Informyourself Weekly News

Week ending 30/03/08

Voluntary Free Health Checks for Victorian Workers

I have recently found time to reflect on the implications of the Victorian Government’s recent announcement that there will be free health checks available for all Victorian workers. The tests will include checks on body mass and diabetes risk, and are part of a $100 million State Government plan to fight obesity. The plan comes after the Government was informed that more than three-quarters of adults and a third of children in Victoria could be overweight or obese by 2025. The realisation that health spending in Australia is expected to more than double between 2002-03 and 2032-33, from $71 billion to $162 billion has no doubt put the wind up Premier Brumby and his health department.

So what will this announcement really mean for the workers who take part in these voluntary health checks? Just what will be tested when you submit yourself to the medical gaze and how will this then impinge on your subsequent life and wellbeing?

One of the first steps in your voluntary health check will be a blood pressure check for hypertension or high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Up until the last few years a normal or desirable adult blood pressure was 120/80. However according to today’s’ guidelines, this level puts you in a new disease category called "pre-hypertension" and therefore at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease. If your blood pressure exceeds this allowable and previously normal limit you will be told to lose weight, avoid salt and sodium-rich foods, exercise regularly and to stop smoking and reduce stress. Such suggested changes are all difficult to do in today’s busy world so the lifestyle modifications adopted will often fail to lower blood pressure and medications will be mandated as the next step in the treatment regime. Enter the drug companies and watch them clapping their hands with glee.

Just who sets these mandatory levels anyway! Any prize for guessing?

These voluntary health checks will not only elicit so-called high blood pressure readings resulting in increased profits for big pharma but think of all the other diseases they can find and then treat. Note that I said treat and not cure. Diabetes is one of these which, is on the rise, with it and heart disease costing the state health system more than $600 million a year and industry about $440 million a year in lost productivity. So while you are at your free workplace health check, your finger will be pricked and a small spot of blood analysed for wayward traces of excess sugar. Once again if you are over the guidelines of 6-8 mmol/L, you will be told you need to monitor your glucose levels necessitating the purchase of various pieces of equipment and then possibly taking medications. This might seem to most people to be a wise precautionary action to take however there are other ways of treating rising blood sugar levels that do not make money for big business and may just cure the disease itself. But I don’t think that this is what your voluntary workplace free health check is designed to do.

Drugs given for sustained elevated blood sugar levels are called oral hypoglycemics and are only somewhat effective in lowering blood sugar, failing to control high levels in 20-40 percent of patients. Furthermore, studies indicate that they do not prevent long-term complications such as kidney disease and blindness. In fact, they may increase the risk from cardiovascular disease. Most disturbing have been the side effects, including breathing difficulties, drowsiness, muscle cramps, seizures, swelling, water retention and weakness that can be life-threatening in some patients. Other ways of combatting the increase in type two diabetes would be to return to a more traditional diet which focuses on good fats and protein with less dependence on high carbohydrate diets and processed foods generally. Sadly you won’t learn how to do this diet modification at your free work place health check. No, these workplace checks are a win-win for the health diagnostic industries and big pharma and are definitely not a panacea for the poor exploited worker.

These much heralded free health checks for workers will be advertised as a chance to catch up on the many vaccinations that are available, especially the annual influenza vaccine. One of the main reasons for these free health checks is that governments and corporations are concerned about lost productivity through sickness so to their uninformed minds workers will be fitter and more able to produce profits if they don’t fall ill with the current dose of the winter flu. In actual fact the flu vaccine, is worthless at best and should be avoided. Not only are the vaccines loaded with toxic chemicals including mercury and aluminum, but many people come down with the flu shortly after receiving the shot. This is because it actually weakens the immune system, making the person more predisposed to the illness. So where is the advantage to the productivity of the average workplace?

Lastly there will be tests for high blood cholesterol. As is the case of the acceptable levels for blood pressure, the amount of blood cholesterol you are permitted to have is steadily decreasing. Not long ago 5.70 mmol/L was the limit with anything below being regarded as normal. These days 5.20 (mmol/L) is considered borderline-high with the recommendation to take cholesterol lowering ‘statin' drugs. This means millions of people all around the world are now regarded as having the disease state known as hypercholesterolemia or high blood cholesterol. When as part of your workers free health check your blood test records the so-called high limit for cholesterol you will be advised to take drugs called statins which are cholesterol lowering drugs. Should you follow this advice and take big pharmas’ statins then you can expect to encounter serious side effects such as depression, muscle pain and weakness, neuropathy and heart failure among other complications. And, all this for adhering to the decades old myth that elevated blood cholesterol results in coronary arteriosclerosis which then leads to myocardial infarction, whereas in reality cholesterol is vital and is needed by every cell in the body. Cholesterol is the precursor to Vitamin D and all of our essential hormones. The pharmaceutical industry reaps billions of dollars a year selling these statin drugs such as lipitor, zocor and pravachol.

Finally, have your free, voluntary health check by all means but be informed as to what this will mean for you and what it means in terms of company profits for those industries that make their living exploiting you and me.

Week ending 6/4/08

Geelong gets Fluoride!

Listen to anti-fluoride activist David McRae on why Geelong does not want fluoridated water.

The city of Geelong, Victoria’s largest regional city, which has held out against fluoridation for many decades, has just received its executive order from the state government to start fluoridation. This is against the will of the people who live in Geelong who are talking about "only over our dead bodies". Following the announcement on March 26th 2008 to fluoridate Geelong’s water supplies The Geelong Advertiser immediately ran a “Street Poll”, showing 70% against, and 30% in favour.

Why are 70% of Geelong’s population against the compulsory fluoridation of their water supply?

According to Professor Mark Diesendorf at Murdoch University, water fluoridation is a violation of medical ethics in that it is mass medication with an uncontrolled dose. He explains that fluoridation is a medication that is used to treat people, not to make the water safer to drink. He argues that other medications are prescribed on an individual basis with the dose calculated according to variables such as age and weight. However in the case of the mass medication with fluoride the dose that each person receives depends on how much water is taken in. Alarmingly babies who are fed milk formula which is reconstituted with fluoridated tap water ingest 100 times the amount of fluoride that breast fed babies receive.

Pro-fluoridationists claim that there are no long-term health hazards associated with drinking fluoridated water whereas Diesendorf says that studies have existed for decades reporting the high rates of skeletal fluorosis in areas of the world that are naturally fluoridated. Skeletal fluorosis leads to structural damage of bones with associated calcification of joints and ligaments. Our bones become more fragile as we age and accumulate more fluoride with a majority of studies reporting high levels of hip fracture in artificially fluoridated areas. Fluoride also causes displacement the G proteins which are important players in biological signalling systems. Other studies show that fluoride may cause brain damage.

