Big killers in spotlight

HEART disease and cancer are our biggest killers, according to a new health check on the region.

Ballarat has been long singled out as the worst place in Victoria for heart attacks, and for having the nation’s worst rate of cardiovascular disease.

But it is central Maryborough with one of the state’s highest trends of cardiovascular deaths, like from heart attacks and stroke, with a rate 107.2 per 100,000 people, according to new online data mapped by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration between Victoria University and Torrens University.

Central Ballarat, including Wendouree, has a cardiovascular death rate of 69.7.

Cancers are the highest cause of death across the wider Ballarat region out of the big four health-related killers tabled in the AHPC health tracker: cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory system disease and suicide.

Ballarat has a cancer death rate of 135.7 deaths per 100,000, a clearly lower rate than for the central Geelong/Belmont area (154.9) and Warrnambool (154.1) but on par with Bendigo (133.1).

A closer break-down on Ballarat and the highest rates of cancer deaths are for people living in Ballarat South (including Sebastopol and Buninyong) and Daylesford.

Pyrenees towns outside Maryborough, like Avoca and Beaufort, have a particularly high combined cancer death rate of 172.8. The highest cancer death rate in the state is the Seymour region, in central Victoria, of 246.3.

Dr Andrew Knight, a general practitioner and conjoint senior lecturer at the University of NSW who reviewed the data, told Fairfax Media people living in rural and remote areas often had poorer health than their urban counterparts, partly because they lived further from health services.

Dr Knight said wealth also played a small role in people’s health. Aside from being associated with good health education, money gives people access to health programs, gyms, dietary advice and the best heart surgeon in town on the day they need an operation.

"The higher you are on the pecking order, the healthier you are…There is a clear gradient across the country," Dr Knight said.

The AHPC health tracker is an interactive website that provides Australian data on chronic diseases, conditions and risk factors in a bid to track progress towards a healthier Australia by 2025.

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 – with The Age