Australians are encouraged to give special consideration this week to what they can do to increase awareness of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and within Australia. Those wishing to get involved directly in Anti-Poverty Week activities can find an extensive list of ideas and activities and other resources at antipovertyweek.org.au.
A new report from ACOSS shows that, despite years of unprecedented growth and wealth creation, 1 in 8 people in Australia overall and 1 in 6 children live below the poverty line. The 34-member NRHA will be highlighting the relative seriousness of poverty in rural and remote areas, and the health risks this poses.
Anti-Poverty Week is 14- 20 October, with International Anti-Poverty Day on 17 October. People may want to focus on the world’s poorest countries, rather than the situation in wealthy countries such as Australia. But it is significant that Past National Patrons of Anti-Poverty Week have called for a national development goal for Australia to progressively reduce poverty.
In this country it is the people living in rural and remote communities who are particularly susceptible to low incomes and poverty and associated health disadvantages. They face a combination of lower-than-average incomes, greater-than-average pressures on those incomes and poorer accessibility to health services.
In Australia income generally decreases with rurality, being some 20 per cent lower in rural areas than the major cities. This is due to a number of factors including limited employment opportunities, economic instability and seasonal unemployment dependent on the seasons and lower educational attainment (an important determinant of workforce status and income).
Perhaps surprisingly, the average cost of food is about 20 per cent higher in remote areas, with less variety and poorer quality. This is due to the higher costs of handling and transporting goods to remote communities, the lack of appropriate storage facilities within communities, and variable supplies of suitable local produce. The costs of fuel and transport in remote areas are substantially higher both in terms of unit price – eg per litre – and required rate of usage.
Many of those living in rural and remote communities miss out on opportunities and resources that others take for granted, such as adequate dental care, education, quality food and recreation. This leads to the well-documented disparities in health outcomes. Alarmingly, Australians who face the greatest socio-economic disadvantage are twice as likely to have a long term health condition as those who face the least disadvantage.
More information on the impact of the social determinants of health on people living in rural Australia can be found in the Alliance’s Fact Sheet on the subject (at www.ruralhealth.org.au).
Gordon Gregory 02 6285 4660