If the above isn’t enough to place the seeds of doubt about the ethics of water fluoridation then perhaps that fact that it is actually ineffective may do the trick. Pro fluoridationists commonly make use of the evidence that there was a large reduction in tooth decay in western countries in the 1960’s to 70’s. However the success was not because of the compulsory ingestion of fluoride in our water but due to the local effects of fluoride on the teeth in the form of fluoridated toothpastes, the paste which should not be swallowed.

Summing up his four points against fluoridation of water supplies Mark Diesendorf asks who gains from the practice. His answer is chilling! The powerful and political interests who gain from the mass medication of fluoride include the sugary food industry who say that we can eat as much sugar as we like because we have fluoride in our water, the phosphate fertiliser industry that sells its waste silicofluoride to put in our water supplies, the aluminium industry which in its efforts to disprove the ill effects of atmospheric fluoride pollution produced suspect research that is now used to promote fluoride, and lastly governments who use water fluoridation as a cheaper alternative to dental services and who fail to address the sugary food industry.

Tooth decay can largely be prevented by a return to an unprocessed diet devoid of sugary foods. We don’t need mass medication of Geelong’s water supply!

Week ending 13/04/08

The High Price of Industrialised Food

First we were hunter gatherers, then farmers, and now we are hungry consumers, thanks to the industrialised food systems based on unsustainable chemical agriculture. Until the 19th century food came almost exclusively from local sources with quantity variable and dependent on the elements. Some seasons meant abundance and storage for hard times, other years were leaner and led to starvation of the very young, the old, and the sickly. This was the normal condition of life in pre-industrial societies.

The reasons touted for this current shortage of food are global climate change with shortages of water in major grain growing areas and of course the short-sighted and unethical practice of using arable land to grow crops for biofuels for cars. Lack of water and land have made us victims and captives to globalised food that is not only becoming very scarse and expensive but hardly nutritious. Supermarket food even if affordable is not quality food, rather, it is a chemically produced commodity with the produce mostly picked before time, often waxed then gas ripened, only to be sold to you as fresh produce.

The shortages of food alarmist messages are being used to push various agendas namely veganism and GM crops. We are repeatedly told how much grain it takes to feed the animals that we eat and that it would be morally superior to just eat the grain ourselves and not the animals. However, the fact is that over two-thirds of the feed fed to animals consists of substances that are unsuited for humans. Animals are able to convert inedible plant materials to human food, and in the process greatly improve both the quantity and the quality of the human diet. Beef grazed on unproductive hillsides and other marginalised land provide the manures we need to grow our organic vegetables and fruit.The mantra that GM crops will feed the world has been around for decades now, but in reality, gene technologies will only feed the profits of the biotechnology companies and will worsen the problems of widespread hunger and malnutrition in the Third World. Tell this to the decision makers in Mexico, where tens of thousands took to the streets last year over the cost of tortillas, a national staple whose price rocketed in tandem with the price of corn. After long opposition, Mexico's Government is considering lifting a ban on genetically modified crops to allow its farmers to compete with the US, where high-yield, genetically modified corn is the norm. The truth is that trials show that whilst the initial 2-3 years' yields may be brilliant, after that, the yields plunge and the after effects of meddling with natural forces are irreversible and disastrous as resistance to disease breaks down and the whole vital food chain is depelted. Canadian research has shown this to be the case.

In light of all the doomsday food predictions the backyard vegetable patch and orchard is becoming quite attractive in a world where supermarket food prices are rising and people riot in the streets over shortages and increasing prices for their daily bread. My local supplier of backyards chooks tells me that her business has never been so good with her happy customers carting away boxes replete with clucky layers and looking forward to the sight of those fresh yellow yolks. Chook manure is a wonderful addition to the backyard organic food system and three or four chooks will eagerly supply you a good source of protein, vitamins and good saturated fat.

For reasons of food security and health we need to get back to growing our food at the local level and this means reclaiming lands that have been taken away by big developers here and abroad. A huge challenge. Let the fight begin!

Week ending 20/04/08

From Cradle to Grave

On April 07 2008 It was announced that all Western Australian children aged six months to five years are eligible for a free flu jab as part of the State’s biggest ever campaign to fight influenza. And over in the U.S. the news that all children aged from six months up to 18 should be immunized every year against influenza, was announced by a panel of federal vaccine advisers.

The message to get a flu shot is everywhere. A plethora of signs can be seen at doctor’s offices and pharmacies and at the workplace we are repeatedly told "the best way to beat the flu is to be vaccinated.” So what exactly is this flu shot?

Well, each year, a new vaccine is developed that contains three different viruses (one influenza B and two influenza A strains). The viruses selected for the new vaccine are chosen on the basis of an “educated guess.” Health officials don’t know which viruses are going to be the cause of the coming season’s flu outbreak. You have to admit this is very crude science and even more so when you consider what is actually in these vaccines which are grown in chicken eggs. To produce the influenza vaccine, some virus is taken from the throats of infected humans or pigs and put into the chicken eggs. After a few days these now larger droplets of virus are suctioned out and placed in a huge vat to which mercury and antibiotics are added. The final solution or witches brew can contain the following additives in any combination: Triton X-100 (a detergent); polysorbate 80 (a potential carcinogen); gelatin; formaldehyde; and residual egg proteins. And remember that the viruses selected may not even be the ones that will affect the populace in the coming flu season.

As I said a real witches brew!

The flu vaccine, can be administered by injection or in nasal form. But regardless of the application the vaccines are worthless at best and should be avoided. They are laoded with toxic chemicals including mercury and aluminum, and it is well known that many people come down with the flu shortly after receiving the shot. This is because the vaccine actually weakens the immune system, making the person more predisposed to the illness.

It is common for many people to think they have the flu when they really have the common cold. The flu is more severe than a cold with symptoms such as fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat which often lasts more than a week or two before full recovery.As we know the flu season is at its worst in winter when vitamin D levels are at their lowest and researchers have proposed that these annual fluctuations in Vitamin D actually predispose us to influenza outbreaks.

The mainstream advice, rather than attend to the state of our immune systems is always to give vaccines and antibiotics when faced with the fear or reality of disease. In this case before we are subjected to the barrage of advertisements for the yearly flu vaccination one wonders where are the public health reminders about other simpler ways to prevent influenza and colds. Such as are we getting enough good sleep and lessening our levels of toxic stress. Both of which wreak havoc on our immune systems and make us vulnerable to colds and flus. Are we prompted to get enough sunlight and therefore vitamin D or has it become so politically incorrect to perform this simple act of preventative health care anymore. In winter one should take cod liver oil to supply this valuable vitamin. Other ways of reducing your risk of illness during the winter months are avoiding sugar and eating a healthy diet. Also drinking enough water and washing your hands are good rules to follow.

