The ageing of the Australian population appears to be driving strong growth in the supply of podiatry services, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Podiatry Labour Force 1999 shows that the podiatry workforce has grown rapidly, with a 43% increase in numbers between 1991 and 1999.
There were 2,011 working podiatrists in Australia in 1999 (including 1,962 clinicians), up from 1,409 in 1991 and 1,653 in 1994.
In comparison the physiotherapy and optometry labour forces grew by about 25% and 24% respectively over the same period.
Australians aged 80 years and over were most likely to consult a podiatrist (3,771 per 100,000 population in 1999), followed by those aged 65-79 years (2,539 per 100,000), and most clients were female (69%).
Head of the AIHW's Labour Force and Rural Health Unit, Glenice Taylor, said that use of podiatry services is highly related to age.
'The demand for podiatrist services increases as people become older ', Ms Taylor said. 'For example, this could in part explain why South Australia, the State with the largest proportion of the population aged 65 years and over (14.4% compared with 12.2% nationally), had a relatively high rate of supply of podiatrists in 1999.
'Since foot conditions often develop with age, and are also associated with diabetes, the need for podiatrists is expected to increase as the population ages.'
Podiatry Labour Force 1999 also shows that:
The supply of podiatrists per 100,000 population grew in all States and Territories between 1991 and 1999.
Compared to the national average of 10.7 podiatrists per 100,000 population in 1999, there were 16.4 podiatrists per 100,000 population in South Australia, 14.1 in Victoria, 13.3 in Tasmania, 10.3 in Tasmania, 9.5 in the Australian Capital Territory, 8.8 in New South Wales, and 7.0 in Queensland.
Most podiatrists (73%) worked in capital cities, though the rate per 100,000 population was higher in large rural centres.
The podiatry labour force is predominantly young and female-51% of podiatrists were aged under 35 years, and 64% were women.