have been “I would like to thank you for the offer for three “I can only say that months’ grace on payments. But we were lucky and a member for more than 5 years, and am truly as a member since had no problems with the recent rain and storms. happy with your service. I always get an accurate 1965 I have had great I can only say that as a member since 1965 I have answer if I have any questions, and the private service from the fund had great service from the fund and thank you for it.” cover is outstanding! I can’t wait to receive my HICAPS card. I was also wondering if rt has and thank you for it.” Mr RG Cooke, Wyoming NSW “It was a pleasure to receive your letter of concern and I would like to thank you all for your interest. I get much pleasure showing your letter to people who are not your members. I have been a member for almost 40 years and your service to me has always been first class. My thanks to you all.” Catherine Lincoln, Yattalunga NSW “Thank you for your concern about the severe weather we have had up here on the coast. But I wish to inform you, lucky for me, that I suffered only minor flooding to my backyard and garage and is all okay now. Once again I wish to thank you and rt for your concern for my welfare as a member of the fund.” Robert Lowe, Wyoming NSW

considered any type of rebate for health programs such as Sure Slim or Weight Watchers. These groups can be really pricey, but ultimately saving someone’s life. If this was an option in the future I’d love to hear more about it. Do you know if they stock the 7 Steps to Sanity by Jennifer Jefferies at Dymocks? I read the article she has in your newsletter, and it inspired me to get back on track! Keep up the good work.” Bianca English, Neutral Bay, NSW


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

3 New legislation introduced on 1 April this year will allow health funds to cover a whole range of new preventative health programs designed to help people stay well. So we’ll be able to offer cover for a lot of things that we previously couldn’t. Stay tuned for news about this over the coming months. For a copy of Jennifer’s book, visit www.jenniferjefferies.com. – Ed “It was great to see your new-look newsletter, which was both appealing and informative. I was most pleased to read about the implementation of the HICAPS system, allowing a more streamlined approach to claiming. As a mother of four young children, I regularly attend GPs, dentists, therapists, etc, and warmly welcome the decrease in the paperwork currently required when claiming rebates. Additionally, I welcome the ‘membertalk’ arena as a forum for discussing comments or suggestions. One thing that I would love you to do is to implement a process whereby you send out an invoice when members’ fees are due. With the high costs of health care these days, it would be appreciated if this could be undertaken about a month in advance, allowing members to set aside funds for this purpose. Looking forward to your many new initiatives.” D Brown, Voyager Point, NSW

As a result of enhanced functionality provided by our new operating system we began sending out reminders in March this year. People who pay monthly receive a reminder five days after their payment was due and people who pay quarterly, half-yearly or yearly receive a reminder 21 days before their due date – hope this helps. Don’t forget, you can also arrange an automatic direct debit payment with us, so that your health cover will always be up to date. – Ed

“It was great to see your new-look newsletter, which was both appealing and informative.”

To have your say email us at help@rthealthfund.com.au, call us on 1300 886 123, post to ‘membertalk’, po box 1100, burwood north, NSW 2134 – or have a chat next time you visit a branch. (Please note: rt health fund retains the right to publish any letters or emails received. Unless expressly requested within your letter or email, your name, suburb and state will also be published.) Congratulations to John Jenkins, Deanne Brown, Owen Yeung, Graham Maher and Zivko Joveski who each won a copy of Jennifer Jefferies’ 7 Steps to Sanity® for their feedback on our last issue of ‘be well’.


rt news. 4 “Being a board member is a rewarding experience but it also comes with great responsibilities and a commitment to being actively involved in the overall corporate governance of the fund.”

board nominations ARE YOU INTERESTED IN HAVING MORE INPUT IN HOW YOUR HEALTH FUND IS RUN? Three board positions will be contested at this year’s Annual General Meeting, set to be held on Wednesday 24 October at the Mercure Hotel, Broadway, Sydney. Two of our current board members, Robert Ledger and Barry Dredge, will be standing for re-election to their board positions, and we’re also looking to fill a currently vacant position. Any member can nominate for a position on the rt board, provided you meet the eligibility criteria and complete your nomination by 18 September 2007. Nomination forms are available by contacting your rt member care team on 1300 886 123 or visiting www.rthealthfund.com.au/board.html. Nominees can take the opportunity to circulate a statement to all members supporting their nomination. This statement will be distributed by rt with the Notice of Meeting, which will be mailed to members on 27 September 2007. WHAT’S INVOLVED IN BEING AN RT BOARD MEMBER? Being a board member is a rewarding experience but it also comes with great responsibilities and a commitment to being actively involved in the overall corporate governance of the fund, including determining its strategic direction and financial