One of the greatest problems with vaccination is that it allows us to neglect more simple methods of disease prevention such as good food, sunlight and sanitation. We accept vaccination at our peril. About 80 percent of all flu shots distributed in the United States contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Thimerosal consists of 49.6 percent ethyl mercury, an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal that allows manufacturers to sell the vaccine in large, multi-dose containers without fear of contamination. A recent study (Fudenberg) has shown that adults receiving the flu vaccine 5 years in a row have a 1000% higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than those not getting the vaccine.

The drug companies selling flu vaccine have one goal and that is making profit from the millions of doses of vaccine produced every year. Whereas formerly the mantra was to protect those over 65 from complications of influenza the drug companies and doctors are now selling and administering influenza vaccine to everyone even babies and pregnant women.

Times are indeed desperate in our capitalistic economy that lost its ethics a long time ago!

Week ending 27/04/08

The first GM seeds are sown in the state of Victoria

It was a sad day last thursday the 24th April when 27 year old Yarrawonga farmer Ewen Ryan planted Monsanto's GM canola seeds in the ground. He is one of about 130-150 growers in Victoria and NSW expected to sow the controversial crop over coming weeks, after the two states lifted their bans on the commercial production of GM canola. However, with limited seed available, only about 12,000 hectares, just 1% to 2% of Australia's total canola production, will be sown. One can be thankful for that small mercy at least but seriously this is a very bad decision on Ryan's part. Just What does he expect to gain?

From overseas experience of GM canola he can expect some early increases in yields but this will not last. He has obviously been told that he will use less pesticides on his farm but experience again shows that the weeds become resistant to glyphosate and in time he will need to use stronger and more lethal chemicals to control the super weeds.And what about the issues of contamination. Again we know from the story of Canadian canola farmers that these GM seeds do not stay where they are planted and that non-gm farmers in his area and beyond will have their crops contaminated.

Time will tell just how erroneous is this young man's decision to plant the first crop of GM canola in our state. Victoria was once 'The Garden State.'The planners must have decided it was better to change the name when they did. The problem is that the change of name to " The Place to Be" is not an apt description of a state that is now to be polluted with GM crops and is fast running out of water and indeed its former liveability is now seriously in question. Maybe it is time to leave the state of Victoria which no longer listens to its citizens the over whelming number who do not want GM grown here or anywhere and who do not want to consume the products of GM technology.

Week ending 11/5/08

Lurking behind the current world food crisis….

Having just seen the new French documentary ‘The World According to Monsanto’, I am sure that lurking closely behind this world food crisis is the aforementioned monstrous multinational biotechnology corporation whose only intent is to increase its profits through controlling what the world eats and if the world eats at all!

In the year 2007, wheat prices rose 77 percent and rice 16 percent and already this year, the price of rice has soared just over 140 percent. Experts around the globe attempt to explain that much of this increase in food prices can be blamed upon the increasing demand for biofuels meaning less grains for food, and that the effects of climate change and rising oil prices cannot be overlooked. Add to these unfavourable circumstances there are more people to feed with a population growth of 78 million people each year, and the new demand on world food as rich Chinese and Indians eat more dairy and meat.

However we must not forget that our global food industry is not about feeding people and that sadly it is all about the profits of corporate agribusiness. In seeking to understand the current food crisis and its origins I have to agree with that

‘Although the names of any particular biotech companies are never mentioned, it walks, talks and reeks like poorly cloaked Monsanto propaganda.’

Profits from Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds have risen from $90 million to $256 million, largely due to the growing demand for food and alternative fuel sources.

All over the world people are robbed of their livelihoods and health as corporate agribusiness forces the use of GE technology and once its seeds are spread throughout the world there is no going back. In ‘The World According to Monsanto’ we learn that in many parts of the world only 2 percent of the farming lands are owned by the locals and that those families who have remained are rapidly lost to city slums; their former health and happiness destroyed by the relentless pesticides that poison their children, their food and their water supplies.

Traditional farming has been traded away and in its place we have a world food system that has millions of people starving. India, where over one-fifth of the population is chronically hungry and 48% of children under five years old are malnourished, exported US$1.5 billion worth of milled rice and $322 million worth of wheat in 2004. Kenya was self-sufficient in food until about 25 years ago and today tragically it imports 80% of its food.

Multinationals are making billions in profit out of growing global food crisis: Monsanto’s net income for the three months up to the end of February 2008 had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m to $1.12bn.

Genetic engineering is not the answer to the world food crisis. World hunger will only end when people can secure their basic right to food in the form of means to purchase their needs or in having access to the farmland and natural resources so they can grow food. Genetically engineering crops does nothing to address the poverty that causes hunger, in fact as we know it is one of the ways that traditional farming has been destroyed.

The World According to Monsanto is a nightmare which we must not allow to happen!

Week ending 18/5/08

Hypertension or simple lack of h20?

We are a nation of prescription pill poppers according to a report in the Australian newspaper last weekend with the average spending on pharmaceuticals more than doubling in the decade from 1995 to 2004 with the prescribing of cardiovascular drugs and antidepressants leading the way.

Prescriptions for cardiovascular drugs which are particularly consumed by the older generations have skyrocketed from 23.6 million in 1992 to 61.5 million last year which represents an increase of 160 percent. Sedative use has also risen 155 percent with antidepressant drugs taking take the prize by leaping 226 percent from 1992 to 2007. Cardiovascular medications include drugs for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart arrhythmias, diabetes and many more conditions that affect us humans at this time in history.

What concerns me is that many of these conditions can be treated in far less expensive and damaging ways than the taking of pharmaceutical drugs for the rest of your life. Let’s look at Hypertension. One in three Australians suffer from high blood pressure which is an important risk factor for hardening of the arteries, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and loss of vision.

So what exactly is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the amount of pressure needed to circulate the blood around the body. It is also important to realise that our blood pressure changes all the time, day and night and that the amount of pressure needed by my body to pump blood around my body may be different to the amount of pressure needed by your body. In spite of this natural blood pressure variability modern medicine has until recently deemed that a normal or desirable adult blood pressure was 120/80. Alarmingly the latest guidelines say that people with this previously regarded 'normal' blood pressure are in a category called "pre-hypertension", which means there are more people diagnosed with hypertension than previously. Great for the drug industry profits!

What causes high blood pressure? A search on the internet will tell you that it’s the usual suspects such as smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet with too much salt, genes, and the big one — stress!

Water expert F Batmanghelidj sheds a controversial and enlightening approach to high blood pressure. He explains that hypertension is the result of an adaptive process to a gross body water deficiency and that the vessels of the body have been wonderfully designed to cope with fluctuations in their blood volume by opening and closing different vessels. When you are dehydrated you have less blood volume and your arteries have to compensate for the net loss in volume by constricting to pick up the slack. Also when there is less body water your blood thickens. This higher viscosity means more pressure is needed to get the blood around the system leading to constriction of the arteries further and the heart works harder.

