” Australia’s Health Tracker by Socio-Economic Status, a new report from the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University, shows close links between socio-economic disadvantage and poor health as the gap widens between the have and have not’s.
Ten million Australians in low socio-economic brackets are at high risk of dying early from chronic disease, an alarming snapshot of the nation’s health shows
Australians sitting in the lowest SES bracket are:
- Four times more likely to die from diabetes
- Three times more likely to die from a respiratory disease
- Two and a half times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease
- Seventy per cent more likely to suicide and
- Sixty per cent more likely to die from cancer.
People in lower SES brackets have higher risks of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression.
AHPC Director Rosemary Calder said the health divide in relation to chronic disease and risk factors is stark.
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Chronic disease claimed the lives of 49,227 people before the age of 75 in lower socio-economic groups in the past four years – more than the capacity of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“This is the story here, we are seeing working families struggle due to skyrocketing costs of housing, utilities and food and this is having a significant effect on their health outcomes,” she said.
Those often referred to as the working poor are at much greater risk of poor health, more likely to be obese, less likely to do exercise and much more likely to smoke, Professor Calder said.
“Australia’s Health Tracker by Socio-Economic Status is not just about the health of communities who are most disadvantaged it alarmingly shows that the health of 40 per cent of Australians with low incomes – the working poor – is in jeopardy.”
“Being socially and economically disadvantaged is not only bad for your health it’s also much more likely to kill you,” Professor Calder said. “Our report shows not everyone has a fair go at living a long, healthy and prosperous life.”
But it’s not just the disadvantaged at risk. Australia’s Health Tracker data also shows alcohol is being consumed at risky levels in higher socio-economic groups. High cholesterol is another risk factor that affects the advantaged while rates of high blood pressure is evenly spread across all socio-economic groups.
Part 2 Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA)
This week Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) co-hosted the launch of Australia’s Health Tracker by Socio-Economic Status (SES), a new report by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University.
The report highlights the growing health disparities in Australia which correlate closely with socio-economic status. Those in the lowest SES bracket experience significantly poorer health compared to those in the middle and highest brackets.
Michael Moore, CEO of the PHAA said, “One of the key principles underpinning the work of the PHAA is the social determinants of health.
The Health Tracker is a clear illustration of these determinants at work. Those who experience social and economic disadvantage also experience a much higher risk of non-communicable disease such as diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer. They are also much more likely to experience serious mental health issues.”
“These health conditions are often long-term and eventually result in an earlier death. This research illustrates that disadvantaged Australians are indeed more likely to die from one of these diseases. The report paints a stark picture of how one’s place on the social and economic ladder has a direct impact on life expectancy,” Mr Moore said.
The report shows that 40% of Australians on low incomes are currently experiencing decreased health.
Such poor health outcomes can be attributed to multiple factors including lack of access to healthcare, poor nutrition, high rates of obesity, and high smoking rates. The rising cost of living from the increasing prices of housing, utilities and food is also manifesting in poorer health outcomes in the population.
Mr Moore said, “Every year chronic disease is claiming the lives of thousands of Australians under 75 in lower socio-economic groups at an alarming rate. However, this is not adequately accounted for in our national health policy and programs. Instead of prioritising our most vulnerable, we are applying one-size-fits-all health policies.”
“Ultimately, the focus ought to be significantly increased funding in preventive health, as this is the simplest, most effective and economically sound solution. Currently, Australia invests a pathetic 1.5% of its health budget on preventive health measures and programs.
It really needs to be 5% of health spending as a bare minimum, and we are unlikely to see a meaningful reduction of chronic disease without this investment,” Mr Moore added.
“At present, one in two Australians have a chronic disease, and many have more than one condition. The good news is that almost a third of this could be entirely prevented with greater investment in public health initiatives designed to reduce obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption as well as increasing physical activity,” Mr Moore concluded.
Part 3 Are we dooming our children to a darker health future?
Latest figures on the diet and lifestyle of Australia’s children signal a troubling future for their health unless governments implement an effective national response , the Consumers Health Forum says.
“The Australia’s Health Tracker statistics released today should disturb us all as they indicate that many children now have higher risk factors for poor health than their parents,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said. “In many instances the risk factors are even worse for Indigenous children.
“The danger signals for our children are showing that in crucial aspects children are already following less healthy lifestyles and diets than their parents, in areas like physical activity and consumption of junk food and too much sugar.
“For instance, 70.8 per cent of children aged 5 – 11 years are not meeting physical activity recommendations and that compares with 44.5 per cent of adults. A brighter feature in the otherwise bleak picture for Indigenous children is that fewer, 40.5 per cent, do not meet the physical activity target. But when it comes to children who are overweight or obese, 32.8 per cent of Indigenous children are in this category compared to 25.6 per cent for children overall in this age group.
“More than 70 per cent of children aged 9 – 13 years consume too much sugar compared to 47.8 per cent of adults.
“Is Australian society dooming its children too shorter, less healthy lives by failing to take the steps now that we need to take to encourage more physical activity and discourage unhealthy food and drink consumption?
“The picture portrayed in the Health Tracker data compiled by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration highlights the need for a systemic national approach to focus on common risk factors, tackling health inequities and disparities.
“Both medical leader, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, and financial guru Alan Kohler, told the National Press Club launch of the new report today that stronger preventive health measures would save our society billions in reducing illness and early death and avoidable hospital costs. As Mr Kohler said, “sugar in my view needs to be more expensive” to reflect its cost to health care.
“Currently Australia dedicates only 1.5 per cent of its health expenditure to prevention which could help reduce the widespread incidence of chronic disease that afflicts one in every two Australians. What is needed now would not bankrupt the budget. But it would represent a healthy investment in Australia’s future,” Ms Wells said.
“We need to rethink prevention and take a longer-term view about where we should be investing in health.”