wellbeing, and guiding and monitoring the business and affairs of the fund on behalf of members. While the board delegates the day-to-day management of the fund to the CEO and senior management, it remains responsible for appointing, reviewing and overseeing the performance of that team. If you plan on nominating for a position on the board, you should ensure you are fully aware of the legal responsibilities and potential liabilities of board members, as set down by the Corporations Act (2001) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act (2001). WANT TO HAVE YOUR SAY ON WHO SITS ON THE BOARD OF YOUR HEALTH FUND? On 27 September 2007 a pack will be sent to all financial members of the fund containing: • a Notice of Meeting for the Annual General Meeting (which will be held at the Mercure Hotel, Broadway, Sydney, on Wednesday 24 October 2007) • a copy of our 2006/2007 Annual Report and Financial Statements • details of resolutions being proposed at the AGM • a ballot form to vote on the resolutions being proposed at the AGM • information about the candidates standing for board positions • a proxy form to cast your vote for board members by post.


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

5 THE MEMBERS OF YOUR BOARD STANDING FOR RE-ELECTION

Robert Ledger With over 40 years’ experience in engineering, Robert began his career as an electrical apprentice with the NSW Government Railways in 1965. When he retired in 2006, Robert was Fleet Engineer in the Passenger Fleet Maintenance Section of the organisation, which by then had become State Rail. Robert has been a member of rt health fund since 1965 and a member of the board since 2005. He has served on the board’s Audit and Risk committee and was instrumental in redrafting the organisation’s constitution. Robert is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Robert’s vision for rt is to see it expand to become the premier transport industry health fund, serving the needs of all transport industry employees all around Australia.

Barry Dredge Barry began his career as a fitter and turner with Queensland Rail in 1964. He retired from his position as Maintenance Planner in Redbank in 2005. Barry has had a keen involvement with transport industry organisations throughout his career, including the Australian Metal Workers Union at Redbank where he was the convenor for four years. Barry joined rt health fund in 1992 and has been a member of the board since 2005. He has served on the board’s Remuneration and Nomination committee, and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Barry’s goal is to ensure that rt continues to deliver good value to members through great products and generous rebates – while remaining competitively priced.


rt news. 6

rt opens new Sydney branch rt health fund has opened a new Sydney branch located in Railway Square, adjacent to Central Station. The new branch is part of a co-location with Encompass Credit Union, which has also had a long association with the railway and transport industries.

“This new branch means that rt is now located conveniently for members travelling into the city by bus or train.”

“This new branch means that rt is now located conveniently for members travelling into the city by bus or train, and also that we’re right there on the spot for members who work in and around Central Station for organisations such as RailCorp, the RTA and STA”, says rt health fund chief executive officer, Glenn Campbell. “The decision to co-locate with Encompass Credit Union is one that provides a number of benefits to members”, says Glenn. “For a start, it makes it so convenient for members to be able to take care of their banking and health cover in the one location. But, importantly, it also helps us to provide a high level of service while keeping our costs down – which ultimately means we have more funds to return to members in the form of health cover benefits, and that’s really our primary focus.” Making health cover easier for members is what rt is all about, so making sure that we’re easy to get to is just another step in that direction.


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

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we launch our cover for single parent families rt is one of the first health funds in Australia to launch a new category of cover for single parent families, offering fantastic new rates on hospital cover.

“If you know any one who is eligible to join rt and who is currently paying a full family rate for their hospital cover – ask them to give us a call.”

rt is one of the first health funds in Australia to launch a new category of cover for single parent families, offering fantastic new rates on hospital cover. Real value health cover to suit people’s real lives is what we’re all about, so when health funds got the green light from regulators to introduce a new single parent families cover, we jumped at the opportunity. “It’s great to be able to make health cover more affordable for single parent families”, says CEO Glenn Campbell. “Up until now, we’ve only been able to offer single or family cover, but we didn’t think that made sense; why should a single parent family pay the same as two adults and children?” Pricing for the new single parent family category falls in between single and family, which helps to make hospital cover that bit more affordable.

