Wired for chaos
Don’t mention the computer, say Jamrozik et al, in their final Postcard from the UK. For a nation that broke the Enigma Code in World War II, the UK’s current inability to provide the NHS with interconnecting, compatible information systems is eye-opening. And on the subject of hardware, don’t forget the untrained "wetware" (health professionals ignorant about basic informatics). Now that would never happen here . . .(→ The woefully wired world of health service computing)
The fat controller
The gene mutations responsible for familial hypercholesterolaemia can also greatly increase the risk of fatal heart disease. Screening for this condition is feasible, and treatment is beneficial — so it’s about time we had a national screening program, say Burnett and colleagues (→ Familial hypercholesterolaemia: a look back, a look ahead).
Eyeing the facts
Data on the prevalence and causes of vision loss in Australia have only emerged in the past decade. Taylor et al show that vision loss is a bigger problem than we think, with much of it readily treatable (→ Vision loss in Australia).
However, in this issue’s Lessons from Practice, a woman who is 12 weeks pregnant has a much more unusual (but still treatable) cause of visual deterioration, as described by Ferdinands et al (→ Visual deterioration in hyperemesis gravidarum).
Fighting the flu
Is there room on our crowded childhood immunisation schedule for yet another vaccine? Examining the data for vaccinating children against influenza, Isaacs gives his conclusion in "Should all Australian children be vaccinated against influenza?".
Recipe for trouble
After an apparently innocuous lunch (soup, toast and cake), an elderly couple is struck down by uncontrollable tremors and end up in hospital. Lewis and colleagues describe the investigation that captured the culprit mould in this issue’s Notable Case (→ Tremor syndrome associated with a fungal toxin: sequelae of food contamination).
Paying our way in the clever country
In a public opinion poll, 47% of Australians said they'd rather see surplus government funds poured into health research than receive tax cuts. Is government commitment on the same track? We mark Medical Research Week (4-11 June) by looking at these and other burning research issues. Bennett and Vitale describe political strategies in the US 25 years ago that made it today’s powerhouse of biotechnology and pharmaceutical research. Other countries are following in its wake. So are we there yet . . . (→ Australian health and medical research: are we there yet?)?
Industry big bucks may pave more roads for research, but beware some of the diversions en route. In an Australian first, Henry and colleagues asked specialists here about their involvement in research sponsored by big pharma, and unearthed some unsettling tales of potential research misconduct. It’s not so different worldwide(→ Medical specialists and pharmaceutical industry-sponsored research: a survey of the Australian experience). Gøtzsche’s editorial shows how easy it is to become a casualty to research bias and misconduct — and how we can avoid this (→ Research integrity and pharmaceutical industry sponsorship).
The wait is over for the follow-up to our last Clinical Update on DVT — Lee et al now attack the topic of pulmonary embolism with equal zeal (→ Venous thromboembolism: diagnosis and management of pulmonary embolism).
Beyond the genome
Since the sequencing of the human genome, we've become newly aware of the possibilities of proteins encoded by the genome ("proteomes"), and the relationship of some of these with illness. As Kavallaris and Marshall explain, the new field of proteomics offers the promise of proteins being used as new diagnostic or prognostic markers, or therapeutic targets (→ Proteomics and disease: opportunities and challenges).
Football and the spine
As footy fever envelopes this nation, Carmody and colleagues remind us that the game isn’t entirely risk-free. Their 5-year report card on recent acute spinal cord injuries in Australian footballers might read: "some improvement but could do better" (in scrum engagement, insurance cover and setting up a registry of such injuries) (→ Spinal cord injuries in Australian footballers 1997-2002).
Treating Jack & Jill
Minor injuries, be they scrapes, bruises, cuts, breaks or bumps, are collectively the commonest reason for which children seek medical attention. Over the past few years, there have been some changes in the management of lacerations, fractures, and other injuries, leading us to include the topic in our Practice Essentials – Paediatrics series. In Part I of two “minor injuries” articles, Young and colleagues show that the treatment of lacerations has progressed beyond the “wrap ’em in a sheet and hold ’em down” technique to a more humane and aesthetic approach (→ 10. Bruising, abrasions and lacerations: minor injuries in children I).
Another time ... another place
Any scientist of any age who wants to make important discoveries must study important problems. Dull or piffling problems yield dull or piffling answers . . . The problem must be such that it matters what the answer is.