Obesity, alcohol, and cigarettes identified as big problems in the Hunter Region

RAYMOND Terrace and Scone are the fattest suburbs in the state, with 70.8 per cent of adults recorded as overweight or obese, new data shows.

The Australia’s Health Trackers report shows people in the Hunter Region generally eat too much, drink too much, and smoke too much, but where they live influences how much.

The report, developed at Victoria University with the public health information and development unit at Torrens University, was released by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration last week.

The Health Trackers map showed Mount Hutton and Windale had 69.2 per cent of its population recorded as overweight or obese, with Lemon Tree Passage and Tanilba Bay close behind at 68.7 per cent.

Newcastle suburbs such as The Junction and Merewether reported the lowest levels of obesity in the region at 57.4 per cent, against the national average of 63.4 per cent.

Hunter GP Dr Damian Welbourne was not surprised Raymond Terrace was named one of the most overweight and obese suburbs in NSW.

“Many people in our community experience socioeconomic disadvantage, and with that, often comes a fear of going to the doctor due to the associated cost and possible further action required,” Dr Welbourne said.

“Health literacy is also inadequate in our area, so people have difficulties knowing where to turn for support. They tend to wait until there are quite a few problems before realising things are serious, and problems like obesity are not a quick fix.”

Dr Welbourne said the “long-standing freeze” of the Medicare rebate exacerbated the problem, as it added to the growing out-of-pocket expenses for the patient.

But there were initiatives, such as bulk-billed health assessments for 45-49 year olds, available that could help GPs guide patients.

“They may not realise the importance of taking the time to check on their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes risk, skin cancer risk or other factors,” Dr Welbourne said.

“During this health check, they may gain some valuable tips on how to lose weight, quit smoking, or increase their physical activity – all with no out-of-pocket expense.”

In the greater Hunter area, the Muswellbrook region recorded the highest number of people drinking alcohol at “risky” levels at 27.5 per cent, followed by Hamilton and Broadmeadow at 25.7 per cent and Branxton, Greta and Pokolbin at 25.3 per cent.

The national average was 18.2 per cent.

Kurri Kurri and Abermain had the highest number of smokers at 25.1 per cent in the region, followed by Mount Hutton and Windale at 24.9 per cent, and Cessnock at 24.5 per cent. This was against the national average of 12.8 per cent.

Tamworth recorded the highest number of smokers in NSW, with 29.6 per cent.

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