New data released from the Heart Foundation shows that deaths from heart disease are 60% higher in rural and remote areas of Australia, compared to metropolitan areas. Hospitalisations due to heart attack are double the metropolitan rates and hospitalisations due to heart failure are 90% higher.
The data, released in the form of an updated online interactive map, clearly illustrates that heart disease risk factors – specifically smoking and obesity – are more prevalent in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas of the country.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience heart disease rates that are 70% higher than in non-Indigenous Australians and experience double the rate of hospitalisations due to heart attack and heart failure.
The higher rates of heart disease in rural and remote communities are the result of many compounding issues. Rural areas have fewer health professionals, reduced health infrastructure and higher costs of health care delivery.
Compared to metropolitan areas, people in living in rural and remote locations tend to have lower incomes, and lower levels of education and employment.
Rural and remote populations also have difficulty accessing affordable healthy food. This food insecurity is closely linked to obesity – a major heart disease risk factor.
To address the health deficit experienced by people living in remote and rural areas, the National Rural Health Alliance has called for the urgent development of a bipartisan, cross-jurisdictional new National Rural Health Strategy which is supported by robust health access standards.