Report highlights health disparity

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A number ofhealth priority areasdisproportionately affecting regional, rural and remote communities have been highlighted in areport released by theGarvan Instituteof Medical Research.

Key findings of theMedical Research and Rural HealthReport 2015include:

–Thesuicide rateis 66 per centhigher in the country than in major cities with960,000 people living in regional, rural and remote areasexperiencinga mental disorder in the previous 12 months.

–The rate of suicide among malesaged between 15 and29 who live outside major cities is twice as high as the general population and farmers are twice as likely to die through suicide as the general employed public.

–People living in regional,rural and remote areas make up 30 per centof the population, butreceivefar less than 30 per cent oftotal health funding.

–Theyare more likely to be of low socioeconomic status thanmetropolitan residents with39 per cent of those living in remote areas classified as such,compared to 24 per cent in regional areas and 17 per cent in major cities.

Specific conditions identified as prioritiesoutside the major cities includeasthma, cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes, mental health,obesity,arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.

St Luke’s Anglicare regional director Carolyn Wallace said the report underlined the discrepancies between social outcomes in regional and metropolitan areas.

“It’s quite significantthatwhile 30 per centof thepopulationlivesin rural andremote settings far less than 30 per centof health and community services funding is spent in rural andremote settings,” she said.

“That’sreally an issue about timely and appropriate access to services for peoplebecausewe know the earlier the interventionwith any health outcomes the better long-term healthpeople will have.”

Ms Wallacesaid distance was also a major factor for people in areas outside Bendigo.

“There’s limited transport, there’s the cost of transport and there’s often accommodation costs associated with needing to access servicesin a bigger town or city,” she said.

“In a lot of specialist clinics they may only have monthly appointments even in Bendigo.

“Getting on a train is not a simple thing if you’ve gota disability, if you don’t have the train fare oryou don’t have someone to meet you at theother end.”

Thereport also revealed that people living in rural and regional areasgenerally havehigher levels of social cohesiveness, includinghigher rates ofvolunteer work and feelings of safety in their community.

ButMs Wallace said this often masked other issues.

“Rural and remote areas do havehigher levelsof socialcohesionwhich isgreat but health outcomes are poorer becauseof poorer outcomes in the social determinations of health which are income, employmentand education,” she said.

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