So, spread the word. If you know any one who is eligible to join rt and who is currently paying a full family rate for their hospital cover – ask them to give us a call.


rt news. 8

have you visited our new website yet? We recently launched phase one of our new website – we’re thrilled with it and so are the members who’ve already seen it. As one excited member said, ‘What a GREAT website, welcome to the future rt! Now I’ll be able to say to my friends and family “Have a look at the rt health fund website” ’. Visit us at www.rthealthfund.com.au and see for yourself. What you’ll see is phase one of our site, we’re working on phase two now. At the moment, you can read all about your health fund, download forms (including claim forms) and search for rt contracted hospitals and doctors who participate in our Access Gap Cover. Take a look and email us to tell us what you think. Phase two will introduce much more interactivity to the site, so you’ll be able to login and make changes to your membership, see any correspondence we’ve sent to you, look at your claims history and more. We’ll keep you posted about our new website services as they become available.

“what a great website”


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

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keep an eye out for your new HICAPS card It’s been worth the wait! All members will have their HICAPS cards by the end of this month. Make sure you know how to get the most out of yours.

“...enjoy the convenience of on-the-spot claiming at the time you pay your bill.”

If you haven’t already received your new membership and HICAPS card in the mail, it won’t be long now. Cards are being issued progressively and all members should have received theirs by the end of this month. Don’t forget, your new card replaces your current rt membership card. If you have extras cover, take your card with you when you visit your dentist and other healthcare practitioners so that you can enjoy the convenience of on-the-spot claiming at the time you pay your bill. Also, have your card handy whenever you call us or visit a branch. It has your membership number on it which means we can look up your membership details quickly, and spend more time helping you with your enquiry.

You’ll receive a short brochure with your card explaining how it works and where you can use it, and of course, if you have any questions call your rt member care team on

1300 886 123

A QUICK TIP FOR USING YOUR CARD Because we’re new to the HICAPS system, not everyone might have heard the news. If you have any problems when trying to use your card with your practitioners (especially if they swipe your card and receive an error message), please ask them to call the HICAPS help desk on 1300 650 852. It’s unlikely that it is a problem with your card, rather that the practitioner hasn’t yet been updated by HICAPS. Our new 1300 number has been in operation for some time now, and we are about to disconnect the redirection from our old telephone numbers. So, 1300 886 123 is the only number you need to know – and you can call it no matter where you are in Australia.


rt news. 10

healthy and wealthy Apart from helping you afford many of the costs associated with getting well and staying well, health cover can also be good for your hip pocket.

“Sometimes the cost of hospital cover is even less than the amount you pay for the Medicare Levy Surcharge, plus you get all the benefits of having private hospital cover in case you ever need it.”

MEDICARE LEVY SURCHARGE Most of us pay a 1.5% Medicare Levy through our income tax, which helps fund the public health system. People who earn over $50,000 a year as a single, and $100,000 as a couple or family, and who don’t have private hospital cover (extras cover doesn’t count in this instance), may have to pay an additional 1% tax, which is called the Medicare Levy Surcharge. Not all private hospital covers will exempt you from paying the surcharge, but all of ours will. Sometimes the cost of hospital cover is even less than the amount you pay for the surcharge, plus you get all the benefits of having private hospital cover in case you ever need it. So, instead of facing an extra tax bill next financial year, talk to us about our private hospital cover options. Call your rt member care team on 1300 886 123 or visit our new website, www.rthealthfund.com.au.

LIFETIME HEALTH COVER This government program was introduced to give people an incentive to take out private hospital cover early in life. Basically, if you join private hospital cover for the first time before the 1 July following your 31st birthday then you pay the ‘base rate’ premium that the health fund you join offers. For every year you are over 31 when you join you add 2% to the base rate premium. The government realised that Lifetime Health Cover was actually a bit of a disincentive for older people, because if you joined after you were 31 a loading would apply to your hospital cover for the rest of your life. So on 1 April 2007 a new rule came into effect, which means that your Lifetime Health Cover Loading will be removed after you’ve held hospital cover continuously for ten years. Great news!


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

11 “...on 1 April 2007 a new rule came into effect, which means that your Lifetime Health Cover Loading will be removed after you’ve held hospital cover continuously for ten years. Great news!”

ANNUAL PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE AND LIFETIME HEALTH COVER STATEMENTS Each year rt sends all members a Private Health Insurance statement, and if you have hospital cover you’ll also receive a Lifetime Health Cover statement. The Private Health Insurance statement is a summary of the contributions you’ve paid and how much Federal Government Rebate you have received (or are entitled to receive). You need this to help you complete your tax return. Lifetime Health Cover can be confusing, because there are a number of conditions that apply to people with special circumstances, such as if you’re going overseas. If you’d like to know more, call your rt member care team on 1300 886 123. Interested in reading more? Take a look at the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing website, www.health.gov.au.

