News in brief: Lung Foundation closed by flooding; Thunderstorm event led to 7-fold spike in asthma consults; Male researchers in denial about gender-biased peer review

Lung Foundation closed by flooding

The Lung Foundation of Australia’s head office in Brisbane has been shut down this week due to the severe flooding from torrential rains affecting the city and many parts of Queensland.

The LFA said its office would be closed from Monday 28 February until further notice after the suburb of Milton was swamped by waters from the rising Brisbane river.

“Our staff will be working from home and our phone lines may be affected. Please direct all enquiries via email to [email protected] during this time,” it said.

The extreme weather conditions led to the disruption of health services across South East Queensland. The Brisbane Metro South Health service said some non-urgent elective surgeries and procedures were being cancelled.

Thunderstorm asthma led to spike in GP consultations

The Thunderstorm Asthma event that hit Melbourne in November 2016 was followed by a seven-fold increase in asthma presentations to GPs over the following few days, a study shows.

Data from the MedicineInsight program, which covers about10% of  general practices in Melbourne, showed that on 22 November there were 538 asthma-related presentations to GP practices compared to an expected number of 42 based on five year daily averages.

Extrapolating the figures to the city as a whole suggested there were almost 14,000 more asthma consultations with GPs in Melbourne after the thunderstorm event.

The role of GPs in seeing the extra asthma-related cases was likely to have protected the already overburdened emergency departments from further starin, the study authors said.

The findings are reported in the Australian Journal of General Practice.

Male researchers in denial about gender-biased peer review

Gender disparities will continue in medical and scientific research funding so long as male medical researchers remain in denial about systemic bias in areas such as peer review, an immunologist says.

Dr Jessica Borger says there is clear evidence that of gender bias against women in funding application processes such as the NHMRC,  and the problem increases with seniority.

Writing in Women’s Agenda she notes that funding rates for women in the the recent 2021 Investigator Grants outcomes were 2–4% lower than those for men, enough to results in noticeable disparities in funding rates.

The bias is inherent in peer review system and needs to be tackled with gender quotas, she says.

“With more men than women receiving funding in the top bracket, women on average received $500,000 less per grant than the men despite being at the same level of seniority. Ultimately, this means of the few successful senior women retained to do competitive research, are doing so with significantly reduced funds compared to their male counterparts, limiting their future research pathway and forcing women researchers to leave science at early stages of their career,” Dr Borger said.

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