ARARAT is no longer the fattest city in the state but the Grampians has the unenviable title of Australia’s smoking capital.
Two National Health Performance Authority reports were released yesterday.
The first compared smoking rates across the nation and found the Grampians region has an adult daily smoking rate of 28 per cent, well above the national rate of 16 per cent.
In the second report, the National Health Performance Authority compared obesity rates.
It showed 34 per cent of people in the Grampians region were obese and 31 per cent were overweight.
The highest obesity rate was in the Loddon-Mallee-Murray region, where 41 per cent of people were obese.
The national average is 28 per cent.
Ararat had previously been declared Victoria’s fattest town in 2011.
The Grampians area takes in Ararat, Stawell, Horsham, Nhill, Edenhope, Warracknabeal and Dimboola.
Rural Northwest Health acting chief executive Carolyn Barrie agreed smoking and obesity were big issues for the region.
She said a lower socio-economic status could contribute to the high statistics.
“It has to be looked at in the context of a whole range of issues,” she said.
“There’s a lower socio-economic group and large numbers of type two diabetes.”
Ms Barrie said there was no easy answer to either issue.
“It’s about people’s health and well-being overall and their feeling of well-being, the happiness in their lives and confidence in themselves,” she said.
Ms Barrie said while she did not believe there was a direct link between obesity and smoking, the two issues went hand in hand.
“The causes – the reasons why people smoke and the reasons why people over-eat – are the same or very similar,” she said.
Ms Barrie said people had to take responsibility largely for their own health.
But she said there was not enough being done to educate smokers and obese people. “I don’t think it’s sufficient but I think a lot of things are being done,” she said.
“We need to get people to understand about eating and fitness levels, to look after themselves and encourage people to be connected.”
Grampians Medicare Local chief executive Andrew McPherson said he was not surprised by the reports.
He said the associated risk behaviours with obesity were quite high.
“Risk behaviours include a lack of physical exercise and obviously what people eat,” he said.
“Obesity can cause many things such as cardiac disease, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.
“There are also risks for some cancers and diabetes.”
Mr McPherson said the figures suggested that obesity and smoking health messages were not getting through.
He agreed that economic disadvantage could affect the Grampians region.
“It’s important to recognise that areas such as the Grampians have pockets of economic disadvantage, but our rates are quite high compared with similar areas, which is concerning,” he said.
“It’s clear we need to do a lot more as communities to work together on these issues.”