He describes the treatment for this condition as simply as increasing your daily water intake whereas current medical dogma dictates that we get rid of the water by taking diuretics and avoiding salt.

Water expert F Batmanghelidj says that sufferers of hypertension who produce adequate urine, and increase their daily water intake will not need to take diuretics. If one has been suffering from hypertension for a long time and there is also heart failure, water intake should be increased gradually. The mechanism of sodium retention in these people is in full swing.When water intake is increased gradually and more urine is being produced, the oedema fluid will be flushed out, and the heart will regain its strength.

A rational and far less expensive way to treat a condition that is basically dehydration! The ramifications of the utter idiocy of the scientific and medical establishments knows no bounds!


Water and Salt, Your Healers from Within Dr F Batmanghelidj

Week 2/6/08

HRT Folly Exposed

On the 2nd June 2008, The Medical Journal of Australia reported that the reduction in breast cancer among women over 50 years is mostly due to the decrease in the use of HRT, or hormone replacement therapy. This new Australian research discovered that there were 600 less cases of breast cancer a year now that fewer women are using HRT. A 40% reduction in the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy followed the release of results of the Women’s Health Initiative trial in 2002 which found that HRT caused increases in breast cancer, heart attacks, blood clots and strokes.

So how have we arrived at this point where the decrease in the use of a drug for menopausal symptoms has resulted in less breast cancer cases as has been shown in this new research? To answer this we need to look at the history of HRT and before that the spreading of propaganda that led women and their doctors to regard menopause as a disease state.

It wasn’t until 1821, that the French physician de Gardanne invented the term menopause to describe this phase in women’s lives which very soon became regarded as a disease for which there must be a cure. By the 1960s estrogen replacement therapy was being taken by about 12 percent of all postmenopausal women. The uptake of HRT followed years of promoting menopause as an oestrogen deficiency disease which must be cured or women would end up as shriveled and osteoporotic creatures to be pitied by all. Never mind the fact that modern women have mothers and grandmothers who scarcely noticed the now maligned life transition instead, celebrating this stage of life as one where they were liberated from the concerns of pregnancy and childbearing.

Such freedoms-to be, were challenged by the likes of Dr Robert Wilson with his book “Feminine Forever” where he promoted the ground-breaking idea that menopause was this estrogen-deficiency disease. The propaganda to educate women and their doctors about menopausal symptoms and the dangers of oestrogen loss was ardently pursued by the drug companyAyerst, the makers of Premarin which became the number one dispensed drug in America.

It soon became apparent that there were problems associated with the administration of oestrogen and by 1972 the news that endometrial cancer was rising in the women taking oestrogen for menopausal symptoms prompted a moratorium on the drug. Still not daunted by such serious side effects of their ‘wonder drug’, the pharmaceutical companies came up with new studies showing that the risk of endometrial cancer could be lowered by adding progesterone to ERT and by the 1990’s there were also claims that estrogen had some benefit in reducing Alzheimer’s disease, age-related eye disease, colon cancer, tooth loss, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Such claims only proving the utter desperation of the pharmaceutical companies as they continued the false rhetoric to post menopausal women.

In spite of the previous claims, studies in 1997 indicated an increased risk of breast cancer with postmenopausal estrogen use and again in 1998 The Heart Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS) found no heart benefit to women who took HRT and had cardiovascular disease. Eventually it was in 2002 that the estrogen/progestin portion of the WHI study originally scheduled to end in 2005 was halted because of an increased incidence of invasive breast cancer and an increased risk of venous thromboembolism and adverse cardiovascular events. The reaction to this news was outrage and shock from the women who numbered six million in the USA.After this alarming announcement to halt the study because of the increased risks to women’s health, millions of those taking HRT stopped the medication and many are seeking to learn about other alternatives to ease their symptoms of menopause.

But if our grandmothers did not have such difficulty in facing this stage of life why do we as modern women? The answer may be as simple as the effects of many environmental triggers such as chemical pollution, different types and qualities of foods and other lifestyle factors. To simply swallow a pill for a disease founded and promoted on the belief that women remain feminine forever has been shown to be dangerous to women’s health but as usual vastly beneficial for pharmaceutical companies and many others.

The good news is that the Australian federal government is being pressured to consider a ban on the drug with the cancer council NSW CEO Dr Andrew Penman calling for a re-evaluation of the use of HRT to treat menopausal symptoms which when taken for over five years increases the risks by 60 percent. We must continue the pressure on the Australian federal government to ban the use of HRT as its use has been found to be a tragic mistake.

Week 15/6/08

Government’s new health plan will have more of us hooked on drugs!

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon announced this week that other health professionals taking over some of the functions of GPs were needed, given the increasing burden of chronic disease. She is to announce an expert panel to work with the Government in developing a primary care strategy that would reshape the current GP-dominated local health service into one increasing the use of practice nurses and other health professionals who will have extended roles such as drug prescribing rights. There are currently shortages of GPs affecting about 59 per cent of the population meaning that people are waiting weeks for an appointment, placing enormous burdens on the existing health workforce.

Clearly something needs to be done! But why is there an increasing burden of chronic disease? And shouldn’t this question be the one that is discussed before we bring in more professionals to assist the overworked GP’s? Instead of just responding to the growth in the level of ill health in the general community by improving the operation of our stressed health care system more should be done to prevent the growth of the chronic disease in the first instance. Scrutiny and change are needed to our way of living and working; our 24/7 lifestyles, our overly processed food, our access to safe water and air, and our over-dependence on pharmaceutical products which come with their own burden of hidden health costs. All these factors need to be acted upon and remedied before more can be done to bring down the level of acute and chronic ill health.

Let’s look at just one of the many factors that contribute to the increasing burden of chronic disease that is facing people all over the world particularly in the developed countries such as Australia and the U.S. and that is the alarming rates of pharmaceutical drugs taken by our populations. Of concern should be the statistic that has pharmaceutical drugs listed as the 4th largest cause of death in the USA. In fact, prescription pills taken as directed by physicians are estimated to kill one american every five minutes.

How can this be possible?

In her book ‘Our Daily Meds’, award winning journalist Melody Peterson documents how pharmaceutical companies transformed themselves into slick marketing machines and hooked the nations on prescription drugs. When once upon a time Peterson thought she knew the meaning of the word disease, that simple black and white understanding that disease meant sickness is no longer sufficient. Over the last twenty five years prescription drug companies have changed from those whose business it was to discover cures, to those whose intent it is to aggressively market and sell prescription drugs for anything they can convince the gullible public it needs.

