Last updated December 21, 2017 at 8:57 am
The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web.
Toxoplasmosis hijacks our immune system
Having a cat around is basically inviting toxoplasmosa gondii into your house. But that’s cool, it’s pretty easy to use basic hygiene and make sure you don’t get infected with the mind-altering parasite. Seriously, wash your hands after you change your kitty litter! For most people, the worst result of contracting toxoplasmosis would feel like the flu, but it’s serious for people with weak immune systems and pregnant people. And scientists have just figured out why – the parasite uses our own immune system against us!
Portugal’s drug policy success
In the 1980s, one-in-a-hundred Portuguese people had a problematic heroin addiction. This lead to an all-time high of 104.2 new cases of HIV per million people in the year 2000. By 2015, that number was down to 4.2, all thanks to the decriminalisation and de-stigmatisation of drugs. From the article: ‘Portugal’s policy rests on three pillars: one, that there’s no such thing as a soft or hard drug, only healthy and unhealthy relationships with drugs; two, that an individual’s unhealthy relationship with drugs often conceals frayed relationships with loved ones, with the world around them, and with themselves; and three, that the eradication of all drugs is an impossible goal.’ Even with massive evidence of success, other countries are slow to follow Portugal’s incredible example.
Indigenous Australian birthweight and school attendance dropped
The researchers in this story went looking for improvements, but were instead surprised to find that school attendance and birthweight in the Indigenous population fell as a result of income management during the Howard government’s intervention. They found a 30 percent probability of lower birth weight, generally by about 100 grams. Further research is needed to figure out why this happened, but the researchers suspect that it’s because abrupt changes to a pregnant woman’s lifestyle can have serious consequences.
Our Indigenous population is the fastest growing demographic in Australia. It’s growing at more than twice the rate of the non-Indigenous population. Indigenous children have so much to offer their local communities and our whole country, it’s wildly frustrating to think of starting life at such a disadvantage.
Mental illness and life expectancy
Speaking of infuriating gaps, life expectancy for people with a mental illness is shorter by 10.2 years for men and 7.3 years for women. This difference has been more-or-less stable for the last twenty years – but fewer people with a mental illness are dying from injury and suicide and more are dying from cancer and heart disease. Researchers suggest that while people with mental illness are engaging in less risky behaviour, leading to fewer fatal accidents, physical health concerns are being overlooked. They’re keen for medical practitioners to take a holistic approach to treating mental illness, which sounds pretty sensible.
Eat less meat, save more planet
And finally, the win-win diet that’s healthier for you and the planet