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Make vegetables count during National Nutrition Week

National Nutrition Week is here again and the Central Australia Health Service is taking up the challenge to get Territorians to eat more vegetables.

Running from the 15 – 21 of October 2018, this year’s theme is ‘Try for 5’ and aims to encourage everyone to meet the dietary recommendations to eat 5 serves of vegetables per day. This everyday group of super foods is naturally packed full of important vitamins and minerals, disease-fighting antioxidants and gut-healthy fibre. Plus – whether raw, roasted or stir-fried – these vegies taste great.

Currently 96 per cent of Aussies are not meeting the recommended intake of 5 serves of vegetables per day, with the average person eating only 2.7 serves of vegetables per day. With Australia’s growing waistlines and rising rates of chronic disease, vegetables play an important role in fighting back.

“By increasing our intake of vegetables from 1 to 3 serves per day, something we can all achieve, we can reduce the chance of having chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, by 10 per cent,” Public Health Nutritionist Benjamin Pike said.

“A simple thing each of us can do to add more vegetables to our diet is put in an extra handful of diced or frozen vegetables for each person to pasta sauces and stews, or adding some salad vegetables like lettuce and tomato to sandwiches.”

Healthy habits start early with children developing lifelong eating habits from infancy. Sadly kids only eat 1.8 serves of vegetables per day and only 1 per cent of children meet their recommended number of serves.

“It’s important to get kids involved in playing with, preparing and eating vegetables from an early age so they grow up eating and loving vegetables and not fearing them or seeing them as a chore.”

The Public Health Nutritionists from Central Australia Health Service will be out in remote communities during the National Nutrition Week running a roadshow to promote eating more vegetables in schools, community development programs and remote stores.

Here are our top 5 tips to add more veg to your day:

  1. Add diced veg to scrambled eggs or omelette, i.e. capsicumspring onionzucchini, mushrooms, spinach or tomato. Serve with rocket or spinach and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Grate a carrot or zucchini, or add some kidney beans or other legumes, into any dish that involves mince, such as pasta sauces, burritos and tacos. The kids won’t even know.
  3. Snack on veggie sticks, such as celery, carrotscapsicum or cucumber, which can also be served with hommus, tzatziki or other vegetable-based dips.
  4. For a yummy snack on the go, make some savoury scones or muffins, and include any veggies you have on hand. They can also be frozen and eaten for weeks to come.
  5. Make a green smoothie with spinachbroccoli, cucumbercarrot and ginger. Add vegetables, such as avocado, cucumber, lettuce or spinach, to fruit smoothies.

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Tackling smoking in remote communities

A new resource has been developed by the Northern Territory Department of Health’s Remote Alcohol and Other Drugs Workforce Program to help reduce the high levels of smoking in Aboriginal communities.

“We know smoking is the single biggest contributor to chronic disease in Aboriginal populations and Yarning about Smoking is designed to combat this statistic,” said Lauren Buckley, Program Manager for the Remote Alcohol and Other Drugs Workforce Program.

“We want to promote this new resource because it has been specifically created to target smoking in remote communities. Our existing health workforce sends a lot of referrals to our program for smoking cessation and this resource will support them in that process.

“So many of the resources currently available are aimed only at urban populations and it’s always about ‘don’t smoke and this is why’ – but we need to look at the reasons why people might smoke and what stops them from giving up, and Yarning about Smoking does just that.”

The development of Yarning about Smoking is a collaboration between the Health Department’s Remote Alcohol and Other Drugs Workforce Program in Primary Health Care and the Menzies School of Health Research. The resource can be used and accessed by people all across the Health Department as well as the NGO sector to provide assessments and intervention with people who are smoking.

“We consulted with more than 60 people and organisations across the Northern Territory when creating our Yarning about resources. This includes all of the Remote AOD Workers and Aboriginal Leadership Group, as well as community members and Aboriginal organisations,” Ms Buckley said.

“We ask about the appropriateness of the resources, what questions we should be asking clients and what things keep people doing things like smoking, and what are the issues that they face. We also incorporate the highly successful ‘AIMhi’ images created by Menzies – ‘what keeps you strong’ and ‘who keeps you strong’.

“It doesn’t matter if you live in the Top End or a community in Central Australia – Yarning about Smoking will be relevant to everyone.”

