Australia’s deadliest region

The good news first. The rate of potentially avoidable deaths in Australia has decreased, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

And then the bad – for some. The highest average rate of potentially avoidable deaths in the 2015–17 survey period was in the Northern Territory with 213 deaths per 100,000 people – 259 per 100,000 males and 160 per 100,000 females.

Conversely, the region with the lowest average rate of potentially avoidable deaths was northern Sydney with a dramatically lower 53 deaths per 100,000 residents – 74 per 100,000 males and 44 per 100,000 females.

Potentially avoidable deaths, the AIHW report explains, are deaths below the age of 75 from conditions that are potentially preventable through primary or hospital care. The rates are monitored because they are “a useful indicator of how well health systems are performing,” the institute says.

Nationally, there were an average of 104 potentially avoidable deaths per 100,000 people (193 in 1997), with a rate of 135 for males (down from 253) and 75 for females (down from 136).

The rate of potentially avoidable deaths decreased by around 11 per cent in metropolitan primary health networks (PHN) and by around seven per cent in regional PHNs.

When broken down into age groups, the Royal Australian Colleges of General Practitioners (RACGP) noted that suicide was the leading underlying cause of death in people aged 15–44, lung cancer in those aged 65–74, and coronary heart disease in those aged 45–64 and 75 and over.

Continuing declines in death rates have been recorded since 1907, with the age-standardised death rate falling by 72 per cent for males and 76 per cent for females.

Northern Sydney was also the winner in terms of average life expectancy.

Updating and comparing information between the 2009–11 and 2015–17 study periods revealed that residents of northern Sydney had the highest average life expectancy in Australia at 85.9 years – 84.6 and 87.2 years respectively for males and females.

The revised national average life expectancy at birth was 82.5 years, with males at 80.5 years and females at 84.6.

The PHN with the lowest average life expectancy for both males and females was the Northern Territory, with 75.9 years for males and 79.4 years for females.

While heart disease remained our biggest killer, there was a drop in overall deaths, while dementia, in second place, edged higher.

Deaths from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, rose from 13,126 to 13,729 between 2016 and 2017, with women accounting for more than 8800 of the 2017 tally.

Stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases were the third biggest killer, while lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rounded out the top five.

Are you concerned about the rising incidence of dementia-related deaths?


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