The Lifetime Health Cover statement is a summary of your hospital cover and what your Lifetime Health Cover Loading is, if you have one. This is for your records, so it’s a good idea to file it with your health cover documents in a safe place. It’s also a good opportunity to make sure you have the best hospital cover for your needs. If you’d like to talk to us about your hospital cover, and whether you have the right one, please call your rt member care team on 1300 886 123. These statements were mailed to all members on 13 July.


rt news. 12

managing the costs of your health cover Earlier this year, we wrote to you about changes to your health cover contributions. Making the decision to increase contributions is one we don’t take lightly – we’re here to look after the health cover needs of our members, and that means offering the best value possible. CEO Glenn Campbell explains why health cover costs increase and what rt is doing to manage them.

“We realise that any increase is a cost to members and we don’t make the decision to increase rates lightly.”

None of us likes to receive news that our health cover is going to cost us more, why have some rates increased this year? We take our responsibility to ensure that the fund is being managed sustainably very seriously. In simple terms, that means having enough money to pay the claims that members will make, as well as meeting our statutory obligations for maintaining capital reserves. Our actuary looked at our costs for last year and the expected claims for the year ahead and it was apparent that a small increase was needed for some types of cover. How do rt’s contributions compare with other health funds? We’ve absorbed some of the costs, passing on an average increase of just 3.9 per cent (equal to the inflation rate) to members, which compares well with other funds’ average increase of 4.52 per cent. We realise that any increase is a cost to members and we don’t make the decision to increase rates lightly.

We’ve only done so because it is necessary for us to be able to continue making our great value health cover available. Last year an independent actuarial report found that rt pays the best hospital and ancillary benefits of any of our competitors – and we plan to continue doing just that. How does rt manage the costs of healthcare services? We participate with a group of health funds in negotiating the best possible deals with hospitals for our members (these are our contracted hospitals). Not only does this give us the best possible deal on behalf of members, and assurances of quality practices, but allows us to offer our members access to a network of 478 private hospitals and day facilities all around Australia. We’re also planning to introduce new types of healthcare services that will help members to manage their health and wellbeing so that they hopefully won’t end up needing treatment for many preventable or manageable conditions.


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

13 “Younger members help to balance that up, so as members share their great rt experiences and new members join, the fund gets stronger.”

We also closely monitor the use of the fund to identify unusual claiming behaviour, which might indicate that people are breaking the rules. Unfortunately, it does happen and it costs all members. We are currently putting systems in place to protect the fund from being abused in this way. Claims for very expensive or unusual groupings of services get flagged for further investigation and we ask members or their providers for more information to ensure we are only paying legitimate claims. We hope members will appreciate that these measures are part of protecting their fund and respect that these precautions are in place if they are ever asked for more information or if their unusual claim takes a little longer to be paid. Finally, things such as our new operating system, the introduction of HICAPS and the launch of our new website with its (soon to be released) member services area all help to make sure we’re operating as efficiently as possible – which means we have more money to spend on member benefits rather than administration. What can members do to help manage costs and reduce the chances of increases? They can be vigilant about making sure their practitioners only bill them for services provided,

and they can let us know of anyone – whether another member or a provider – whom they suspect of not acting with integrity when it comes to claiming. We’ll be sending new benefits statements to members who have made a claim at the end of each month, detailing the benefits we have paid to healthcare providers on their behalf. By taking time to check the information on the statement and letting us know if anything doesn’t match up with the services actually received, members will help to identify any errors or attempts to over-charge. Finally, they can spread the word! As the membership grows, the costs are shared among more members. We have a large base of longstanding members who will start to draw on the fund more as they get older and need a little more access to healthcare. Younger members help to balance that up, so as members share their great rt experiences and new members join, the fund gets stronger.


working well. 14

drive time Professional drivers, whether they carry freight or move people, are responsible for the health and safety of thousands on the roads and rails every day. Drivers need to take proper care of themselves so they can function at their best, and take care of everyone else who counts on them.

“According to the RTA, work-related road accidents account for 30 per cent of road fatalities, making them the most common type of work-related death, and injuries from road accidents are the highest cause of absence from work..”