Yarning about Smoking joins a suite of Yarning about tools, including Yarning about Alcohol and Pregnancy, Yarning about Alcohol, Yarning about Gunja, Yarning about Ice, Yarning about Pregnancy, Yarning about Relapse, Yarning about Wellbeing, the Brief Wellbeing Screener and Yarning about Work.

“This group of resources has been taken up by a number of health organisations around Australia and these preventative tools will be promoted at an international health conference in November, along with the newly created Yarning about Smoking,” Ms Buckley said.

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Alice Springs celebrates World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

It’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day this week and the Central Australia Health Service is inviting the community to a celebration of life at the Palliative Care Facility at Alice Springs Hospital.

“We‘re inviting people to come along and learn more about palliative care and we are having a short interfaith remembrance service so that people can remember their own loved ones,” said Social Worker Robyn Linsdell from Territory Palliative Care.

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is a day to honour and support hospice and palliative care around the world. The theme this year is Palliative Care – Because I Matter.

“We have a very active Palliative Care Association NT in Central Australia and this group of dedicated individuals has done a lot of work with the Northern Territory Government to get the Palliative Care Facility opened earlier this year and they will be on hand to talk to people about palliative care and what it can mean to them and their families.

“This year is the centenary of Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement, so it is fitting that this year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day theme draws its wording from her iconic quote: ‘You matter because you are you and you matter until the end of your life’,” Ms Linsdell said.

“Palliative care is really about quality of life and an important part of this is advanced personal planning about what your wishes might be at the end of your life – how you would like to be cared for; what’s important to you; what you really value at the end of your life.

“It is an important part of the day to actually recognise that we all will die at some point but we can do some preparation so it doesn’t have to be a mournful process – it can be a celebration of life,” Ms Linsdell said.

Please come and acknowledge the importance of Palliative Care on Friday 12 October, 2018 from 12–2.00 pm.

There will be music, a free BBQ lunch, Roaming Barista coffee caravan with coffee and cold drinks for sale, interfaith remembrance service, Palliative Care information, a smoking ceremony and a chance to look at the new Palliative Care Facility.

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Stress Less in Alice Springs

In its fifth year Stress Less in the Park has attracted more than 30 organisations to celebrate Mental Health Week and promote mental wellbeing across Central Australia.

Stress Less in the Park began in October 2014 with only a handful of supporters and less than 100 attendees, but in 2018 the organisers of this great community event are expecting more than 500 people to come together and unite in creating a mentally healthy community.

Stress Less events strive to challenge perceptions and remove the stigma around mental illness to pave the way for more people to seek assistance and get the support they deserve.

The focus of this community event will be caring for those who look after people with mental health illness and to advocate positive mental health and social and emotional wellbeing to the wider community.

Families, consumers and carers are encouraged to attend and receive additional information about mental health from the many stallholders who will be showcasing what they can offer to anyone who needs assistance to cope with mental unwellness.  The whole community is invited to enjoy the day and help destigmatise mental health.

Stress Less in the Park brings together many Alice Springs organisations and agencies whose programs help people with mental illness to provide a fun and interesting day with activities and giveaways, free pancakes, sausage sangas and even a Devonshire Tea.  For those who love to sing there will be Karaoke with prizes and vouchers.  CAAMA will again be broadcast live from Stress Less in the Park.

The event is supported by Mental Health Central Australia Health Service, Oral Health Services Central Australia, Alcohol and Other Drug Services Central Australia, Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia (NT) Inc., Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, Drug and Alcohol Services Australia, Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and Support Services, YMCA, Mental Health Association of Central Australia, Dementia Australia, NDIS, headspace, Carers NT, Menzies School of Health, Lions Club of Alice Springs, Bellette, The Salvation Army, Linkup, Central Australia Aboriginal Congress, Central Australia Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit, Central Australia Womens Legal Service, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Disability Advocacy Service, Sexual Assault Referral Centre, MacDonnell Range Tourist Park, Lifeline, Mission Australia, Red Cross Australia and Aboriginal Regional and Remote Community Services.

This activity is supported by funding from the Australian Government through the PHN Program.

Stress Less in the Park is being held on the Old Hospital Lawns on Stuart Terrace in Alice Springs on Friday 12 October from 9am-1pm.

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Bacteria treatment for Palmerston Regional Hospital cooling towers

On Thursday, 13 September 2018 results from routine sampling of the cooling towers at Palmerston Regional Hospital returned a positive reading for legionella.

This is not related to the mechanical duct work.

The legionella bacteria is commonly harboured in cooling towers, water filtration and hot water systems.

