No Complacency About Cancer Screenings

Dr Judith Roberts honoured for her cancer screening advocacy

Renowned healthcare advocate, Dr Judith Roberts, has warned that any Federal Government funding cuts to cancer screening programs would result in rising death rates from the dreaded disease.

Dr Roberts, a former president of Cancer Council Australia and chair of Cancer Council SA,  says the community needs to be reassured that life-saving screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer are not in the Government’s sites for cuts in the May budget.

“My big worry is that the Federal Government in a parlous state with their budget  that they will cut funding to the screening programs,’’ said Dr Roberts, who is the Community Patron of the Cancer Council of SA.

“Presently funding is shared between the Federal and State governments and if the Federal Government tries to handball its share, the states will be unable to take up the gap in funding.

“It will be a disaster for the screening programs, for cervical cancer, breast cancer and bowel cancer screening – and bowel cancer screening is under the greatest threat,’’ she added.

The Governor General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce flew to Adelaide late last month to present Dr Roberts with the Cancer Council Australia’s prestigious Gold Medal for being “an icon of healthcare advocacy’’.

She was the first recipient of the award outside the field of clinical medicine.

Dr Roberts has devoted “decades of personal advocacy’’ as a volunteer to improved cancer outcomes , Her Excellency Quentin Bryce said on presenting the medal.

She was the driving force in the establishment and implementation of screening programs for breast and cervical cancer in South Australia, then nationally. The two women’s cancer screening programs  have prevented thousands of cancer deaths in Australia.

Dr Roberts chaired a Ministerial Task Force on cancer in women under former minister for health, Dr John Cornwall during the Bannon years and travelled to 10 countries afterwards to study the impact of breast screening programs.

Her report was accepted by the SA Government and she then chaired the Ministerial committee which set up the SA Mammography screening program.

“I was the mother of the breast screen program, but now I am the ‘grandmother’,’’ said Dr Roberts.

She also chaired the Ministerial Advisory Committee into cervical cancer screening and steered its implementation in SA and then nationally.

Following her ground-breaking recommendations  Dr Roberts worked for 40 years as a volunteer to improve community awareness of early detection through screenings,

“These screening programs have saved thousands of women’s lives,’’ she said. “They have reduced the death rate from breast cancer by a third.’’

But, Dr Roberts said there was no room for complacency, despite the high numbers of women over 50 who have regular mammograms.

“We have to keep the pressure up because Federal Government changes are always possible because of budgetry pressures,’’ she said.

“This is a fiscally desperate government;  who knows whether they will home in on the screening programs to save money.

“Funding is shared between State and Federal governments.’’

She said the bowel screening was not being taken up in large enough numbers by the community even though it was free and had the potential to save “countless lives’’.

Dr Roberts said more funding was needed for wider promotion of the free bowel  screening program to entice most Australian men and women aged over 50 to take up the free  program.

At the recent medal presentation, Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Ian Olver said Dr Roberts had been president from 2004-07, when she built the capacity of the organisation to develop and promote evidence-based cancer control policy.


Under separate article : CANCER SCREENING FACTS:




Lucky Locky To Russia With Know-How


Lucky Locky at Goolwa last weekend

Some blokes have all the luck. Take popular yachtie vice-commodore of the Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club Locky McLaren  spend last Sunday motoring his yacht loaded with a bunch of female friends, including his wife,  my dear friend Jayne and my neighbour, dear friend Chris, three other girlfriends and myself on the River Murray from Goolwa to Clayton Bay.  As if an all-female crew of five beauties wasn’t enough of a thrill (their husbands were conveniently sailing in a second yacht) Locky left this morning  – a week later – for the exotic adventure of a lifetime.  To Siberia – and no, it’s not to the saltmines. His exciting adventure exposes how little we know about Russia, let alone Siberia. He flew to Dubai and then on to a Moscow, waiting for a local flight to Novosibirsk in Siberia where he has been contracted as a consultant to assist the locals with building up their beef industry.

His exciting adventure exposes how little we know about Russia, let alone Siberia.  Now that’s the first lesson for us all here in hot Oz. Siberia clearly is not covered with snow all year and Locky will be arriving in springtime when  one suspects the region is beginning to sprout summer grasses for cattle to graze.   Watch this space for more travel bulletins from what must be close to the coldest place in the Northern Hemisphere.  What an exhilarating life Locky is living right now.

