Heart disease map reveals Tasmanian hotspots

Photo: Tasmanians in poorer communities are being advised to make lifestyle changes. (iStockPhoto/fatihhoca)

Tasmania’s West Coast and Derwent Valley are the state’s top heart attack hotspots, according to new Heart Foundation data.

The Australian Heart Maps show Tasmania is worse off for hospital admissions for heart-related diseases than Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

They have been created using State Government heath data from 2013 to 2014.

Heart Foundation Australia chief executive officer John Kelly said the maps brought together a national picture of hospital admission rates for heart-related conditions.

“There’s a great divide between regional and metropolitan Australia right across each state and territory, and Tasmania as a whole tends to mimic the regional results,” he said.

In Tasmania, eight local government areas, including George Town, Burnie, Devonport and WaratahWynyard, had a rate of at least 57 per 10,000 people admitted to hospital for heart-related conditions.

These eight areas with the highest admission rates were ranked in the top three of ten socioeconomic categories of disadvantage.

In contrast, local government areas such as Kingborough, Hobart and West Tamar, had admission rates below 39 per 10,000 people.

The Heart Foundation’s chief executive officer in Tasmania Graeme Lynch said the new maps showed strong links between areas with high admission rates and areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.

“We now know that residents living in the West Coast and Derwent Valley local government areas are admitted to hospital for a heart condition at a rate more than double that of people living in the Meander Valley, West Tamar and Hobart local government areas,” he said.

Mr Lynch said the online maps also showed hot spots for people with risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, insufficient physical activity, and obesity.

“Unfortunately in Tasmania, we can see that we are above the national average for most of these risk factors.

“Of particular concern is the proportion of Tasmanians who have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These are future heart attacks just waiting to happen.

“We need to help Tasmanians become more physically active, improve the availability of, and their access to healthy food, and for them to become smoke-free.

Challenge to stop or delay heart disease in poor communities: doctor

Head of cardiology at the Royal Hobart Hospital Dr Paul MacIntyre said the maps would help resource allocation.

“It’s very clear that there is a relationship between the areas that are most socially deprived, and the areas of heart disease,” he said.

“The bigger challenge is how do we stop this happening, or how do we delay it?

“You have to look at how you manage to socially engineer these communities and reduce the social deprivation.”

Dr MacIntyre said educating communities to make lifestyle changes and strategies to boost employment levels would help.

“I think we have to target the high risk individuals within communities. We’ve got to look at primary care resources, [and] make sure patients have got access to primary care and access to secondary care,” he said

“We recognise that there is a gap in terms of the provision of cardiology services in the north-west of the state, which we’re addressing and we’ve now got funding to appoint cardiologists in these areas.”

Dr MacIntyre said he would like to see an improvement in the interaction between primary healthcare and hospital acute care services.

“We’ve got very good GPs in Tasmania, but the overall standard is variable and we need mechanisms that brings that right up, that they all rise to the same standard and deliver effective cardiovascular and primary care.”