Question 1: environmental health
- What were the main themes that first emerged after the spill?
The first themes from the newspapers that were covered touched on the chemical spill from Kooragang Island Orica Plant. They all touched on the chemicals that were spilt at the plant and the area in which the chemical covered. The carcinogenic chemical exposure was communicated to the residents of the area three days after the event took place (Johnson 2011, p. 1). According to all the articles, the chemical that glided on seventy homes in the area for half an hour was hexavalent chromium (Fairfax Media Publications 2011, p. 5). The other theme that was communicated by all the newspapers articles was on how the residents of the area were notified of the chemical leakage days after the event had occurred (Fairfax Media Publications, 2011).
- In your view, how successful were government authorities’ efforts to manage ‘risk communication’ about the event?
I think the efforts of the government authorities to manage the communication about the event were efficiently done. Though the communication of the events took long to be communicated to the resident’s, the government authorities cannot be blamed for the delay. The management at the plant reported the matter to the government authorities before the stipulated time, which is seventy two hours after the event has occurred. Though the management complied with this order, they still reported the issue the next day, on Tuesday at 10.30 am (Orica chemical plant spill) and NSW Health was notified on Wednesday 11.30 am, almost twenty four hours after the occurrence had taken place. If the government officials were notified of the chemical spill immediately, the public would have been notified immediately and better safety mechanisms would have been put in place in time.
- How did the accident ‘narrative’ change over time, in the news stories?
As the story progressed throughout the articles, the coverage changed in terms of the scope and the date they relied. One of the articles swerved to cover how the residents of the area were disturbed concerning the spilt chemicals. They were more disturbed concerning the fact that it took the management at the plant long to report the matter to the government and health authorities, which in turn made the government take long to report the matter to the residents (Orica chemical plant spill). The news article from Fairfax Media Publications (2011) went ahead to describe to give instructions to the residents on the ways through which they could avoid being contaminated with the chemicals. According to the articles, the authorities were conducting more tests to see whether anyone in the area was affected due to the chemicals. They also claimed that the risk was still at zero at the moment. According to Newcastle Herald article (2011, p. 1), we get that the public was irate by the fact that the management of the company never called emergency services on the night the chemical spilt. We can gather from this article that quite a number of members of the public, more than 200 people, gathered at a public meeting to question the legibility of the management at the plant. From the other article, we can gather that a public hearing was set where the public was allowed to question the management of the plant, through their members of parliament, on why it took them long to report the spilt chemicals to the relevant authorities and the public. The article also states that the members of the opposition wanted to question why the Member of Parliament for that area was informed of the leak before the residents of that area were informed.
- What do you think might be the long-term impacts of this spill, both in terms of residents’ health and broader societal relationships between residents, industry and government agencies?
If the chemical spill took time before the management could shut it down, the long-term effects could be critical. Some health complications could happen in the long run and some of the residents who were exposed to the chemical spill might be affected. The spill might not have occurred for a long period of time but the chemical is dangerous, especially for little children. The immunity system of the children is very weak and not well developed and thus, they might develop complications later on in their lives. This of course does not mean that adults are safe. If the chemical reacts with some of their body organs such as the lungs or kidney, the complications might develop in time leading to diseases such as cancer. Another impact that might occur is that residents of the area might lose the close relations they have with each other as some may result to migrating to other areas to avoid facing such a situation in the coming years.
Accidents cannot be prevented and since the incident occurred during a maintenance program. Many more maintenance activities will occur as machines and equipment wear and tear in time. It means that the chances of such an event occurring again are very high, to say the least. I can also guess that the relationship between the management of the industry and the government agencies might be strained in the long run. Since the government is facing so much pressure from the public concerning the issue, they might end up coming up with more strict rules and responsibilities for the industry. It will ensure that such an occurrence will not happen again, or at least, the chances of it ever happening again are reduced to almost zero. The industry might also be forced to cater for the health insurance of the resident members who might develop complications later on in life due to the exposure. Such an event will develop complication for the industry especially in term of finances. A large insurance cover might need to be taken so as to cater for such bills. The management might also be affected in the plant as the concerned stakeholders might call for a change in the management of the firm.