REMEMBER WHAT YOUR MOTHER TOLD YOU? No, not the bit about wearing clean underwear, the bit about sitting up straight! As usual, mum was right. Many people experience back pain while driving, and this is greatly affected by your posture. So what’s the best posture to help or prevent back pain? As a general rule: • your knees should be level with or higher than your hips, slightly bent, with plenty of room for your feet to reach the pedals, and • the seat needs to be close enough for you to be able to hold the steering wheel comfortably, while supporting your from the base of your spine through to your shoulders. You may need to buy a lumbar roll or other back support item to ensure that your back is fully protected – try rolling up a towel and tucking it behind your back as a cheap and easy alternative. There’s a mountain of information on back pain management and if you need more personalised attention, speak to your GP about where to go for the right advice.

YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE Many drivers find themselves dealing with the effects of the sun – everything from fatigue, to sunburn, dehydration and glare. A few simple precautions are all it takes to minimise these and make driving in the sun much safer and more comfortable: • Wear sunglasses – preferably ones that offer UV protection and wrap around. • Wear sleeves – protect your arms and hands with driving sleeves and gloves. Driving sleeves are made from a lightweight material and simply slip over your lower arm, so they’re ideal for hot weather. • Wear sunscreen – even if you have tinted windows, use a 30+ broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen and apply it regularly throughout the day – and don’t forget your ears and the back of your neck. • Drink water – a minimum of two litres a day is what the average adult needs just to prevent dehydration. Make an effort to drink lots of water while you’re on the road, especially when it’s hot and you have the air-con blasting.


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

15 MOVE IT, BABY It’s important to take regular breaks to give your eyes a rest, your body a stretch, and your brain a break from concentrating on the road. Although you may be on a tight schedule, these breaks could mean the difference between life and death. According to the RTA, work-related road accidents account for 30 per cent of road fatalities, making them the most common type of work-related death, and injuries from road accidents are the highest cause of absence from work. Just a ten-minute break every couple of hours could make all the difference. IS YOUR DRIVING A LITTLE ON THE NOSE? It should be! Scientists are researching how people’s driving is affected by our senses of smell and touch, and have shown that certain essential oils can have an impact on concentration and alertness. Duane Taylor and David Webb from Scentual NRG have created a range of energy oils that can be beneficial if vaporised while driving. “You can use them to stimulate and clear your mind,” says David, “citrus oils are great because they have a calming effect and smell refreshing. We all know that enclosed spaces can end up being a breeding ground for nasty smells, but synthetic car fresheners often just cover up smells and may even aggravate allergies and asthma. Essential oils can actually destroy odours, have antibacterial properties and can even help prevent motion sickness”.

If you visit www.scentualnrg.com.au, you can order your Energy Oil Travel Kit consisting of a car vaporiser and a Stimulate or Focus Energy Oil for $39 (including free postage anywhere in Australia). $12 of the purchase price will be donated by Scentual NRG to BlueCare Research Centre to assist them in their vital research into dementia.

We have five Energy Oil Travel Kits to give away Just write to us with your best tip for keeping well on the road and you could win! Email help@rthealthfund.com.au or post to ‘membertalk’, po box 1100, burwood north, NSW 2134.


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‘tis the season to be sneez’n It’s at about this time every year that we find ourselves succumbing to the inevitable winter chills, snuffles and coughs. But does it really have to be like this?

“There is no absolute way to avoid catching a cold or getting the flu but there are things you can do to increase your chances of avoiding infection.”

DO I HAVE A COLD OR THE FLU? A cold actually has little to do with the weather. We get more colds in winter because we spend more time inside, breathing in other people’s germs. Colds are spread through sneezing, coughing and hand-to-hand contact, so washing your hands frequently is a great way to avoid picking up any nasty little ‘stragglers’. Children especially need to be taught the importance of thorough hand washing – although it’s difficult to get them to share anything else, kids will always share germs!

tried and tested remedies, passed down from generation to generation, but most people tend to use paracetamol, throat lozenges and nasal drops to relieve symptoms.

The common cold lasts anywhere from a few days to over a week and some of the symptoms include: sneezing/coughing, runny nose, blocked nose, sore throat, swollen and sore eyes, headaches.

GET IMMUNITY Your immune system is your first line of defence, and it goes into overdrive in winter to protect you from your higher exposure to germs, but far too often we neglect to feed our immune systems the fuel they need to keep us fighting fit. Although scientists haven’t yet come up with a super ‘flu food’, many nutritionists believe that these foods can strengthen your immune system:

The flu is a highly contagious virus often accompanied by fever, headache, dryness in the nose and throat, muscle and joint pain and may lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia. SO IS PREVENTION BETTER THAN CURE? There is no medical cure for colds and flu, although there are treatments for symptoms. Many families have their own

If you have high blood pressure or a heart condition, make sure you check with your doctor before taking any cold or flu medications. There is no absolute way to avoid catching a cold or getting the flu but there are things you can do to increase your chances of avoiding infection.