Take the case of a drug called Detrol for pharmacy’s new disease called the ‘overactive bladder.’ Previously incontinence was regarded by doctors as merely part of ageing and was treated by encouraging patients to limit their coffee intake and fluids when travelling and away from home. But the makers of Detrol soon changed all that by turning incontinence into a disease that they boasted would liberate incontinence sufferers from the annoying practices of ‘defensive voiding’ and ‘toilet mapping.’ Detrol promoters defined the condition, instructed the medical profession and enlisted many willing and eager doctors to join the company as consultants and promotional speakers. To enlist the cooperation of the public, millions were spent on TV commercials aimed not only at the incontinent ageing population but increasingly at the young as well for the marketers of disease creation were intent on making billions.

But how safe or unsafe was this drug for the newly created disease? Well, it turns out not at all safe in that it causes hallucinations and the dreaded memory loss, and horror of all horrors to the incorrect diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. But of course the drug industry has come up with another pill that will be marketed to the poor victim of the latest disease creation. The memory loss pill Aricept is prescribed to slow down the memory loss that was caused by the incontinence pill and all for the sake of a disease that wasn’t a disease.

My point being that we need to be clear on what we are classifying as chronic disease in our community. Detrol is but one small example of the creation of a disease out of the normal pattern of ageing and life progression and there are countless more drugs that have woeful side effects and we just take them and trust that our doctors know best.

What will happen when the government gives the green light to more professionals having prescribing rights? Will the community be better off? I doubt it! I fear that the future expansion of health professionals who will be able to prescribe drugs will lead to the taking of more drugs which in turn may have considerable side effects necessitating the daily taking of more drugs and increasing the level of chronic diseases for which the community is paying dearly.

Rather than a solution to the increasing health needs of the community, Nicola Roxon’s new health plan may just be increasing the numbers of us hooked on prescription drugs and will have the drug industry laughing all the way to the bank.

Week 13/7/08

Cholesterol Screening of Children

According to Tara Parker Pope writing in the New York Times, American pediatricians are recommending wider cholesterol screening for children and more aggressive use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, starting as early as the age of eight, in hopes of preventing adult heart problems. This has followed guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics which also call for children to be given low-fat milk after 12 months of age. The academy estimates that 30 to 60% of children with high cholesterol are being missed under screening guidelines and that statins or cholesterol-lowering drugs, may be their best hope of lowering their risk of early heart attack. These recommendations call for cholesterol screening of children and adolescents, starting as early as two and no later than 10, if they come from families with a history of high cholesterol or heart attacks before the age of 55 for men and 65 for women.

Adults have been frightened and cajoled into believing the cholesterol myth for the last few decades and now the pharmaceutical industry is stretching its ruthless tentacles into the lives of our babies and young children. This is outrageous and is a blatant attempt by the drug companies aided by their many servants such as the FDA, government regulators and our very compliant mainstream media to sell more cholesterol lowering pills and this time scandalously to young children.

For many decades the theory that high cholesterol is bad for you and may contribute to heart disease has been widely promoted and has led to the practice of prescribing statin drugs for those of us who have blood levels of cholesterol deemed by the marketers as too high and risky to heart health. In actual fact, as is the case in so many other diseases that we are supposed to be suffering, hypercholesterolaemia is an invented disease, conjured up at the time when doctors first began to measure cholesterol levels in blood. High cholesterol isn’t like diabetes or anaemia where we have very obvious signs of unwellness such as persistant tiredness or extreme thirst. High blood cholesterol has to be diagnosed by a blood test or else it would not be of concern to the average person at all. We do not feel unwell when our cholesterol levels are high. In fact many of those who have high cholesterol feel perfectly healthy and that is because they are very well.

When we demean cholesterol and lower it with statin drugs we cause damage to our body cells which need cholesterol to maintain normal cellular activity. Cholesterol is the body’s repair substance and is the precursor to vitamin D, necessary for numerous biochemical processes including mineral metabolism. The bile salts, required for the digestion of fat, are made of cholesterol and those people who suffer from low cholesterol often have trouble digesting fats. Cholesterol also functions as a powerful antioxidant, thus protecting us against cancer and aging.

The drugs that lower cholesterol are called statins and are sold under a variety of names including Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin) and Pravachol (pravastatin). 36 million Americans take a statin every day, generating annual sales of $15.5bn for the manufacturers, and making two statins, Lipitor and Zocor, the top two best-selling drugs in the USA. In 2004 there were an estimated 1.2 million Australians using statin drugs also.

There are many dangerous side effects from these statin drugs such as muscle pain and weakness, a condition called rhabdomyolysis, most likely due to the depletion of Co-enzyme Q-10. The heart itself is a huge muscle needing plentiful supplies of Co-enzyme Q-10 which are depleted by cholesterol lowering drugs leading in many cases to heart muscle failure. Many researchers are finding that there has been a dramatic rise in congestive heart failure over the past decade and point the finger of blame at the overzealous use of statins.

Polyneuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, is another horrendous side effect of statin drugs and is characterized by weakness, tingling and pain in the hands and feet as well as difficulty walking. The damage is often irreversible and people who take large doses for a long time may be left with permanent nerve damage, even after they stop taking the drug.

Then there is the issue of statin induced cognitive impairment and while the pharmaceutical industry denies that statins can cause amnesia, memory loss has shown up in several statin trials. A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh showed that patients treated with statins for six months compared poorly with patients on a placebo in solving complex mazes, psychomotor skills and memory tests.

The recommendation from the American paediatricians to screen and prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs for children in the hope of preventing adult heart problems should be not be allowed to go ahead and needs to be widely condemned. Paediatric clinicians noted a number of years ago that children who were put onto lowfat and low-cholesterol diets failed to grow properly. During the critical growing years, children need levels of fat in excess of the levels recommended in the US dietary guidelines. Mother’s milk contains 55 percent of calories as fat, much of it saturated fat. Children need high levels of fat throughout the period of growth and development. In addition, the animal fats provide vitamins A and D necessary for protein and mineral assimilation.

We should be appalled at the lengths that drug companies will go to make their profits and exploit us all. This time it is the very young who need our vigilance and protection.

Week 20/9/08

Gardasil Gloss is disappearing fast!

It struck me as very odd the first time I heard about a vaccine for cervical cancer and so I wrote had an article published on New Matilda, an online journal back in 2005. I explained that there was no reason for Gardasil, the cervical cancer vaccine to be given to young girls. I told the readers that more than half the adult population is infected with the Human Papilloma Virus yet only 1 per cent of women develop the cancer. In Australia there are about 740 cases of cervical cancer each year and around 270 deaths from the disease and that those who do develop cervical cancer are old women who, lets face it have to die of something.

But anyway as Renate Klein has recently written in online opinion ‘the gardasil miracle is coming undone’.

More than 3 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed in Australia. That’s about a million girls and young women who received the three Gardasil injections since the free vaccination began to be in april 2007 for 12- to 18-year-olds in schools and at GP surgeries for 16- to 26-year-old girls and women.

But less than two years on …..all is not well with the vaccination campaign……

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recently announced that it is investigating whether there is a link between Gardasil, the vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV) and the development of pancreatitis in three young women.

