Building healthier communities: The impacts of determinants of health on regional and rural Australia.
Non-communicable disease (NCDs) is the largest cause of morbidity and mortality in Australia with five million years of healthy life lost in 2018. Heart disease, stroke, cancers, dementia, respiratory disease and diabetes account for the majority of all NCDs deaths in Australia. Whilst these diseases are preventable, these need to be addressed with population-based interventions within a determinants of health approach. Health behaviours such as smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol use and an unhealthy diet can be modified by health promotion strategies. However, structural, environmental, cultural, political and social determinants all influence health behaviours and determine health outcomes.
Poverty and socio-economic disadvantage are closely correlated with NCD risk. This disadvantage is furthered by the financial drain of NCDs on households including increased healthcare service treatment costs, increased medication costs and the impact of a reduction or loss of work and income. People in rural/regional/remote communities, those in poverty and experiencing socio-economic disadvantage and those with a disability are more likely to develop NCD’s. Within a determinants of health lens, non-communicable disease risk can be reduced through education, employment, health literacy, social cohesion and connection, housing and food security. Furthermore, the environmental determinants of health, exacerbated by the increasing impact of climate change is linked to a significantly higher NCDs risk from respiratory distress from smog and smoke, heat stress, water insecurity and food insecurity.
So what is the way forward? Empowering community development and lifting all Australian’s out of poverty will do more to reduce disease risk in Australia than nearly any other intervention. That is why ACAL is committed to health promotion within a determinants of health approach. Let’s build regional leadership capacity to enhance the social, political and economic growth of a community. Let’s build stronger connections between our community, government and business to further training and education opportunities. Let’s prioritise innovative, community based environmental sustainability projects. Let’s strengthen the built infrastructure of a region. Let us … build healthy communities.