Keeping watch on your health 

Many people already wear a fitness tracker that monitors sleep, activity and calorie intake, among other things. Now doctors may soon be able to monitor our health and detect diseases from micro sensors in our watch.

Australian scientists have opened the door to diagnostic technology that is so tiny it can be hidden in a “smart” watch. The technology, developed at the Australian National University, could one day lead to a wearable device that allows doctors to medically diagnose people’s health in real time, without them having to leave home.

Associate Professor Antonio Tricoli said the sensors, which are 50 times thinner than a human hair, promised to one day help doctors detect diseases such as diabetes much earlier than is possible today, and better manage a range of chronic diseases.

“These ultra-small sensors could be integrated into a watch to literally provide a window on our health,” said Dr Tricoli, leader of the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at the ANU Research School of Engineering.

“This exciting invention shows that we are on the cusp of designing the next generation of wearable devices that will help people to stay well for longer and lead better lives."

Dr Tricoli said the sensors could measure very small concentrations of gases coming through the skin and breath called metabolites, allowing doctors to keep track of people’s health.

“A wearable medical diagnostic device using our optical sensors may one day eliminate the need for blood tests and many other invasive procedures,” he said.

This sort of medical advance could similarly benefit those living with chronic illness or mental health issues, as it could signal more accessible care.

People with mental health issues often have poorer physical health and can die up to 23 years earlier than other Australians. They are five times more likely to smoke and six times more likely to die from heart disease.

Wellways last year endorsed the National Mental Health Commission’s Equally Well statement, which identified a vital link between physical and mental health.

“People with a mental health issue often have poorer physical health. They may have both physical and mental health issues, so their overall health is more complex,” said Wellways Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Crowther.

“Advancements in healthcare can be an important piece of overall health puzzle for those with mental illness. I welcome any advancement that could give people a greater measure of control and independence,” she said.

Read Equally Well.

Men’s health strategy launches

A 10-year national health strategy for men was announced on Wednesday, during Men’s Health Week.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said men had poorer health outcomes on average than females. “More males die at every stage of life. Males have more accidents, are more likely to take their own lives and are more prone to lifestyle-related chronic health conditions than women and girls at the same age.

The 10-year strategy will be developed in consultation with key experts and stakeholders in male health, and be opened for public consideration later this year.

“Australian men and boys are vital to the health and happiness of their families and communities, but need to pay more attention to their own mental and physical wellbeing,” Mr Hunt said.

Building on the 2010 National Male Health Policy, the 2020-2030 strategy will identify what is needed to improve men’s health and provide a framework for action. The Government is also providing $5.1 million over three years to the Australian Men’s Shed Association to provide general support activities and resources and to manage the National Shed Development Program.

Meanwhile, the Wellways program “Thought, Talk, Tackle” aims to help people – and men in particular - who need support to connect with those around them who can provide assistance. This project is sport focused and encourages people to build knowledge and skills in:

  • Knowing how to recognise if someone is not coping, is stressed or overwhelmed
  • How to have safe conversations about wellbeing and mental health concerns 
  • Understanding and knowing how to link people with the right support.

For further information on Thought, Talk, Tackle contact Wellways on 1300 111 400, or at

Mental health and NDIS

Mental Health Australia has delivered its recommendations on the design of a tailored NDIS pathway for people with psychosocial disability to the National Disability Insurance Agency. Mental Health Australia held five consultation workshops across Australia with NDIS participants, carers, service providers, peak bodies, government officials and health professionals.

The two overarching themes of the recommendations are:

  • The NDIS must have arrangements in place to interact with people with psychosocial disability to inform them about the NDIS and prepare them for accessing the Scheme;
  • A psychosocial disability strategy should be developed to ensure the NDIA and the Scheme’s response to people with psychosocial disability is appropriate to their needs, as well as the needs of carers and families.

New consumer framework

Guidelines released by the new National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission are designed to ensure the quality of NDIS supports and services. The independent body replaces existing arrangements and aims to investigate and resolve problems, while strengthening the skills and knowledge of both NDIS providers and participants across Australia.

However, the commission will not handle complaints relating to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) or NDIS plans, with these complaints to remain in the hands of the NDIA. It will receive and resolve complaints about NDIS providers, serious incident reports, such as abuse, injury or death and potential breaches of the NDIS Code of Conduct.

The Commission will be rolled out to align with each state and territory reaching NDIS full scheme, with the body to operate in New South Wales and South Australia from July. All other states will roll out the Framework in 2019, except for Western Australia, in 2020.

Ross Joyce, Chief Executive Officer of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations says the commission provided a “key missing piece of the puzzle.”

“This will significantly enable a rights-based approach to frame the conversation as the implementation of the NDIS continues,” he said.

The code applies to all providers of NDIS supports, regardless of whether they are registered. More information about the Commission can be found on its new website and information on DSC’s Quality and Safeguarding workshops on the Department of Social Services website.

In other NDIS news

‘Critical Gap’ for Young People with Disability in Nursing Homes Under NDIS, Pro Bono News, 12 June

A lack of clarity around who qualifies for the National Disability Insurance Scheme is causing young people in nursing homes to fall through a “critical gap” between the health and disability sectors, according to a new report.

Source: Pro Bono News

It is not welfare: addressing misconceptions of the NDIS, The Age, 29 May

By Vicki Rundle, Deputy CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency

Canberra resident Phillip Dodd’s mobility was severely impacted following a motorcycle accident in the 1970s that resulted in a serious leg injury and an above-the-knee amputation in 2015. When Phillip, who works full-time, became a participant in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, he received a new prosthetic leg and modifications to his home and car to increase his independence. He is one of thousands in the ACT who had never received any type of disability services or support before the NDIS.

Source: The Age

Family and friends award

Nominations are open for The Tandem Awards, which recognise outstanding contributions to family inclusive practice in the mental health sector. Individuals or services within the clinical, community or private sector can be nominated, including providers of NDIS support and services to children and young people.

Read more on the Tandem website.

Call for submissions 

The Annual Mental Health and NDIS Conference, to be held in November, is calling for abstracts with the deadline extended until June 29. The conference theme is: Mental Health Policy, Practice and Reform: Getting it Right in a Time of Change and is organised by Mental Health Victoria and Community Mental Health Australia.

Read more on the NDIS & Mental Health Conference website.

Write a letter

People are being asked to contribute personal stories in the form of a letter to a new book, The Recovery Letters 2: Loneliness. The authors are seeking letters of recovery from peer workers and people who have experienced loneliness and can offer their inspiring thoughts, insights, hope, laughter or tears to others.

Send letters and any questions to: and/or 

Read more on The Recovery Letters website.

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