These women developed pancreatitis shortly after the administration of Gardasil. One of the women, a 26-year-old, was admitted to the hospital four days after receiving her first dose of Gardasil. She presented with a fever, rash, severe pain and vomiting and was diagnosed with pancreatitis. After 10 days the symptoms settled and she was discharged from the hospital. An extensive investigation could find no other cause for the pancreatitis and while a coincidental illness could not be ruled out, the authors of the article said that the Gardasil vaccine could not "be excluded as a potential cause"

Pancreatitis isn’t the only side effect from Gardasil, the vaccine supposedly protecting girls and women from cervical cancer As well as the “headaches, redness at the injection site, nausea and vomiting” There are many serious reports including seizures, debilitating tiredness, body rashes, serious walking problems, severe menstrual pain and irregularities, chest pain, anaphylactic reactions.

Then there is Guillain Barré Syndrome (paralysis), Acute Demyelinating Encephalomyelitis (ADEM, a neurological disorder characterised by inflammation of the brain), miscarriages and fetal abnormalities in women who were mistakenly administered the vaccine while pregnant. Added to that there have been 17-20 deaths that have been associated with the vaccine in the USA, as well as one death in Germany and one in Austria. In January 2008, Channel 7 analysed TGA data from a FOI request which showed 681 adverse reactions with 162 girls and women not recovered and in July this year the TGA published new figures of just over 1,000 adverse reactions to-date that had been reported. And all of this for a disease that is mainly suffered by old women and that there is considerable evidence that cervical cancer may not even be connected with the Human Papilloma virus that gardasil is supposed to protect young girls against…. Are we really so gullible to have allowed our young women to be given a vaccine with so many dangerous side effects as this and yet we don’t even have any proof that Gardasil will ever prevent a single case of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can take 20 to 30 years to develop and research into the HPV vaccine has only taken place for the past five years. HPV the virus that they say causes Cervical cancer is present in 80% of men and women and the virus clears up within two years.

Why then are we vaccinating these young women if not for the big profits being made off their bodies.

The truth is that Gardasil was fast tracked through the FDA, and it received the green light in 2006 for girls as young as nine despite the fact that fewer than 1,200 girls under 16 had taken part in the manufacturer-sponsored research.

According to The Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP) the vaccine was not proven safe and effective in clinical trials. The fact is that the FDA allowed Merck to use a potentially reactive aluminum containing placebo as a control for most trial participants, rather than a non-reactive saline solution placebo. They use this aluminum placebo because it can artificially increase the appearance of safety of an experimental drug or vaccine in a clinical trial. Furthermore the Gardasil vaccine contains 225 mcg of Aluminum and we know that vaccine aluminum adjuvants can allow aluminum to enter the brain

Gardasil has become the fastest selling drug to reach US$1 billion sales - cash much needed by Merck who has started this year to pay compensation to the Vioxx victims (a Cox2 anti-inflammation drug for arthritis that had resulted in thousands of heart attacks and deaths). The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) which receives royalties from Merck from its overseas license of Gardasil. reported a 30 per cent rise in full year profit (to June 30, 2008)

We need to be less trusting of our health care policy makers and of scientists such as professor ian Fraser , the father of Gardasil.

Week 16/11/08

What does the Melamine- laced milk disaster have in common with the collapse of the childcare giant ABC Learning?

In September this year, China launched a nationwide probe into all baby milk powders to see whether tainted formula was the cause of the deaths of four children and the severe illness of a further 53,000 young babies and children. The inquiry found that Melamine, not a foodstuff, but a component in plastic and counter-tops was added to watered down cow's milk in order to make a profit. The chemical melamine boosts the nitrogen content and is an indication of the protein present. The availability of milk with additional protein was sure to have been marketed and exploited for all it was worth.

In considering this disaster it is appropriate to wonder what has happened to the nourishing art of breast feeding in China and elsewhere aaround the globe. Breast feeding in China, as in most parts of the world is sadly declining. In Shanghai, 50 percent of women now breast-feed their babies for little more than three months and less than half of all babies in the USA are exclusively breastfed during their first day or two in the hospital. The popularity of formula feeding for infants has increased steadily since the industrial revolution when women began to leave their children behind to work in the factories. The first scientific breast milk substitute was invented in 1867 by a German chemist and was a combination of cow’s milk, flour, potassium bicarbonate and malt. Today, the formula industry is a multi billion dollar industry that is not about health, but money, and has resulted in the continual erosion of breastfeeding undermining its benefits for infants and mothers.

Dr. Naomi Baumslag writes that infant food companies influence government health policies and have made the medical profession their handmaiden They use "science" to scare mothers, exploit women's working rights and men's desires to adapt to family realities.The influence of the formula industry extends to doctors, nurses, and departments of pediatrics who are given money by fomula companies for equipment, conferences, travel and publications, with the goal of enlisting their endorsement and promotion of the products. Governments are also on the payroll as they receive financial incentives for importing infant foods. In Zimbabwe, income is generated for governments through the 17.5 percent sales tax on imported formula and a 10 percent import duty. Thus, the government shares in the profits when mothers abandon breastfeeding.

In ‘Tricks of the Infant food Industy,’ Naomi Baumslag says that Although scientific studies continue to attest to the superiority of breastmilk, bottle-feeding formula is becoming the norm. Aggressive formula marketing has deceived mothers into believing that formula is equivalent to breastmilk. Good lactating breasts have been removed from the mouths of infants and promoted only as sexual organs. The positive effect of breastfeeding on mothers' health has also been ignored. Throughout the world, scarce resources are used to buy formula when the money could be put to better uses.

As a result of capitalist greed and corruption, babies who were formerly fed their mother’s milk or fed by another lactating woman have been killed or made very unwell, due to the addition of a chemical additive to baby formula; formula with its own set of problems when you consider what it contains. In the United States, a $3 can of formula costs 22 cents to produce and contains waste adby-products from other industries such as whey from cow’s milk, lactose, sugar, rice, starch, cornstarch, soy beans, coconut and peanut oils. The corn and soy are likely to be genetically engineered and the formula itself can contain harmful bacteria and toxic substances, such as fluoride, aluminium, and carcinogenic chemicals.

Similarly when you look at the commercial child care industry that has grown into such a racket, that one childcare business, ABC Learning, has gone from holding a few dozen centres at the time of listing in 2001, to owning more than 1200 at its peak and is now in receivership.