There is no safety risk to patients, staff or visitors at the Palmerston Regional Hospital.

The Top End Health Service is committed to providing a safe environment for all staff, patients and visitors at Palmerston Regional Hospital and have enacted an immediate response to the incident.

Chlorine treatment has occurred in accordance with Australian Standards.

Staff and patients have been advised of the detection can be assured the detection poses no risk to their health.

The Top End Health Service is committed to providing safe, high quality care to patients and will continue routine.

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Meningococcal vaccine for all 1-19 year olds in the NT – Don’t miss out

Territorians are urged to take advantage of the free meningococcal ACWY vaccine available to all children and young adults aged 1-19 years in the NT.

Dr Vicki Krause from the Centre for Disease Control said that while the meningococcal outbreak late last year in Central Australia has come to an end, there still remains higher than normal rates of meningococcal disease in the NT and across the nation. To address these high rates, the NT has a free Northern Territory Government funded meningococcal ACWY vaccine program for all residents aged 1 to 19 years.

Whilst Meningococcal disease is considered a rare disease it can be a very serious condition. Invasive Meningococcal disease can develop very quickly with meningitis and causes death in 8 to 10% of cases. It also can lead to hearing loss, fits, limb amputations, renal failure and skin scarring. It is very important that people are diagnosed early and treated promptly with antibiotics to improve the chances of a full recovery.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include:

  • fever
  • stiff neck
  • headache
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • rash of tiny red or purple spots or larger bruises
  • joint or muscle pains
  • drowsiness, confusion or even coma.

“It is estimated that one out of every 10 people carry the bacteria in their nose or throat at any one time,” Dr Krause said.

“Although the carriers remain well they are able to spread the bacteria to others who may become unwell very quickly.” Carriers under certain circumstances can develop invasive disease.

Meningococcal disease is caused mainly by five different strains: A, B, C, W and Y. Until recently in the NT there have been one to four cases per year with the majority being B strains but in the past year strain W, a more aggressive infection, has predominated and Y is also increasing.

There have been six cases of invasive meningococcal disease notified so far in 2018 in the NT (four Meningococcal W strain, one Meningococcal B and one not identifiable).

The most recent case of meningococcal disease in the Northern Territory was notified on 1 August 2018, a W strain in an adult female in Darwin, who had complex medical issues, and died from the disease.

“All Territorian children are routinely given a vaccine that prevents meningococcal A, C, W and Y strains at 12 months of age as part of the National Immunisation Program. Now a vaccine that protects against A, C, W and Y strains is also available free for all NT children and young adults aged 1-19 years,” Dr Krause said.

“Vaccines to protect against meningococcal B can be purchased privately with a prescription from your local doctor.”

Dr Krause strongly encourages all age-eligible Territorians to take full advantage of the free ACWY vaccine. The vaccine is available through your local general practitioner, Aboriginal community controlled clinic, urban community care centres or remote health service.

For more information about meningococcal disease and vaccination follow the link

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Don’t let gastro stop you enjoying the rest of the dry season

People in the Northern Territory are urged to stay at home if they have gastro and be vigilant about hand washing following a rise in gastro cases across the Top End.

Anthony Draper from the Centre for Disease Control said that there has been an increase in reports of gastroenteritis or ‘gastro’ cases in recent weeks.

“The characteristics of the cases reported are typical of viral gastro which can easily pass from person to person by direct contact or even by sharing the same living or working space. Although these illnesses usually only last for 1-2 days it is not a very pleasant experience.

“The problem with gastro is that it can be very easy to catch. So if you are unlucky and get sick, the best way to prevent others from getting sick is to stay at home. As Territorians we generally pride ourselves on being resilient and stoic, but you certainly won’t be popular if you spread gastro to your colleagues at work or school. If you have gastro, don’t go to work, school or childcare until at least 24 hours after your symptoms have stopped, and definitely don’t prepare food for others.

“The best way to avoid catching gastro in the first place is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water and dry your hands with a clean towel, particularly after going to the toilet or changing nappies, and before preparing or eating food.

“Always cook food properly and store foods at appropriate temperatures.”

Gastroenteritis is an illness caused by infection and/or inflammation of the digestive tract. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and/or stomach cramps and fever.

Anyone with diarrhoea should:

  • drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration
  • not attend child care, school or work until 24 hours after the diarrhoea has ceased
  • not handle or prepare food for others until 48 hours after the diarrhoea has ceased
  • not swim, wade or paddle in public pools
  • see a doctor if they have prolonged or severe diarrhoea or have symptoms that concern them.