Question 2: Communicable diseases
Global burden of TB
In the late 1980’s mortality and morbidity rates of TB picked up again after they had been contained. There are higher rates of TB infections in urban areas than in the rural areas, among males than in females and among HIV infected persons (Heymann 2008, 523). It has also been pointed out that the rates of TB infections are high among the poor people than the rich people. In the U.S, the rate of TB infections has decreased over the years, but high infections are still experienced in some areas, such as the border with Mexico. The problem in this area that has contributed to the high rates of TB among the people living there is the fact that the music is consumed while raw and the disease in cattle has not been controlled yet (Heymann 2008, p. 524).
The preventive measures taken towards the prevention of measles and TB are different. The preventive measures of TB include promptly identifying and diagnosing and treating potentially infectious patients with the TB infection. The other measure is ensuring the availability of medical, laboratory and x-ray facilities for prompt examination of patients and ensuring that the public is educated concerning the mode of spreading and methods of control they can use. Apart from these, other preventive measures include reduction or elimination of social conditions that lead to the increase of spreading the infection, development of prevention and control programs and usage of preventive treatment with isoniazid. Isoniazid has been proven to be effective in preventing the progression of latent TB infection (Heymann 2008, p. 525). The preventive measures of measles include educating the public through public and private physicians to encourage immunization for all susceptible children, infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Immunization should also be carried out throughout the country to ensure children and other people that have a chance of getting measles are protected from contracting it.
Question 3: Non-‐communicable Diseases
- Australia’s national program to address chronic diseases
The program was developed by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council so as to help them have some specific approaches to preventing and caring for chronic diseases in Australia (Australian Health Ministries). The program has two elements: the strategy and the frameworks. The strategy element of the program is a nationally agreed agenda that encourages coordination of actions in responding to the growing impacts of chronic disease in Australia. The frameworks element of the program outlines the opportunities available for improving prevention and care in relation to chronic diseases. The framework however, does not touch on individual services in the Health system of the country. The chronic diseases covered in the framework are asthma, cancer, diabetes, stroke and vascular disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Burden of cancer in Australia
The burden of any disease provides insights into the health status of Australians due to the premature mortality, non-fatal and disability events (Department of Health). In Australia, cancer is the relatively the stable contributor to the total burden of diseases in Australia. In the past, cardiovascular disease was the greatest burden in Australia but cancer soon became the greatest burden due to the many cancer cases in Australia.
Importance of developing prevention strategies for cancer
As much as cancer is a complex disease with many different tumor sites that are possible, the disease is also one of the most potentially preventable and treatable diseases (Department of Health). The importance of the program towards cancer in Australia is that it will be possible to prevent around one-third of the cancers diseases. Reason for this is because a program on health measures that the Australians can be offered, some of the cancer diseases can be prevented as the three major risks factors are smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity. Through encouragements and offering the public with information such as the living styles they should adopt, the chances of Australians contracting cancer diseases will be lowered.
Question 4: Healthcare Systems
The health system in Australia is comprised of two systems; the public and private health systems. The advantage of the public health system in Australia is that Australians have access to Medicare. Medicare health system provides access to subsidized or free medical, optometrical and public hospital care to eligible Australians. The disadvantage of the Medicare is that it does not offer some services such as physiotherapy, spectacles, podiatry, ambulance costs or private hospital accommodation. The other disadvantage of the program is that it does not cover for the dental costs for the eligible Australians. However, Australians who are low-income earners can have their dental costs taken care of. The other health care system that is available to Australians is the private health care. The advantage of private health care is that the person in question has a choice of their own doctor. The persons eligible for private health care also have shorter time while waiting for elective surgery. Apart from the two above advantages, patients can also be treated in a private and finally, some luxuries such as access to a phone and television set are granted. The problem with private health care is that it can be a bit costly especially for the low income earners in the country. It is therefore advisable for Australians to have both care systems: private and public health care system.
Most of the government allocations on the health care system in Australia are allocated to the public health care system. With $132.4 billion allocation on recurrent healthcare expenditure from 2011-2012, 40.4% of the amount was allocated to hospitals, 38.2% on primary health care and the rest was spent on other areas of health spending. Though most of it was on public care system and not the private health care system, it still shows that the government cares for the citizens. Not everyone in Australia can afford to pay for private health care system. Therefore, spending most of the budgeted money in upgrading the public health care system ensures that the low income earners are given better medical care at the public hospital. Through such allocations, the public health care system is made affordable and of better quality to Australians.
Heymann, DL 2008, Control of Communicable Disease manual. American Health Association.
Orica chemical plant spill newspaper articles 11 august- October 2011.
The Department of Health, Retrieved from <http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cancer>