Lifestyle choices alarming

By Cher Jimenez

Latrobe Valley residents are making poor choices about their health with lifestyle-related deaths in the area reaching an “alarming” state compared to Victorian data.

The 2018 Latrobe Snapshot data by the Gippsland Primary Health Network revealed that people in the Latrobe Valley were experiencing “avoidable deaths” due to heart and lung-related diseases and diabetes.

A total of 11 avoidable deaths due to diabetes per 100,000 people were recorded in the Latrobe Valley compared to Victoria’s five.

Meanwhile, 55 people have died in the area due to cardiovascular diseases per 100,000 people, while the state average is 34.

The Latrobe Valley also has a high mortality due to lung-related issues with 14 deaths compared to the Victorian rate of eight.

Experts believed that the area’s low socio-economic status was driving many people to make unhealthy choices that put them at risk of lifestyle-related diseases.

For every 100 people in the Latrobe Valley, 26 are experiencing very high disadvantage while the state average is eight.

Smoking, alcohol and drug use, a high consumption of sugary drinks and lack of exercise were some of the risk factors which put people in the region at risk of lifestyle-related diseases.

Gippsland PHN said there was a strong link between disadvantage and health issues with factors such as income, employment, education levels, housing and family violence to name some.

Latrobe Community Health Service executive director for aged and community care Alison Skeldon agreed.

“Overall Latrobe Valley has poor health status and we know that poor health status is linked to poor economic and social status,” Ms Skeldon told The Express.

She said significant events such as a job loss or family violence could be factors for people to make unhealthy choices like smoking and drinking that put them at risk of diseases.

“While the statistics look alarming, there are choices people can make … putting away smoking is a major way,” she said.

Smoking, a major risk factor for lung diseases, is a huge issue in the Latrobe Valley with 24 people out of 100 consuming tobacco at almost double the Victorian rate of 13 per 100 people.

The Gippsland PHN is holding a workshop on October 29 at the Morwell Bowling Club to develop a concept to support smokers in the Valley to quit.

Meanwhile, the risk of diabetes within the community is high with 16 adults consuming soft drinks on a daily basis while the state figure is 11.

The World Health Organization estimates that a regular 330 millilitre soda contains almost nine teaspoons of sugar which is equivalent to 75 per cent of a person’s daily sugar allowance.

Ms Skeldon said people should understand the long-term impacts of making unhealthy choices and that there were supports available for them to reduce risk factors.

“If people recognise that some of the behaviours and choices that they’re making are not working then they can reach out for that support,” she said.