THE health problems which are being put under the spotlight in Ararat are indicative of what is happening in regional cities across the country, according to health professionals.
Regional Australia generally has a higher rate of people who are overweight and obese than their city counterparts, which can be put down to an ageing population and social disadvantage, according to Medicare Local Grampians acting chief executive Michelle MacGillivray.
“What we know is that the ageing population and the social disadvantage that is indicative particularly of our Medicare Local plays a significant role in our health outcomes and health behaviours,” she said.
“So in terms of social disadvantage, our region has higher rates of lower-income earners, welfare recipients, sole parents and unemployment.
“When there is social disadvantage usually there are higher rates of poor health outcomes and behaviour.”
Ms MacGillivray said high costs and a lack of transport were also related to rates of obesity.
One of trainers on The Biggest Loser Shannan Ponton told The Courier that 68 per cent of Ararat’s population were either overweight or obese, which he said was 10 per cent higher than the nation’s average.
However, Mr Ponton said the health problems associated with being overweight were experienced across regional Australia.
“That is what we are finding out now, that country towns and rural Australia is becoming increasing heavily represented with diseases that are causing people to die,” he said.
“Things like high blood pressure, heart disease, type two diabetes and stroke are being heavily represented in country areas. It is frightening.”
Mr Ponton said putting Ararat under the spotlight of the program could be intimidating, however he also said it was something the town had been aware of for some time.
“I think it was a tag that existed long before we went there,” he said.
“From the surrounding towns, they used to taunt Ararat with names like ‘Arafat’ or ‘Fatarat’, so the surrounding towns were all too aware of that statistic before we got there.”