More than half of Glen Innes is overweight or obese.
New statistics released by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration have found over 73 per cent of adults are overweight, while 40.5 per cent of them obese.
The figures exceed the national overweight (63.5 per cent) and obesity (27.5 per cent) averages.
University of New England Head of School of Health, Professor Kim Usher told The Examiner the data should be a warning that we need to place more importance on prevention strategies in the bush.
“What’s disturbing about these statistics … is really a very small amount of the health budget is dedicated to prevention strategies,” she said.
“That means when you’re in a rural area like we are we’re less likely to get any of that money.”
Professor Usher said access to health services in Glen Innes and similar regional areas can be difficult for people living on low incomes.
“In rural areas we tend to have a lower socioeconomic group of people,” she said.
“People on lower incomes find it difficult to access health services because they’ve got to pay a gap – a lot of people can’t afford that and that’s a big problem.
“We know that chronic disease is a really big problem in this country and others – so it’s a global phenomenon.
“About one in two Australians have some sort of chronic disease but we know about one third of these could be prevented if we dealt with some of these risk factors.”
Professor Usher said a step in the right direction would be to call on our politicians to lobby the government for more availability of Medicare-only fees for people on low incomes.
“We also need more primary care and preventative health initiatives across the board,” she said.
“We need to have our politicians lobby the government about the lack of spending on prevention.”
She said finding prevention strategies for some of the risk factors causing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and in some cases, premature death mean managing high body mass, smoking and high blood pressure.
Another factor impacting the data was the concentration of Indigenous Australians in the New England and Hunter region.
“The other thing we’ve got in our area is a higher number of Indigenous Australians,” she said.
“We know that Indigenous Australians have a higher incidence of chronic disease than non-Indigenous Australians.”
She said Indigenous Australians have a rate of obesity around 41.7 per cent, compared 24.6 for non-Indigenous.
“We need to be addressing those issues in this region as well,” she said.