Protein – lean red meat, chicken, fish, seafood, tofu, legumes… whatever takes your fancy.


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Vitamin C – foods rich in vitamin C help your body to absorb iron and zinc, especially from non-meat sources. Not only that, vitamin C is a fabulous antioxidant that boosts the immune system.

TAKE A SHOT For several years healthcare professionals have recommended the flu vaccine for people ‘at risk’. Many workplaces are now offering vaccines to staff to decrease the spread of colds and flu, and some Probiotics – found in cultured natural yoghurts, doctors recommend it for year 12 students, as it is probiotics increase levels of good bacteria in the gut, such an important year for them. If you decide to increasing immunity and preventing bad bugs from have a flu vaccination it should be taken between getting absorbed into your system. March and May and will provide protection for up to one year. For more information about who should Lots and lots of vegetables and fruits – the more be considering having a flu vaccine each year, visit colourful, the better. Fruits and vegetables are the National Health and Medical Research Council like nature’s vitamin pills, they are loaded with (NHMRC) at www.nhmrc.gov.au. antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. KEEP IT NATURAL Echinacea has long been used to support the immune system and has been proven to have antibacterial and antiviral properties. It can help to lower the risk of minor infections and help to provide relief from the symptoms of colds and flu. Echinacea is not recommended for children under the age of 12, and remember to always check with your healthcare professional before taking any remedy, medicine or supplement.

“Fruits and vegetables are like nature’s vitamin pills.”

You could win a one-year subscription to either Good Medicine or Men’s Health magazine. Just send your tried and true cold and flu remedies to us at help@rthealthfund.com.au or post to ‘membertalk’, rt health fund, po box 1100, burwood north 2134. Five lucky members will win subscriptions.


feel well. 18

even cowboys get the blues Depression in men. It’s not a topic that is discussed very often, in fact for most men it’s something they just don’t ‘do’. Men don’t get depressed, don’t cry, don’t have emotions – at least not ‘real’ men, right? Wrong.

“In Australia, one in six men live with depression.”

All men experience emotion, but from a very young age boys are taught to be ‘strong’ and to be a ‘big boy’. Research studies have shown that boys are parented differently to girls, with a higher emphasis placed on competitiveness and strength, even though from early childhood boys show more emotional range than girls.

In Australia, one in six men live with depression. And the actual numbers may be even higher, as a lot of men suffering from depression are unable to recognise it or unwilling to seek help. Depression is more than just feeling a bit down or going through a hard time. It’s an illness and like any other illness, if left untreated it can cause serious problems. Depression is a serious indicator for suicide and in Australia in 2004 1,661 men took their own lives. SO, HOW CAN WE HELP OUR FELLAS? Often the symptoms of depression in men are confused with just being ‘agro’ or irritable. Some men turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their symptoms, and others become suddenly ‘hooked’ on a new exercise regime, pushing their body to its limits as they strive to block out the feelings they are struggling to deal with. Some men begin to talk about themselves in a negative way, worry about money more than usual, show signs of excessive fatigue, or simply lose the ability to find pleasure in daily life.


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

19 Unfortunately, men are notoriously unwilling to seek medical assistance, seeming to believe that going to the doctor is a sign of weakness. And, of course, some are just afraid that there may be no help. IS THERE HELP? Yes. There are plenty of treatment options – it’s just a matter of seeking professional help and finding out what works best for you. Treatments range from psychological (talking things through with a trained professional) to medication for severe depression, which can be the result of the imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET HELP? Speed is the key – although the problems leading to depression aren’t going to be solved overnight, the faster they are addressed, the faster you can start heading in the right direction. Open communication – being open and honest with your healthcare professional is going to make the process easier, faster and more effective. If necessary, write down points you want to talk about and lists of questions to ask. And if you don’t feel comfortable talking to the person you are seeing, find someone else. They won’t be offended; they know how important it is for you to trust the person who is helping you.

Talk to other people – there are lots of support networks out there. Join one and spend some time with other people experiencing the same kinds of things you are – if nothing else, it helps you feel like you’re not alone. There are also groups for families and friends of people suffering depression which can help you to know how to best offer help and support – while also supporting you. Hang in there – it can take a while to start feeling like your old self again. WHERE TO FIND HELP Your GP should be able to point you in the right direction, or you can visit www.beyondblue.org.au and look at their list of doctors with specialised mental health training. If things are more serious, there are several helpline numbers to call, including: Mensline Australia – 1300 789 978, Lifeline – 13 11 14, beyondblue info line (for information and referral only) – 1300 224 636.

