Port Augusta tips the scales on obesity rates in SA

The rates of obesity in the state are the highest theyve ever been, with 69.7 per cent of adults in South Australia classified as obese.
The rates of obesity in the state are the highest theyve ever been, with 69.7 per cent of adults in South Australia classified as obese.

Port Augusta and Quorn rank amongst the highest rates of adult obesity in the state.

According to new research from the Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) at Torrens University, 44.8 per cent of adults are considered obese while the rate of diabetes also sits alarmingly high at 9.2 per cent.

The study showed a glaring gap in health outcomes between advantaged and disadvantaged regions, highlighting the differences between those living in urban centres and regional and remote parts of the country.

The rate of obesity increases on average from 25 per cent in the least disadvantaged areas to 41.7 per cent in the most disadvantaged areas.

Local General Practitioner Andrew Killcross said obesity and dietary risk factors make up two of the top three preventable causes of disease in Australia.

"Overweight and Obesity are important and preventable causes of a number of diseases which can cause long term disability and premature death such as heart disease, some cancers, osteoarthritis, liver disease, sleep apnoea, diabetes and high blood pressure," he said.

"There are also a number of factors which contribute to overweight and obesity in rural and remote and socially disadvantaged communities.

"These include comparatively lower household income, differences in education, increasing costs involved in transporting healthy foods to remote places and reduced access to varied sporting and community clubs and facilities."

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up close to 20 per cent of the Port Augusta population.

Dr Killcross remarked on the additional factors Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations face, including continuing social disadvantage, stress, displacement, trauma and grief, as well as some of the poorest access to services of all Australians.

Disturbing health outcomes for poorer Australians

Data produced by the study also grouped populations by socioeconomic status, indicating the poor can expect to die younger - around 27 years earlier than their more affluent peers.

Director of PHIDU at Torrens University Professor John Glover said these findings should enact change by health policymakers, agencies and providers to address the health inequalities.

"These public health figures disturbingly reveal, yet again, the poorer health outcomes for people in our community who are most disadvantaged," he said.

"Although the rates of chronic disease and health risks are estimates, they are based on the best available data and indicate the magnitude of the differences in health status that exist in Australia."

Dr Killcross said there are a number of measures people can take to improve health outcomes in these areas.

"One of the key messages that we as GPs try to provide is that, instead of focusing purely on 'weight loss', it's preferable to focus on adopting a healthy lifestyle approach," he said.

"We all know that, when considering our weights, Australians are exposed to a huge diversity of messages from media and marketing outlets, much of which lack appropriate evidence base.

"We also know that many people invest large amounts of time and effort adopting a broad range of strategies to try and lose weight.

"For those wishing support and advice, some suggestions would include a visit to your local GP for a comprehensive health assessment and chat about support options available in your community, making a look at some of the excellent on-line resources, participating in a community event such as the Port Augusta Park Run or an activity run by your local sports club."