Higher rates of socio-economic disadvantage compounded by a lack of access to health services is creating a perfect storm for the seven million people living in rural and remote Australia.
A health tracker report released this week by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration highlights the disparity in health outcomes based on socio-economic status. The data shows that people in most disadvantaged communities are 60 per cent more likely to live with diabetes, 57 per cent more likely to be obese and two and a half times more likely to smoke than the most advantaged. These factors result in significantly higher rates of early death.
Mark Diamond, Interim CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance, explains that these findings become even more stark when viewed through the lens of remoteness:
"In Australia today, all socio-economically disadvantaged groups are present in greater proportion in rural and remote parts of the country. What we’re seeing is a compounding effect where high levels of socio-economic vulnerability combined with lack of access to services has created a perfect storm.”
This relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and geographic location is evidenced by the fact that, in many cases, health tracking data for inequality mirrors the results seen when tracking by remoteness, but with worse outcomes outside capital cities for any level of socioeconomic disadvantage.
Mr Diamond adds that socio-economic disadvantage and remoteness both have an impact on an individual’s access to services:
“The back-drop to these poorer health outcomes is that people living in rural and remote Australia generally have poorer access to medical and allied health services. For this reason, improving health outcomes for socio-economically disadvantaged groups necessarily means improved access to health services for people living in rural and remote areas.”
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