A bit of background info about my experienced friend.  Locky was not chasing consultancy work and out of the blue he had a call from a former colleague and offered project work in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia.  Expo trade SA export to there and Siberia and has subcontracted “International Agriculture for Development” to develop technical advice and business plans for their Northern Hemisphere beef and dairy industries.  When Locky retired he said if he accepted any consultancy work he would want it to be with developing countries because he wanted to feel that his expertise was making a difference. Two previous consultancies has been in Australia with visiting senior Iraq and Egyptian professionals.

What an exhilarating life Locky is living right now.  Watch this space for more travel bulletins from what must be close to the coldest place in the Northern Hemisphere.



Hollande in hole of scandal, debt and despair

Ex-pat journalist Emma-Kate Symons sums up French president Francois Hollande’s bumbling performance in his first 12 months in office in two words – Quel catastrophe!

From her first-hand perch in the country, she reports that there is panic at the Elysee presidential palace as France, the second-biggest economy in Europe, fails to lift itself out of a morass. Unemployment has shot up from 10 per cent to 13 per cent,  a savage 75 per cent tax on the rich has triggered an exodus as its wealthy citizens and a ministerial tax evasion scandal by disgraced former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac has cut to any credibility Hollande’s government had.

But it is the everyday French citizen who is increasingly nervous as some economists suggest the country could be facing a “triple-dip recession’’ on the back of a sick economy. Where there is anxiety about the future, French people are spending less.

Hollande’s disapproval rate is a record 70 per cent and he has only been in office for less than a year. In The Financial Review Symons says Hollande’s election promises of stimuli for growth “are already dead’’: “They have been buried under Hollande’s absence of conviction, leadership and authority’’.

The problem Hollande refuses to face is the bloated public spending at 56 per cent of GDP and rising. Instead, having slugged the upper classes, he is biting the middle class with new taxes to plug incidental holes in the deficit. But, he has obstinately refused to cut into France’s bloated public service to fill a gaping abyss in the deficit.

While Hollande bumbles, “France faces its worst political and economic turmoil in decades’’ writes Symons.

Over the border in Germany, France is seen as a “huge drag’’ on the Eurozone because the socialist government has not moved fast enough on labour market reforms or deficit reduction.

Jean-Louis Dalbera, a banking sector expert has argued in Le Monde that although France has not fallen into full recession yet, it cannot rejoice.

The country’s first quarter growth of 0.1 per cent was only achieved because of a “significant rise in the public deficit’’, which accounts for 4.8 per cent of GDP.

He reckons belt-tightening will only aggravate the economic situation. “But at the same time we are heavily increasing taxes,’’ he writes. “We must finally take aim at public spending.’’






Love Is No Longer All You Need

Love is no longer all you need for happiness, the world’s oldest longitudinal study has found.

As we age, if we acquire emotional intelligence  – the ability to cope with whatever life dishes out – has proven to be a critical factor according to the Grant Study of Adult Development.

Findings from the study, which ran for 62 years from 1938 to 2000 has been published in a new book, Triumphs of Experience, to reveal a surprise recipe for happiness.

Published by its former director, psychiatrist George E Vaillant, the book outlines a few societal assumptions which proved true, such as a happy childhood being a necessity for a happy adult life, but it also states that an unhappy childhood does not count happiness out.

Love and resilience have the greatest influence on a fulfilling later life, it found and a case study of an early applicant to the Grant study proved later life can hold happiness, whatever has happened beforehand.

The case study of Godfrey Minot Camille, who presented as a tall, charming redheaded boy in 1938 told the study he neither liked nor admired his parents and a psychiatrist at the time recorded he had “one of the bleakest childhoods in the study’’.

He was dropped from the study because he was too skinny and his early adult years were peppered with trauma. After graduation, he attempted suicide. He had little to be happy about and found himself in hospital yet again with tuberculosis, followed by the emergence of another character trait – altruism.

However,  he married, had children and the book records how when he was 75 “viewed his past five years as the happiest in his life’’.

In 1967, the author George Vaillant became involved with the study and he analysed 25 years of data collected from 200 respondents studied over their lifetime.

The study was initially meant to examine how a group of promising men coped. All were Harvard graduates and one was John F. Kennedy, while another three became US senators.

In  a surprising conclusion, he found that factors which led to success in military service were not masculinity, but the critical factor was emotional intelligence.

While on the subject of maleness, new research claims that men seem to have an evolutionary aversion to being sexually attracted to their mates’ wives.

A University of Missouri study has established that adult males’ testosterone levels drop when interacting with the wife of a friend.

Researchers claim that understanding the biological mechanisms that stopped men competing for each other’s mate may reveal how people form cohesive communities, researchers claim.