Illawarra and Shoalhaven residents are proactive when it comes to health, according to a new report which shows high rates of participation in childhood immunisation and adult cancer screening programs.
The Illawarra-Shoalhaven Medicare Local (ISML) Population Health Profile: 2013 released this week revealed that the region's immunisation coverage was higher than the state and national averages.
Participation in breast and bowel cancer screening programs also compared favourably to the rest of the state.
Medicare Local population health and workforce co-ordinator Abhijeet Ghosh, lead author of the report, said the figures showed that the region's healthcare providers were doing a good job.
"Medicare Local advocates immunisation and provides immunisation support for general practices and the figures prove that that's working," Mr Ghosh said.
"The Shoalhaven ranked ninth out of all NSW Medicare Local divisions, as of August 2012, with almost 92 per cent immunisation coverage overall and the Illawarra ranked 15th with nearly 91 per cent coverage.
"We are moving closer to 100 per cent immunisation coverage which would mean none of our children would be getting entirely preventable diseases like polio, diphtheria, mumps and measles."
Mr Ghosh said the figures for cancer screening programs were also positive, with 37.1 per cent of people in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in 2010, more than 2 per cent above the state average.
Meanwhile, 81.4 per cent of women aged 50 to 69 had participated in mammogram screening, 5 per cent above the state average.
"High rates of participation in cancer screening programs for those who are eligible and in at-risk groups is vital for early diagnosis and early treatment which can save or prolong lives," Mr Ghosh said.
Despite high rates of screening, the region did not fare so well in terms of the incidence and death rates of some cancers, according to the report.
Lung and colon cancer rates were well above state averages, while death rates for lung, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers were higher than the state averages.
High rates of drinking, smoking, stress and obesity were also recorded in the region - which were risk factors for certain cancers, according to Cancer Council NSW regional manager Toby Dawson.
"There were some alarming findings in the report but it gives government and other agencies a great direction on where to channel their efforts to make a positive impact on the health outcomes of the region," Mr Dawson said.
"It also gives us an opportunity to take responsibility for our own health.
"We need to take advantage of the region's natural assets and sporting infrastructure to increase our activity levels.
"We need to take advantage of the range of healthy eating programs, like the Cancer Council's Eat It To Beat It, to protect against obesity."