PEOPLE living in remote areas of the Northern Territory have a shorter life expectancy than those living in Liberia – the West African country currently in the throes of the Ebola crisis.
Latest ABS data shows the Northern Territory has the lowest life expectancies across the board. The statistics revealed that people living in very remote parts of the Territory are only expected to live until 52.2 years of age, while people living in remote areas have slightly better odds at 62.6 years of age.
People living in areas classified as outer regional (Darwin) have a life expectancy of 68.
According to the World Health Organisation the life expectancy in Liberia for men is 60 and 63 for women. The life expectancy for very remote Territorians is more than 10 years behind the Australian average of 63.9.
The Australian life expectancy for people living in remote areas and outer regional areas is 73.5 and 79.2 respectively. Eighty per cent of the NT’s life expectancy gap can be put down to the high rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer in indigenous Territorians.
Heart disease is the Territory’s biggest killer and the rates of diabetes are three to four times higher among Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people.
Dr Christine Connors has worked in the Northern Territory for 25 years; she was involved in developing the NT Preventable Chronic Disease Strategy and is the General Manager of Primary Health Care Services with Top End Health Service.
No matter what the chronic disease is Dr Connors said the major cause of it was poverty.
“Of the Aboriginal population in the Territory nearly 60 per cent were in the most disadvantaged group in society while 30 per cent of Territorians are in the most advantaged group,” she said.
Dr Connors said the key to breaking generational poverty was supporting more Aboriginal kids to graduate Year 12.