The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released new geographical data, showing where Australia’s most common chronic diseases are more prevalent.
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease are together responsible for the country’s highest ‘burden of disease’ – the years of healthy life lost to a disease. They account for 14%, 2.2% and 1.4% of the burden of disease, respectively.
While common, these diseases are not evenly distributed. For instance, 6.2% of Australian adults report having heart, stroke and vascular disease, but for Northern Territorians the rate is only 1.8%. Conversely, 7.4% of adults in the NT have type 2 diabetes, compared to 5.9% of the national adult population.
There are even larger discrepancies between smaller areas. By population health area, which divides Australia into geographical regions of between roughly 3000 and 25,000 people, diabetes prevalence ranges from 0.7% to 14.2%. Heart, stroke and vascular disease ranges from 1.8% to 11.9%, while chronic kidney disease ranges from 3.9% to 17.2%.
Hospitalisation and death rates from these diseases are similarly variable.
Age explains some of the variation: areas with older residents have, on average, higher rates of disease. But adjusting for age, there are still large discrepancies.
Areas with greater socioeconomic disadvantage have higher rates of disease when age is taken into account.
Regional and remote areas, and places with high proportions of Indigenous Australians, also had worse health profiles when adjusted for age.
The AIHW has released this data in a series of dashboards on their website, where you can examine your own state or suburb’s health profile.
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Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.
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