Cheers to a longer life


WHILE a popular na­tional pas­time is to crit­i­cise gov­ern­ments, they also do a lot of good, some­times un­sung.

SA Health’s Chief Pub­lic Health Of­fi­cer’s Re­port 201416 is full of ex­am­ples of where the in­vis­i­ble hand of gov­ern­ment is keep­ing the com­mu­nity healthy and safe — and in the process adding years to life ex­pectancy.

Th­ese in­clude: an­ti­smok­ing cam­paigns, an­tidrink driv­ing laws and ed­u­ca­tion, mul­ti­ple can­cer screen­ing pro­grams, sun safety ed­u­ca­tion, flu im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­grams, mos­quito erad­i­ca­tion and warn­ings, pub­lic swim­ming pool hy­giene laws, alerts about ex­treme weather events, mon­i­tor­ing and track­ing in­fec­tious dis­ease out­breaks, and much more.

The enor­mous suc­cess of pub­lic health pro­grams is re­flected in life it­self — life ex­pectancy of South Aus­tralian fe­males and males at birth in 2015 was 84.4 years and 80.3 years re­spec­tively – an in­crease of one year (fe­males) and 2.2 years (males) over the past decade.

This in turn raises new chal­lenges, which have been out­lined in the Chief Pub­lic Health Of­fi­cer’s re­port.

Suc­cess in deal­ing with in­fant mor­tal­ity and child­hood dis­eases means more peo­ple are liv­ing to be se­nior cit­i­zens that ‘older’ age it­self is be­ing re­de­fined — for ex­am­ple the age to qual­ify for the age pen­sion is grad­u­ally ris­ing, from 65 to 67.

Dis­eases and con­di­tions due to age and life­style which now are ma­jor chal­lenges were barely on the hori­zon of past gen­er­a­tions: de­men­tia, heart dis­ease, obe­sity, type 2 di­a­betes, arthri­tis, os­teo­poro­sis and so on. In fact seven of the top 10 dis­eases caus­ing the “to­tal bur­den for South Australia” all have some links to age and life­style — coro­nary heart dis­ease, de­men­tia, back prob­lems, chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease, mus­cu­loskele­tal con­di­tions, lung can­cer and stroke. The fi­nal three are anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and sui­cide.

Where once we came from fam­ily groups, tribes and vil­lages, now one of the great chal­lenges ahead is lone­li­ness.

The re­port notes 27.9 per cent of South Aus­tralian dwellings now have one res­i­dent. While en­sur­ing older South Aus­tralians can stay in­de­pen­dent in the fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings of their own home is im­por­tant, so is en­sur­ing they have a close net­work of fam­ily, friends and reg­u­lar so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties to help with good phys­i­cal and men­tal health. THE RE­PORT IS ON SA HEALTH WEB­SITE: SAHEALTH.SA.GOV.AU.

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