If you live in Wellington you are more than twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the general population of Australia, an alarming new report reveals.
According to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) report, Wellington was second in NSW after the Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Lightning Ridge area when it comes to likelihood to die from heart, stroke and vascular disease.
Relative to all of Australia, Wellington residents are 2.44 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Lightning Ridge residents are 2.96 times more likely.
Areas where heart disease related deaths are most likely
Also in the top five areas at risk of heart disease is Cobar, Coonamble, Nyngan and Warren where residents are 1.97 times more likely to pass away from the condition.
The report also revealed the top pick-up and drop-off locations for heart-related RFDS aeromedical retrievals, with Dubbo Hospital among capital city hospitals.
In NSW, the Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney and Dubbo Hospital were the top RFDS drop-off locations for ischaemic heart disease patients.
Dubbo Hospital was also the top location in NSW for cerebrovascular disease patient drop-offs.
The new report follows a baseline report released by the RFDS in February which showed cardiovascular conditions accounted for almost a quarter of all RFDS aeromedical retrievals.
RFDS federation executive director, Frank Quinlan, said the new 'Best for the Bush In-Focus' report proves access to adequate primary health care is "poor" in many parts of rural and remote Australia.
"That report six months ago painted a pretty grim picture about basic access to primary health care services," he told the Daily Liberal.
"The findings of the latest report were also pretty stark in terms of the rates of hospitalisation and death, particularly around stroke.
If 100 people have a stroke in a metropolitan centre, 77 of them get access to timely specialist care. But that number falls to three per cent in rural and remote parts of Australia."
Better primary care needed in the bush
The most common heart disease risk factors impacting rural and remote Australians include smoking, obesity, poor diet, alcohol and drug misuse, insufficient physical activity and high blood pressure.
Mr Quinlan said all of these issues could be addressed through better access to primary health services.
"The biggest opportunity that we have is around ensuring appropriate access to primary health care services, however that's delivered - it could be by an RFDS clinic, it could be by a local GP or an Aboriginal health service," Mr Quinlan said.
"If we could be tackling smoking and drinking, making sure people exercise - all of those things that GPs in metropolitan centres remind us of - we'd be avoiding a lot of this illness.
We also need to ensure people have good access to rehabilitation and follow up services after issues have occurred."
Indigenous heart patients were also 10 years younger on average compared to non-Indigenous ones.
"The persistent nature of the gaps in Indigenous health is a concern for all Australians," Mr Quinlan said.
"We also know that there are some indirect determinants - ensuring that there's appropriate access to affordable housing, ensuring that people have good employment opportunities and educational opportunities.
I'd make a pretty educated guess that there'd be a lot of those factors at play."
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