In an opinion piece published in The Age, Professor Deborah Brennan from the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, tells us how we got into this mess. The answer, she says, lies at the feet of the the Hawke government, who in 1991, introduced market forces into the childcare sector. It did this by extending child-care assistance to the users of for-profit care and then by changing the structure of Commonwealth funding to encourage private provision and marginalise the community sector. Labor promised that the market would lead to greater choice and lower fees. It decreed that private businesses, not governments, should determine the location of services, even though huge public subsidies were involved. Under Labor's system, there was no cap on the number of long day care centres that private operators could set up. The Howard government intensified Labor's market focus, ending operational subsidies to community-based care in 1997 and then in 2000 introducing the Child Care Benefit (a more generous version of Labor's child-care assistance scheme). ABC learning cares for 120,000 children and employs 16,000 staff. Clearly there are many casualties to this system of childcare which exploits children and parents and workers in the interests of profit.

The failure of commercial childcare and the disaster of the melamine toxic milk episode lead us to examine how 20th century capitalism has exploited women and their babies and children. Women’s dissatisfaction whilst caring at home has been amply described by Betty Freidan and others. Their factual reports of the unhappy lives of many a suburban mother and housewife contributed in some part to the mass co-option of discontented women into the workforce.

And what a bonanza for capitalism! Yet another hoard of consumers. Once women left home and hearth in exchange for the money and recognition to be found at work, baby formula companies readily filled the void vacated by the decrease in the production of breastmilk, and childcare operators solved the problem of who would care for the offspring.

This consumptive cure for domestic discontent was the easy option and was not what feminism was about. Feminism did not advocate giving up breast feeding and handing babies to commercial operators. Instead feminism sought to improve the lot of those mothers who wanted to remain at home caring for children and among its plentiful aims was the struggle to fight domestic violence and male domination, and to provide the village to bring up the child.

What the conversations around these current disasters lack, is the acknowledgement that our society's abuse of women and capitalist economics, has lead to a society which accepts that cheap formula feeding is a valid substitute for breast milk, and that commercial childcare is indispensable to modern life. In short, all things are commodities to be exploited for the profits of capitalism.

Anne Manne, author of Motherhood, says that all the mother wars regarding paid work and stay at home mothers avoids discussing the new capitalism. She quotes German social theorist Jurgen Habermas who calls this the colonisation of our life world by the values of the market. The penetration of the values and assumptions of the market place seeps inexorably into every port of every relationship however intimate.

Week 23/11/08

Mandatory Vaccinations for all Health Workers

Attention all nurses, doctors and allied health workers

In february 2007, NSW became the first state to mandate full vaccination (10 required vaccines) for all medical staff and allied health students. Failure to comply results in expulsion from school or loss of employment/transfer to another area of the facility if that area exists. This is inspite of the fact that vaccination is not compulsory in Australia unlike the U.S.

In Victoria mandatory testing and vaccinations of health care workers including doctors and nurses and allied staff will begin in 2009. DHS are planning to release a policy that states a number of immunisations will become mandatory for all staff working in hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Victoria. This will prevent any staff who have not had these vaccinations from working.

These vaccinations include:


Chicken Pox




Flu Vaccination

And in Queensland they have even included gardasil, the cervical cancer vaccine in the mandatory vaccination schedule for medical students.

This new mandatory policy for health care workers was introduced to supposedly protect patients from infection from nurses and doctors. This despite the fact that there have never been any cases notified where unvaccinated hospital staff have spread infection.

For more information regarding this compulsory vaccination please look at

Whatever anyone feels about the rights and wrongs of vaccination this compulsory vaccination program is a violation of our rights to work in the health care system. We should not have to submit to tests and vaccinations to keep our jobs We have to work.

Vaccinations are not without risks; gardasil has shown that there are many side effects and indeed deaths as there are with the triple antigen,and the hepatitis B vaccine which is given to new born babies. This is outrageous. And the commonly given flu vaccine contains mercury.

Please consider what this compulsory vaccination program means for individual health freedoms, and your right to work.

Week 11/7/09

Support for Homebirth

Occasionally one hears of women who birth alone allowing their natural instincts to lead and guide the birthing process without fear or doubt. Most women are nowhere near this fundamental understanding but desire the choice of a homebirth with the company and care of a private midwife.

Sadly this choice and place of birthing will cease to be available due to new national laws for registering health professionals commencing in July 2010. Under this national registration scheme, all health professionals will need to have indemnity insurance which for most health workers is available and provided by the hospital employer. For private midwives the requirement to have professional indemnity ensures their future non existence owing to the fact that insurance has been denied them since 2001. The new regulations threaten the existence of the home birth as a safe choice for low risk women and may lead to large fines for those who help women birth outside hospital.

Birth is not an illness and yet most deliveries in countries such as Australia take place in a hospital setting. Birthing in westernized countries began to take place in hospitals around the middle of the eighteenth century when poor and often homeless women were offered care in a hospital. The supporting hands of the midwife were exchanged for the tools of the medical men and the loss of female autonomy continues unabated with homebirths contributing to a trivial 0.3% of all births in Australia.

Women who choose a homebirth do so for many reasons and often because of the very high rates of unnecessary intervention that accompanies a hospital birth. The chance of having a natural birth diminishes as one procedure necessitates another, culminating in a chain of events, known as ‘the cascade of intervention.’ An example of a birth procedure that is increasing in usage is the caesarian section which in 2006 accounted for 31% of Australian births. According to David O'Callaghan, chairman of the obstetrics committee at St Vincent's Private Hospital in Melbourne, the increase in caesarians are occurring because women are requesting them; often because the mother is older and more fearful of birthing complications.

Amazing when you consider that for the hundreds of thousands of years of human history, babies were born without the help of medical technology. As to the risks of modern day homebirth, according to Hannah Dahlen from The Australian College of Midwives, 708 women had planned homebirths in Australia in 2006 and there were no deaths reported amongst these births. In this same year 2730 babies died - most of them in Australian hospitals.

Birth has had a tumultuous history since medical intervention began when homeless, single pregnant women were given a safe bed in a hospital from which to give birth. Decades of medical abuse followed as women were treated more and more as invalids remaining in bed for up to ten days with their babies increasingly fed formula as the natural process of pregnancy, birth and lactation was taken from their control. Sarah, a feminist mum describes birth in our society as ‘a snapshot of our violent culture more generally. She talks of the societal crisis of drug use, explaining that the vast majority of births also involve drug use and highlights the fact that almost 100% of women give birth following the advice of the experts rather than trusting themselves.

There is to be a ' Mother of all Rallies' outside Parliament House, Canberra on the 7th September when bus loads of women and their families from across the country are descending on Canberra to fight for their rights to birth where and with whom they choose. The cost of a private midwife is not cheap and is around $5000 but well worth it as articulated by Sally Dillon, Writer and homebirth Mother of 2 who wrote:

There was no panic, no nervous dash to a hospital, no stark room, no uniforms, no strange faces, no pressure, no bright lights and no intervention. Just a knowledge that my body knew what it had to do and that I had the caring support of loved ones and a midwife who had helped bring thousands of babies into the world.

