DIABETES, arthritis, heart and lung disease, asthma and depression will become the Wimmera’s biggest health threats by 2020, a report has predicted.
A Grampians Medicare Local Community Needs Analysis has also warned the region faces an increase in osteoporosis, anxiety, ischaemic heart disease and coronary artery disease.
The report predicts a 21 per cent increase in the number of Wimmera people suffering lung cancer between 2015 and 2020.
It expects dementia will hit 916 more Wimmera residents, while the prevalence of melanoma and prostate, breast and bowel cancer will also increase.
The report’s release on Thursday comes after the Mail-Times reported on Wednesday that Wimmera residents were among the most unhealthy in Victoria.
More than 200 Wimmera people struggle to access health services each week.
Grampians Medicare Local chief executive Andrew McPherson said telemedicine – video calls between a patient and specialist – would help improve the region’s health.
He said Wimmera residents made more than 80 telemedicine calls between April and July this year.
“We have been continually surprised by how telemedicine services are viewed by the patient,” he said.
“We always assumed that it could be confronting and seen as second-rate health care but people actually appreciate the fact that they don’t have to waste a day or sometimes two days travelling from the Wimmera to Melbourne to see a specialist.
“If people are required to see a specialist, they should ask their general practitioner whether it can be done using telemedicine.”
The Community Needs Analysis also found the Wimmera lacked qualified and experienced doctors to run enough after-hours services.
Mr McPherson said the region needed more doctors and allied health professionals.
The analysis also showed a slight drop in the number of hospitalisations in the Wimmera between 2009-10 and 2011-12.