WIMMERA residents are among the most unhealthy in the state as the ageing population struggles to access health care.
A Grampians Medicare Local Community Needs Analysis has found 210 Wimmera residents have problems accessing health services each week.
It also found higher rates of mental health and behavioural issues in men, high cholesterol, asthma and respiratory diseases compared with state averages.
Almost half of Wimmera adults have at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor.
Grampians Medicare Local chief executive Andrew McPherson said the Community Needs Analysis, to be released in full tomorrow, would identify the region’s health care gaps.
“We should not assume that this report is going to be new news to people who work in the health care sector, but this is the first time we have done it so extensively across the region,” he said.
“We are now able to drill down closer to see where some of the real issues and gaps might be.
“While it is true that the Wimmera has quite a high percentage of older people already, that percentage is only going to increase and as people get older they tend to develop more chronic diseases.
“We have to be good at addressing some of these health care issues to make sure they have access to the care they need.”
Mr McPherson said Wimmera and metropolitan residents should have equal access to health care.
“Rural areas tend to have poorer access to health professionals compared with large regional centres and metropolitan areas,” he said.
“Access issues are fundamentally wrong because whether you choose to live or have to live in a rural area, that should not mean you have poorer access to health care.
“In the Wimmera, people have problems accessing specialists and often have to travel to Ballarat or Melbourne.”
The Community Needs Analysis found seven people were admitted to hospital for diabetes, three for dental conditions and up to three for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease each week.
It also found 93 Wimmera residents delayed seeking medical attention, while 71 people delayed buying prescribed medication each week.
“The Wimmera and most rural areas tend to have lower socio-economic statuses and tend to have a poor understanding of health issues,” Mr McPherson said.
“People might delay buying medication because they could be simply unable to afford the gap payment, while delays in seeking medical attention are often to do with having to take a day off work to get to a specialist.”
The Wimmera has almost perfect children immunisation rates, except in Yarriambiack South where 86.7 per cent of children between 12 and 15 months are fully immunised.
“We have very high child immunisation rates so parents of the Wimmera are recognising the importance of immunising their children,” Mr McPherson said
“If a child is not immunised they are in danger of contracting diseases that we have almost eradicated, including polio, smallpox, measles and whooping cough.”