Distance, disadvantage lead to WA heart health divide: new data

Heart Foundation

West Australians living in the outback regions of the Kimberley and Pilbara are among those who are twice as likely to be hospitalised for heart attack compared with their regional and city counterparts, highlighting the growing heart health divide in the nation’s largest state.

New Australian Heart Maps figures, released today by the Heart Foundation, paint a picture of an alarming rural, regional and city divide, with people living in WA’s outback experiencing greater rates of heart disease deaths, hospitalisations and risk factors compared with their city peers.

West Australians living in the northern outback including in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised for heart attack compared with their counterparts in the Wheatbelt, Bunbury and inner-city Perth regions.

Heart Disease deaths in outback WA, including Greater Geraldton, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Karratha, and Broome are 40% higher compared to the south west region of Perth.

Heart Foundation CEO WA, Sarah Fordham, said the figures show that distance and disadvantage are responsible for some of the biggest heart health gaps in the state

These maps help us understand the areas that are in the greatest need of healthcare services and investment, and we hope the WA Government will support us in addressing these figures and the causes that contribute to them,” Ms Fordham said.

“We need to look at ways to bridge these gaps in healthcare and address the lack of knowledge and awareness that can contribute to poor heart health.

“Too often we hear that people don’t realise anything is wrong until they end up in hospital with a heart attack. The fact is that heart disease is relevant to everyone – it’s our single biggest killer.”

Western Australia’s outback and regional areas also fare worse than city spots when it comes to some heart disease risk factors.

Smoking rates in the outback south region of WA are the second highest in the country and twice as high as in the inner-city suburbs of Perth, while Bunbury and the Wheatbelt have obesity rates that are close to 70% higher than those in metropolitan Perth.

While the greatest divides in heart health are seen between WA’s outback and metropolitan regions, there are some stark disparities in Perth’s city areas.

Deaths from heart disease in Perth’s north east areas including the cities of Swan, Bayswater, Kalamanda and Belmont, are 30% higher than those in the south west of Perth – including the cities of Rockingham, Cockburn, Fremantle and Melville.

The number of smokers in Perth’s north east is 60% higher and with obesity levels nearly 50% higher compared to those in the inner-city suburbs of Perth.

People are hospitalised for heart conditions in south east Perth including in the -shire of Gosnells and Canning at a rate that is 24% higher than those living in Perth’s inner suburbs.

There are many ways to prevent or interrupt the journey to heart disease if risk factors are picked up early and if people understand what to do to improve their heart health,” Ms Fordham said.

“We’re urging all West Australians to understand their risk of heart disease so they can take action to reduce it and the best way to do this is to have a Heart Health Check.

“If you’re 45 and over, or 30 and over if you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, talk to your GP about having a Heart Health Check covered by Medicare.”

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