Obesity, alcohol, and cigarettes identified as big problems in the Hunter Region

RAYMONDTerrace and Sconearethe fattest suburbs in the state, with 70.8 per cent of adults recorded as overweight or obese, new data shows.

TheAustralia’s Health Trackers reportshows people in theHunter Region generallyeattoo much, drinktoo much, and smoketoo much, but where they live influences how much.

The report,developed at Victoria University with the public health information and development unit at Torrens University, wasreleased by theAustralian Health Policy Collaboration last week.

The Health Trackers map showedMount Hutton and Windale had 69.2 per cent of itspopulation recorded as overweight or obese, with Lemon Tree Passage and Tanilba Bay close behind at 68.7 per cent.

Newcastle suburbs such as The Junction and Merewether reported the lowest levels of obesity in the region at 57.4 per cent, against thenational average of63.4 per cent.

Hunter GP Dr Damian Welbourne was not surprised Raymond Terrace was named one of the most overweight and obese suburbs in NSW.

“Many people in our community experience socioeconomic disadvantage, and with that, often comes a fear of going to the doctor due to the associated cost and possible further action required,” Dr Welbourne said.

“Health literacy is also inadequate in our area, so people have difficulties knowing where to turn for support. They tend to wait until there are quite a few problems before realising things are serious,and problems like obesity are not a quick fix.”

Dr Welbourne said the“long-standing freeze”of the Medicare rebate exacerbatedthe problem, as it added to thegrowing out-of-pocket expenses for the patient.

But there were initiatives, such as bulk-billed health assessments for 45-49 year olds, available that could help GPs guidepatients.

“They may not realise the importance of taking the time to check on their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes risk, skin cancer risk or other factors,” Dr Welbourne said.

“During this health check, they may gain some valuable tips on how to lose weight, quit smoking, or increase their physical activity – all with no out-of-pocket expense.”

In the greater Hunter area, the Muswellbrook region recorded the highest number of people drinking alcohol at “risky” levels at 27.5 per cent, followed by Hamilton and Broadmeadow at 25.7 per cent andBranxton, Greta and Pokolbin at 25.3 per cent.

The national average was 18.2 per cent.

Kurri Kurri and Abermain had the highest number of smokers at 25.1 per cent in the region, followed by Mount Hutton and Windale at 24.9 per cent, and Cessnock at 24.5 per cent. This wasagainst the national average of 12.8 per cent.

Tamworth recorded the highest number of smokers in NSW, with 29.6 per cent.

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