Australia is often praised for its healthcare system, with access to treatments, education and support widely commended by neighbouring nations. But according to new research, wealth disparity across the country is putting certain Australians at risk.
The clothes we wear, the meals we eat, and the way we spend our days are all determined by our income and social position.
The latest research also proves our socioeconomic standing plays an enormous role in determining what treatment options and quality of care are available to us when faced with a critical health diagnosis.
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Analysing the death registry data provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing and Census, the research aimed to examine the correlation between socioeconomic disadvantage and cancer mortality rates.
The mortality data was organised by geography, gender and age group, using figures from four separate three-year periods.
The verdict? Middle-aged men living in what are considered to be the poorest areas of the country were twice as likely to die from cancer from 2016 to 2018 than those living in areas of high wealth.
The research showed a similar trend amongst Australian women, with the cancer mortality rate 1.6 times higher in poorer areas.
What’s driving the gap?
With death rates falling in most other age groups, the latest statistics for middle-aged Australians particularly stand out.
So what’s causing this alarming data? Research suggests it all comes down to access to health care.
Between 2001 to 2018, the data analysed showed that the number of doctors per person was substantially greater in Australia’s richer regions. When it comes to access to technological and medical advancements, those in lower socioeconomic communities have been given considerably less exposure.
One of the contributing factors to disparities in cancer mortality is the limited availability of screening and treatment options.
Early detection and diagnosis is key
At the point in which early detection may result in lifesaving intervention, many cancers fail to cause noticeable symptoms. Like so many invasive and fatal cancer types, those with the highest mortality rates are often difficult to detect without routine examinations and specialist diagnosis.
One thing that is painstakingly clear off the back of this research, is that access to healthcare must be better extended to the people and communities in need.
Subsidised early detection initiatives and population screening programs are key to earlier cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment across the board.