“Although the problems leading to depression aren’t going to be solved overnight, the faster they are addressed, the faster you can start heading in the right direction.”


stay well. 20

it’s magic How many kids have gone to bed, waiting desperately for the tooth fairy to come for the first time? Losing teeth is an exciting time in a kid’s life, but it’s something that parents only want to happen with baby teeth. So how do we teach our kids to take proper care of their teeth and develop great habits that last a lifetime?

“Make sure that you get a new brush after you’ve had a cold, been to hospital or had a mouth infection.”

START YOUNG As soon as your baby’s first teeth start appearing, start cleaning them using a clean cloth to begin with, moving on to a brush designed for children as they get a little older. It’s really not necessary to use toothpaste with kids under the age of two, but as they get older there are several brands available for kids that come in different flavours, just check that they have low fluoride content and contain no sugar. It’s best to apply a small smear of toothpaste to the child’s brush and supervise brushing until kids are about six (or until they develop the necessary coordination). Finally, make sure they spit – most kids love this bit as it’s the only time Mum and Dad say it’s okay to spit! A general guideline for anyone is to brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes, morning and night, but get your dentist to design a more complete dental care plan for your child at their regular check-up.

TOOTHBRUSH STUFF Most dentists recommend a brush with a small head and soft bristles to minimise damage to gums and to get into all the hard-to-reach spots. Everyone needs to have their own toothbrush and brushes need to be allowed to dry between uses. Make sure that toothbrushes are replaced regularly as they can be a hive of activity for germs, and they lose their effectiveness when they get shaggy. You need a new brush after you’ve had a cold, been to hospital or had a mouth infection. DON’T FORGET TO FLOSS Flossing removes more of the plaque and food particles that get stuck between your teeth, under braces and around the gum line. Choose a floss that slides between your teeth easily and causes no discomfort. The first rule of flossing is to be gentle – those gums are delicate, so be careful not to injure them. Slide the floss between two teeth and use a back and forth motion to slide it up and down, but make sure that you don’t go below the gum line.


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

21

“According to leading Sydney orthodontist Theo Baisi water is absolutely one of the best drinks as far as your teeth are concerned.”

Wrap the floss gently around the edge of your tooth in a ‘u’ shape and slide it up and down both sides of your tooth. Repeat this with all of your teeth and remember the back ones too. WATER, WATER, WATER. According to leading Sydney orthodontist Theo Baisi water is absolutely one of the best drinks as far as your teeth are concerned – especially if you live in an area with a fluoridated water supply. Kids need to be taught to drink water from a young age, saving sweet drinks for special treats, if at all. CHEWING GUM It’s not just a marketing campaign, chewing sugar free chewing gum for 20 minutes after eating really does keep your body producing saliva, which dilutes plaque acids in your mouth and helps to prevent decay.

WHAT NEXT? After teaching kids great dental hygiene habits, it’s important to make sure that they have every chance of keeping all their lovely white teeth where they are. Regular dental check-ups every six months are recommended and if your kids play sport, have them fitted for a mouthguard – it’s a little expense that just may save a great deal of heartache in the future. Your rt extras cover offers great benefits on general dental services and you can even claim a rebate for mouthguards.


stay well. 22

“It would be fair to say that rt pays the best hospital and ancillary benefits of any of its competitors.” (Independent actuarial report, June 2006) As a member, you know that your rt cover provides you with great value – competitive rates and generous benefits. But did you realise that it was this good?

“It’s time to spread the word and make sure all your workmates are enjoying the benefits of rt membership too.”

In recent years we’ve been a pretty well-kept secret – and for good reason, not everyone can join. Because we’re a restricted membership health fund, only transport and electricity industry employees and their families are eligible to join. And because we’re a not-for-profit fund, and we only serve the needs of the transport and electricity industries, we’re very focused on providing outstanding service and the best value health cover for our members. We’ve been doing it since 1889, so we’ve had a long time to get it right. We’re on a membership recruitment drive! It’s time to spread the word and make sure all your workmates are enjoying the benefits of rt membership too. Would you like to help us out? Most of our new members join us after hearing rave reviews from our current members, and we want to thank you for sharing the good news about us with your work mates.