As a woman who birthed alone in a cold and sterile hospital ward in the early 1970s, I support the right of women to continue to have access to the private midwife who takes the woman through her pregnancy and enables her to birth naturally in her own home. I am justifiably angry that such a right was denied me and in its place a cold technology dominated the intimate and potentially wonderful human moments of birthing. We need to understand that birth is what a woman's body does as she is giving life to her baby and there is nothing pathological about it. The momentous understanding of this female beauty has been stolen from most of us but its memory is alive and well in the homebirth movement which needs our support.

Week 08/10/09

Fortification with folic acid: a heavy handed approach!

On September the 13th 2009, it became mandatory for millers to add folic acid to bread flour in all Australian states and territories. This implementation, which was developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, has received very little attention in the public sphere. Research has shown that the risk of a baby born with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida, reduces by up to 70 per cent when the intake of folate is increased one month before and three months after conception. Adding folic acid to bread is regarded as the best way to raise the levels of folate in pregnant women. Folate is a B group vitamin that is needed for human growth and development and is found naturally in green leafy vegetables along with many other foods, such as salmon and oranges.

The human brain and spinal cord develop from a neural plate which folds and closes to form a tube. Failure of this plate to close results in a neural tube defect, one of which is spina bifida. Neural tube defects (NTDs) are formed in the first 21 days after conception. According to the Spina Bifida Foundation of Victoria, 30-35 Victorian babies are identified annually with spina bifida and of those between seven and 15 survive. There are around 5000 Australian people with the disabling condition with a further 50 to 60 being born each year. People with spina bifida have varying degrees of permanent disability including paralysis or weakness in the legs, bowel and bladder incontinence, hydrocephalus and specific learning difficulties. However, many are able to lead full, active and independent lives.

While Australia has commenced its mandatory bread fortification, New Zealand has deferred its implementation due to consumer concern that extra folate in the form of folic acid may lead to more cancers especially of the breast ,colon and prostate. Australian nutritionist Dr. Rosemary Stanton queries the efficacy of the new regulation. Stanton calls it “a second best solution”. Bread was chosen, she explained “because most people eat a couple of slices a day”. “But the problem is that the amount of folic acid in the bread will not be enough to make up for the women who don’t eat enough green veggies so they will still need to take a supplement” said Stanton. On average 100 grams of bread or around three slices will only provide about 120 micrograms of folic acid when the recommended dose is 400 micrograms each day.

Stanton is not alone in her criticism and is joined by Professor Leonie Segal, a member of Kevin Rudd's National Preventative Health Taskforce who recently told The Australian, that mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid risked turning food into pharmacotherapy, when simpler solutions existed. Stanton has sympathy with this opinion and jokingly adds that she has always had difficulty with the notion that nature depended on humans inventing vitamin factories for our survival. “Ultimately what we should be doing is getting people to eat more vegetables”.

The New Zealand Bakers’ Association is one of the groups who are opposing the adoption of the new food standard. The Association is concerned that the distribution of folic acid cannot be evenly distributed amongst their products. There are also murmurs from certain flour millers in Australia who are concerned about the process of adding folic acid to their flour and think that they could be putting their customers at risk and are intending to abstain from the directive.

Death was the most likely outcome for babies born with spina bifida until the 1950s, when shunts to treat the life-threatening condition, hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain’, were first invented. Life saving surgery, diagnostic tools such as CT scanners and new antibiotics and appropriate treatment for bladder problems are just some of the huge improvements from the days when such babies were institutionalized and left to die.

According to the The International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, public acceptance of prenatal testing and termination for babies with neural tube defects has resulted in over 90% of such fetuses being aborted in western countries.

Concerns about cancer and the perplexities of folic acid administration, along with the fact that the numbers of babies born with this disability are in fact diminishing, should cause us to wonder why this all encompassing public policy has been adopted at all.

Week 1/2/2010

Smile Or Die

In Smile Or Die, author Barbara Ehrenreich documents her personal agonizing encounter with an ideological force –one that she asserts encourages us to deny reality and submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate.

After a routine mammogram picked up her cancer cells, Ehrenreich promptly discovered the dearth of choices when it came to the management of the dreaded disease. Her diagnosis duly documented, she was on the predictable and well - trodden treadmill; one that would lead to a mutilating mastectomy or to a simple lumpectomy, inevitably followed by radiation or chemotherapy.

As her breast cancer career progressed, to her utmost surprise, Ehrenreich found that many women did not view the disease with the horror and dread that supposedly accompanies the malady. Instead the attitude towards the deadly affliction was upbeat and even eagerly acquisitive. Ehrenreich documents the fact that there are between 2 and 3 million American women in various stages of breast cancer treatment making up a market for all things breast cancer: pink breast cancer t- shirts, assortments of pyjamas, lingerie, scarves, caps and numerous commodities that brighten the patient's home including cuddly teddy bears, candles, coffee mugs, and the list goes on.

In Smile Or Die, this approach to the disease is described as an ultra feminine theme of breast cancer…an infantilizing trope with Ehrenreich asserting that she doubt that men with prostate cancer would receive matchbox cars. As her quest for information about the disease, its course and treatments progressed, her isolation grew - for few sufferers shared her sense of outrage over the disease itself, its causation and its pitiful ways of addressing the progress.

Her rage focussed on the lack of attention given to the causes of the now decades old breast cancer epidemic. There were a number of factors thought to be involved such as overly-processed diets, modern lifestyles, genetic factors and toxic environments, just to name a few. The author of Smile Or Die, asserts that amongst the breast cancer community there is scant attention given, nor enough anger expressed, over the painful and inadequate treatments that form the bulk of available therapies. In the place of justified anger there is countless pity and passivity: the victim becomes a survivor and those who die become our lost sisters.

Ehrenreich describes the cheerfulness of the breast cancer culture and how there those in the community who regard the disease as a gift, a rite of passage. As a breast cancer patient, Ehrenreich was encouraged to think positively and embrace cancer with a smile. Her analysis of such sugar-coating is that this comes at a great cost which is the denial of one's true feelings of fear and anger.

This author’s anger is with the cancer industry along with the medical and pharmaceutical institutions for her breast cancer was iatrogenic - she had been taking HRT or hormone replacement therapy for just under 8 years. The Women’s Health Initiative trial in 2002 found that the popular hormone therapy caused increases in the cases of breast cancer and in 2008, The Medical Journal of Australia, reported that the reduction in breast cancer among women over 50 years is mostly due to the decrease in the use of HRT, the drug which was given to post menopausal women for relief of hot flushes and to ensure they stayed forever young.

Smile Or Die by Barbara Ehrenreich will stimulate the public conversation that has not taken place – what causes the disease and why there is such a lack of outrage amongst breast cancer sufferers and the community itself. Where is the anger?

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of many books including Nickle and Dimmed and Global women: nannies, maids and sex workers.