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Country SA the fattest region in Australia: report

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People living in rural South Australia are the fattest in Australia, with three quarters either overweight or obese, a new report has found.

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The first Healthy Communities report, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on Thursday, shines the light on two of the biggest risk factors for disease – obesity and smoking – at a local level.

The data, based on Australia’s 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs), shows adults living in regional Australia are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese and smoke on a daily basis than their city counterparts.

In 2014-15, there was an estimated 11.2 million Australian adults who were overweight or obese.

More men than women were considered too heavy, with 70.8 per cent of males overweight or obese compared to 56.3 per cent of females.

The highest rate of overweight and obese adults was 73 per cent in country South Australia – almost three in four people – while Northern Sydney had the lowest rate at 53 per cent.

Just over 38 per cent of people in country SA were obese.

Adelaide was the fifth fattest metropolitan region, with 63 per cent of people either overweight or obese.

SA Health’s director of public health services Kevin Buckett said the report showed many South Australians were at risk of serious health consequences.

“Carrying extra weight can lead to cardiovascular disease such as heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis and some cancers,” he said.

“The negative health consequences of being overweight or obese are a major health concern in Australia and continue to place a burden on the health care system.”

He said the good news was that the health issues were preventable.

“Collaboration between communities, governments, education and health services are critical to successfully curb the growing rate of chronic diseases through early risk assessment, early intervention, early diagnosis and quality case management.”

All four PHN areas to have rates over 70 per cent or more were in regional Australia. They are: country SA (73.3 per cent); western NSW (71.1 per cent); Darling Downs & western Moreton (70.1 per cent) and western Victoria (70.1 per cent).

As for the metro areas, the Nepean Blue Mountains, which takes in the western Sydney region of Penrith, had the highest rate (66.9 per cent) of overweight and obese adults.

When looking at just obesity – a body mass index of 30 and above – a wider variation was seen in adults across PHN areas.

“Again, the highest rates were recorded in regional areas,” said AIHW spokesman Michael Frost.

While smoking rates have continued to fall across Australia, they remain relatively high in some regional areas.

Northern Sydney had the lowest rate of daily smoking at around 5.4 per cent, while western NSW had the highest rate of 23 per cent.

On average, 18 per cent of adults smoke daily in regional PHN areas, compared to 12.7 per cent in metropolitan Australia.

Frost says the reports are intended to assist local communities in defining their priorities for improvements in health care and to better target and drive health system improvements specific to their local community’s needs.

– with AAP

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