Simply cut out the coupon opposite and give it to someone in your workplace who you think would benefit from being a member. When they join, we’ll send you a gift to say ‘thank you’ and them a gift to say ‘welcome aboard’! This offer is limited to the first 100 new members, so share the good news about rt today so you don’t miss out!


Attach this coupon to your rt membership application so that you and the rt member who referred you can receive your fantastic gifts! DETAILS OF CURRENT RT MEMBER

DETAILS OF PERSON BEING REFERRED TO RT

Given name:

Given name:

Family name:

Family name:

Daytime telephone number:

Daytime telephone number:

Choice of gift (please tick):

Choice of gift (please tick):

rt Family Fun Pack

rt Active Pack

HEALTHY GIFTS WITH OUR HEARTY THANKS It means a lot to us when you refer someone to become a member of rt health fund, and we want to say thank you. Between 15 August and 30 September, When someone you refer joins our Private Hospital + Extras or Fit and Healthy Cover, you’ll receive either an rt Family Fun Pack or an rt Active Pack – it’s your choice. And, we’ll say welcome on board to the person you refer with the same choice of gift! Both gifts are valued well over $100! Simply complete the coupon above and have the person you are referring return it with their application form. When they’ve been with rt for three months, both you and they will receive your choice of gift.

rt Family Fun Pack

rt Active Pack

While we’re not into fine print there are a few things that you need to know: • This offer is open to people who are referred by an existing rt health fund member and who take out either Private Hospital + Extras or Fit and Healthy Cover between 15 August and 30 September. • The offer cannot be backdated or extended. • Referring rt members and new members will receive the packs of their choice after the new member has been a financial member of rt for three months. • There’s a limit of one pack per referring member and one pack per new member. • The contents of the pack cannot be changed, substituted or added to. We reserve the right to vary the contents of the pack without notice. • We reserve the right to withdraw this promotion at any time without notice and without liability.

rt Family Fun Pack

rt Active Pack


rt in the community. 24

rt in the community As the health fund for transport industry employees and their families, rt is proud to support industry and community events.

“…we placed an astounding 15th, proving that rt really is a ‘health’ fund!”

RT SUPPORTS QRI GOLF DAY FOR SAVE THE CHILDREN On 26 March 2007, we proudly supported QRI’s golf day, through sponsorship with player nominations and prize donations. The day was held to raise funds for the fabulous work of Save the Children. rt’s Tony Delahaye enjoyed a great day for a good cause with members of QRI and special guests, including Michael Goss.

BP ULTIMATE/BRW CORPORATE TRIATHLON 15 April 2007 saw rt participating in the BP Ultimate/ BRW Corporate Triathlon. CEO Glenn Campbell (centre), board member Michael Prior (left) and member transactions manager Tony Delahaye (right) participated in the event, which saw 4,500 competitors swim, bike and run their way around Sydney’s spectacular course, starting at Mrs Macquarie’s Point. In the category of insurance and superannuation, we placed an astounding 15th, proving that rt really is a ‘health’ fund!


the newsletter for rt health fund members | winter 2007

25

“The Families Foundation offers support, both financial and emotional to families in our communities in need.”

CHOCOHOLICS UNITE FOR FAMILIES FOUNDATION rt staff ran a chocolate fundraising drive at Easter to raise money for our Families Foundation. The Families Foundation offers support, both financial and emotional to families in our communities in need. The Foundation is a separate entity to the health fund and is a fully registered charity with tax-deductible status for donations. This wonderful initiative is managed by rt staff who volunteer their own time as our way of giving back to the community.

CAKE FOR A GOOD CAUSE On the 24 May 2007, rt staff in the Burwood branch took part in the Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea Fundraiser to help The Cancer Council NSW to continue their research initiatives, education programs and support services. We look forward to taking part in this event every year and making each one better than the year before. RT TAKES THE CUP! And finally…playing like they belong in an Australian one-day side…the rt Sidewinders took out the Springwood Indoor Cricket Competition in QLD. In a masterful display of athleticism, the Sidewinders defeated their opposition by 10 runs. Well done fellas!


a giggle a day keeps the doctor away! They say laughter is the best medicine, but it has wonderful preventative qualities too. A good, solid laugh increases feelings of wellbeing and hope, increases blood flow, lowers blood pressure and helps to control blood sugar levels. So sharing a laugh with friends may be just what the doctor ordered. Find out more at www.thehappinessinstitute.com, and for more tips to help you be well, get well and stay well, visit www.rthealthfund.com.au.


rt winter newsletter 07  

rt health fund winter newsletter 07

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