Longer life likely for children of North Shore

Babies born on Sydney's North Shore can expect to live more than three years longer than those born in the Illawarra or Shoalhaven, according to a new report.

Residents of this region are also much more likely to die from avoidable conditions than those with a North Shore address, figures from the National Health Performance Authority have revealed.

The NHPA report, Healthy Communities: Avoidable deaths and life expectancies in 2009-2011, showed the disparity of health care in different parts of the country, with metropolitan areas on the whole far healthier than rural and regional Australia.

By comparison, the new report showed that there were 97 potentially avoidable deaths per 100,000 people on the North Shore, compared to 162 per 100,000 in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven and 293 per 100,000 in the Kimberley-Pilbara area in Western Australia.

Life expectancies also varied greatly - North Shore babies can expect to live to a ripe old age of 84.6 years; Illawarra-Shoalhaven babies have a life expectancy of 81.3; and those born in the Kimberley-Pilbara region can expect to get to 77.6 years on average.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Medical Local population health and planning manager Abhijeet Ghosh said the region fared well compared with similar regions, while it was pretty average compared to the rest of the nation.

"The Illawarra Shoalhaven Medical Local catchment ranked ninth out of 17 Medicare Locals in NSW in potentially avoidable deaths, and 27th out of the 61 Medicare Locals across Australia," he said. "In relation to life expectancy from birth, the catchment ranked 35th out of 61.

"You have to keep in mind that our catchment is very unique - it's got an exceptionally high ageing population and a high pocket of indigenous population in the Shoalhaven and Shellharbour.

"To have such a diverse catchment and yet not be on the wrong scale of health indicators, to be close to average, is a remarkable effort for all of our practitioners."

The report also revealed the relatively high rates of immunisation in the region, and the frequent use of GPs.

"GPs are the gatekeepers of the healthcare system and early intervention can go a long way in prolonging life and not ending up in an avoidable death," Mr Ghosh said.

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