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Winter blues: where are Australia’s healthiest suburbs?



As the cold weather sets in and those dreaded colds and flus abound, we all want to keep ourselves and our families in good health. And the fact is, the address where you rest your head on your pillow each night could be making you sick.

The suburb you live in can have a major impact on your wellbeing: for instance, do you live in an area with quality walking tracks and great parks for families? Do farmer’s markets and wholefoods stores flourish, or is your suburb dominated by fast food giants?

Using a number of online tools, you can find out the vital stats on factors such exercise, obesity and vaccinations to see just how ‘healthy’ your suburb is.

Exercise

Residents of more affluent suburbs tend to exercise more than those in lower socioeconomic areas. This could be because there’s usually a wider array of gyms and yoga studios to choose from, or perhaps because the locals feel safe jogging or cycling along the bike tracks and running trails. In Melbourne, residents of the inner south and eastern suburbs, such as Elwood and South Yarra, exercise more regularly than those living in Sunshine and Roxburgh Park, or to the cities north and west. Check out Australia’s Health Tracker for more info on the healthiest suburbs.

Girl exercises in one of the healthiest suburbs

Fresh food

Proximity to quality, fresh produce has been linked to better diets, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. A study in 2013 reported that people living in neighbourhoods with good access to large supermarkets make healthier food choices than those who live further away from these retailers. There’s also often a higher concentration of fast food outlets in lower-income areas. In Queensland, Bray Park, Narangba and Birkdale residents are likely to choose more nourishing options than those in Tara, Logan or Pialba, according to News Corp data.

A healthy salad with lettuce, tomato, spring onion, raddishes and cucumber

Obesity and disease

It follows that the suburbs with the lowest rates of exercise have higher rates of obesity and related illnesses. According to Health Tracker, residents of Sydney’s Western suburbs are less active than their Harbourside counterparts. Again, these findings link health and wellbeing to wealth, with higher income areas consistently outperforming less affluent suburbs.

In parts of Western Sydney, up to 40 per cent of children aged under 17 are obese or overweight. Meanwhile, in the pricey suburb of Mosman, just 17 per cent of children are overweight or obese. With obesity linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer, these suburbs could be among the least healthy in the country. For further stats about children’s health and wellbeing, check out the Report Cards from Active Healthy Kids Australia.

Vaccination rates

In contrast to their attitudes on healthy eating and exercise, those in higher socioeconomic areas are more likely to be opposed to vaccinations than those in less affluent areas.

Despite recent changes to government payments for families, which require children to be fully vaccinated, rates in affluent areas remain the lowest in the country. For example, it’s reported that just 70.5 per cent of kids living the in the Sydney CBD and surrounding areas are fully vaccinated, compared with an average rate of 93 per cent across the country.

If you are expecting a baby or have a newborn, you may want to know the rates of whooping cough vaccination in your area. Vaccination rates may also be of interest to those who are immuno-compromised due to disease or medication and cannot be vaccinated. You can read the full report and search for vaccination rates in your postcode on the Australian Government’s My Healthy Communities website. The site only considers childhood vaccinations on the Australian Government schedule though, so it won’t give you any indication of whether local adults are up-to-date, or if the flu vax is popular in your area.

So, how does your area rank in the ‘healthiest suburbs’? – and perhaps just as importantly, how much of a good fit is your suburb for you and your family?