Children who keep vomiting, have high fevers, abdominal pain, refuse extra fluids or are drowsy should see a doctor.

Food handling staff who have become ill with symptoms of gastro must not return to work until 48 hours after symptoms have eased.

Those without access to water to wash hands should use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

For more information about gastro follow the link

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Bed pressures at RDH are easing

Statement from Director Medical Services, Royal Darwin Hospital, Dr Alison Maclean:

The peak in demand at Royal Darwin Hospital is now easing and patient flow is improving.

Thanks to the hard work of medical, nursing and support staff at RDH patients who were moved to overflow areas yesterday are now being discharged or moved to appropriate ward beds.

When a peak occurs, a range of measures are enacted to reduce pressure and these are producing the intended result.

There have been no changes to the elective surgery schedule today and RDH theatres are operating as normal.

Patient safety is a priority and RDH will continue to provide the best patient centred care possible in these periods of high demand

While demand is easing, people with non-emergency health needs are still encouraged to visit their GP or an after-hours clinic as soon as they feel unwell. Seeing a GP early will help prevent a person becoming more unwell and ensure the hospital has capacity to care for those who most need hospital care.

For emergencies, please call Triple 0 or go to the Emergency Department.

We acknowledge the distress that patients feel during these peak times and we apologise to those patients affected.

We thank our community for supporting us and appreciate their understanding and patience during these challenging times.

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Bed pressures at RDH

Statement from Director of Medical Services, Royal Darwin Hospital, Dr Alison Maclean.

Royal Darwin Hospital is currently experiencing another peak in bed demand.

The hospital is currently over census, which means it is over capacity.

Royal Darwin Hospital has capacity management plans in place which are currently being enacted.

The peak in demand for emergency care has been increasing over the past month and ED staff have been actively managing this by following appropriate procedures.

Patient safety is a priority and RDH will continue to provide the best patient centred care possible in these periods of high demand.

Our staff are working exceptionally hard to move patients out of the Emergency Department and into wards and overflow areas.

All available staff are assisting with additional capacity in the Lorraine Brennan Centre and Hospital in the Home service and our most senior doctors are leading ward rounds to enable efficient decision making around discharges.

All staff are working at full capacity and we are doing everything we can to ensure patients who need care are able to receive safe care.

Elective surgery lists have been reviewed and non-urgent procedures will be postponed, all affected patients will be notified by hospital staff as soon as possible.

We urge people who have non-emergency health needs to see their GP as soon as possible to try to avoid becoming acutely unwell.

For emergencies, please call Triple 0 or go to the Emergency Department.

We acknowledge the distress that patients feel during these peak times and we apologise to those patients affected. The Top End Health Service assures the public that staff are working extremely hard to alleviate the pressure in ED and patients will be moved to appropriate wards when it is safe and acceptable to do so.

We thank our community for supporting us and appreciate their understanding and patience during these challenging times.

Further updates will be provided.

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Biting midges on the rise

This is the time of the year when biting midges are out in force. High numbers are expected from 8 to 14 August coinciding with the new moon, with a further increase around the full moon from 23 to 29 August.

Director of Medical Entomology Nina Kurucz advised Top End residents and visitors to avoid midge bites by covering up, using insect repellents and avoiding mangrove areas where biting midges are present, especially late in the afternoon and early in the morning.

“Cover up with a long-sleeved shirt, long trousers, socks and shoes and apply DEET or picaridin-based insect repellents to exposed skin,” Ms Kurucz said.

“Mosquito lanterns and insecticide barrier applications in backyards also help to reduce numbers.”

Highest biting midge numbers will occur within 1.5 km of extensive areas of NT coastal mangroves.

“Due to increasing tides, peak biting midge activity will occur from now until the first heavy monsoonal rains occur. Numbers are highest three days before and after full moons, and to a lesser extent around new moons,” Ms Kurucz said.

“The pain, swelling and itchiness biting midge bites can cause is due to the chemicals contained in the saliva injected into the human hosts.

“Although biting midges do not transmit disease, people should avoid scratching the bites because this can easily break the skin, introducing bacterial infections that can lead to unsightly sores and infections.”

While soothing lotions and ice packs may provide relief from itchy bites, severe reactions may require medical attention.

A 2018 calendar detailing expected biting midge pest periods is available at: