Obesity and smoking rates higher in regional Australia

Australians living in regional areas are more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

A second report, also available today, reveals a similar pattern in relation to daily tobacco smoking with adults in regional areas more likely to smoke daily than their city counterparts.

The Healthy Communities reports look at local-level variation in obesity and smoking rates across Australia's Primary Health Network (PHN) areas. PHNs are organisations that connect health services over local geographic areas.  There are 31 PHNs across Australia.

The first report, Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia, 2014–15, shows that the highest rate of overweight and obesity in adults was 73% in Country South Australia, while Northern Sydney had the lowest rate at 53%—still over half the adult population in that area who were overweight or obese.

When looking at just obesity (a body mass index of 30 and above) a wider variation was seen in adults across PHN areas.

'With obesity we see even wider variation with 16% of adults who were shown to be obese in Central and Eastern Sydney, compared with 38% in Country South Australia. Again, the highest obesity rates were recorded in regional areas,' said AIHW spokesperson Michael Frost.

Today's second report, Healthy Communities: Tobacco smoking rates across Australia, 2014–15  shows that while daily smoking rates in Australia have continued to fall, they remain relatively high in some PHN areas—particularly regional areas.
'Northern Sydney had the lowest rate of daily smoking at around 5%, while Western NSW had the highest rate of 23%,' Mr Frost said.

'Overall, regional PHN areas had higher smoking rates than city-based PHNs.'

Today's reports highlight local areas where efforts can be targeted to reduce rates of smoking, overweight and obesity.

The results are intended to assist local communities in defining their priorities for improvements in health care and to better target and drive health system improvements specific to their local community's needs.

Both reports are available on the MyHealthyCommunities website.

Full publication: Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia, 2014–15

Full publication: Healthy Communities: Tobacco smoking rates across Australia, 2014–15

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