Source: The Australian, 27 July, 1994, p.3
By TOM DUSEVIC and FIONA CARRUTHERS THE Northern Territory, with its high Aboriginal population, has Australia's highest mortality rate, while the affluent Australian Capital Territory has the lowest, according to a study published yesterday. In the first study to marry trends in mortality with regional characteristics, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health have pinpointed the nation's death spots. Australians are at higher risk Of dying if they live in frontier or inner- city areas, are Aboriginal, poor or unemployed. The risk is lowest in affluent areas of stable employment close to medical care. Defying long-term trends,like falling mortality rates and an ageing population, a handful of localities are experiencing death rates up to eight times the national average in certain causes. The study shows the suicide rate in southern Tasmania runs at twice the national average. The danger zones for other causes of death are: heart disease (Macquarie- Barwon, NSW); cancer (Wodonga, Vic); stroke (Mackay, Qld); motor vehicle accidents (Wimmera, Vic, Barossa, SA); liver disease (Darwin, NT); diabetes (Melbourne's northern fringe). The report found that compared with the national average, 26.5 per cent of Australians live in a high-mortality area while 32 per cent live in a low- mortality area. Every Northern Territorian lives in a high-mortality area, compared with 91 per cent of Tasmanians and 42 per cent of the NSW population. There are no high-mortality areas in the ACT. Computing standardised mortality ratios-the ratio of the observed to expected deaths, multiplied by 100-the study then ranked 190 different localities according to 11 causes Of death. The Australian average in each category was 100. Areas with high Aboriginal populations showed the highest overall death rates: in the Northern Territory, East Arnhem (370), Bathurst-Melville (346), Alligator (334) recorded the highest ratios, followed by Western Australia's Ord, Fitzroy and Carnegie. The director of the Australian National University's NCEPH, Professor Robert Douglas, said the report shows Aboriginal health continues to be a growing concern in Australia's overall health pattern. "Aboriginal mortality floods a lot of (the report) ... in some places the Aboriginal mortality rate is 3.7 times higher than the national average. "The report highlights the importance of disease and deaths in Aboriginal communities that we appear to have under control in the Caucasian community. These include diabetes, chronic lung disease, car accidents, suicide, kidney and liver disease." The lowest rates were seen in areas of relatively high socio-economic advantage: the ACT, Hornsby- Kuringai in Sydney's north, Queensland's Beaudesert and Pine Rivers shires, Mackay and the Sunshine Coast, Onkaparinga in South Australia and Campion in Western Australia The Federal President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Brendan Nelson, said yesterday: "The health status of Aboriginal people needs to be the nation's number one priority in health. "With South Africa moving away from apartheid the world will be looking more to Australia as an area of main concern ... whatever health indicator you use, Aborigines have a health status equating to countries like Papua New Guinea and India."
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