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Can we please have one of these (a health map)?

Can we please have one of these for Australia?

As in an interactive map that discloses the health status of different regions of Australia. And not only that – their relative health status.

It seems quite odd that we would even be thinking of our current health reform agenda without having this sort of publicly available data to help guide population health planning.

In England, the Association of Public Health Laboratories has just released their local authority health profiles for 2010, giving a “snapshot overview of health for each local authority and region”.

According to the website blurb: “They are designed to help local government and health services make decisions and plans to improve local people’s health and reduce health inequalities. The profiles present a set of key health indicators that show how the area compares to the national and regional average.”

We learn, for example, that the health of people in Chesterfield in the East Midlands is generally worse than the national average. Deprivation levels are high and life expectancy for men is lower than the average for England. Rates of hospital stays for alcohol related harm and people diagnosed with diabetes are worse than the England average. There are inequalities in Chesterfield by gender, level of deprivation and ethnicity. For example, life expectancy for men living in least deprived areas is 8 years higher than for men living in most deprived areas.

Meanwhile, the health of those in Devon in the south-west is generally better than the country’s average. Life expectancy for both men and women is better than the England average. There are health inequalities within Devon. Life expectancy in men from the most deprived areas is 4 years less than in men from the least deprived areas.

In the South Lakeland in the north-west, people are generally healthier than the national average. Deprivation levels are low and the estimated percentages of obese adults and of adults who smoke, and the rate of violent crime are all better than the England average. Some rates are similar to the England average, including the estimated percentage of binge drinking adults.

There are inequalities within South Lakeland. For example, men and women in the least deprived areas can expect to live over 4 years longer than men and women in the most deprived areas. However, the percentage of mothers initiating breast feeding is worse than the England average.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Don’t know about you, but I’d love to know how the health of those in Cairns compares with those in Perth compares with those in Port Augusta compares with those in Bourke compares with those in Vaucluse, compares with national averages. We so often talk in such generalities – for example, about rural health being worse than metropolitan health. A map like this would really bring it home, and help make health inequalities a much more prominent part of discussions and planning.

It might be very useful for all sorts of things, quite apart from journalistic investigations…

Now, who could make us such a map?

Or maybe someone will reveal me as a complete idiot, and point to one already in existence…

Related Posts

Comments 7

  1. fredex says:

    I’m mildly confident something vaguely similar was included in past editions of “The Social Atlas” that comes from census data.
    Worth checking and last time I looked [yonks ago] it was a fascinating document for all sorts of reasons.

  2. Croakey says:

    Thanks for the tip, which found me this A Social Health Atlas 2008: http://www.publichealth.gov.au/interactive-mapping/all-states%10-territories_-aust./a-social-health-atlas-of-australia-third-edition_-2008-%5Bonline%5D.html

    But I am finding it very difficult to decipher. Is there an idiot’s guide or something similar for how to make sense of it?

    Melissa

  3. FrogDoc says:

    You have also got a more recent one (2010) http://www.publichealth.gov.au/interactive_mapping/aust_multiple_online_2010/aust/atlas.html

    An Interested UK resident

  4. Kris says:

    It’s not national, but there are some indicators available by LGA for NSW in the CHO report (static, not interactive though):
    http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/publichealth/chorep/toc/list_lgamapindex.asp#lgamap

    It would be fantastic to put together something like this nationally, although one of the big challenges from a technical point of view would be making appropriate adjustments to overcome the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modifiable_areal_unit_problem) for a large set of indicators, across a large number of areas. If you don’t do this right then I can imagine some lesser quality media outlets making a big deal out of differences that probably don’t exist.

  5. James says:

    Same software, different country: http://www.phionline.moh.govt.nz/

  6. Croakey says:

    Thanks FrogDoc and Kris. I still had difficulty making sense of the most recent version of the social atlas. The NSW document was more useful but still a long way from the user-friendly format of the English map. I’m sure there would be many difficulties involved in creating such maps nationally, but I reckon any risk of minor differences being overblown by the media would be far outweighted by directing public/political/professional attention to disparities. My ideal national map would include data on health status, as well as the total spending (public, private) in those areas on health and education. That might be both interesting and useful…

  7. HelenS says:

    Glad you like it – and we’d be happy to talk to anyone interested in producing something similar. (Please contact us through the website, http://www.healthprofiles.info ).

    We’re looking for people to help tell us what presentations are most user-friendly – so you’re welcome to join our User Panel – you can do this through the short survey on the homepage. Feedback and any suggestions also welcome.

    There are many other population health tools available from the Association of Public Health Observatories (not laboratories!) – all via http://www.apho.org.uk

    HelenS, project manager on behalf of the Health Profiles team

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Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2019
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014