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Magazines : Our Place - Geelong Region Magazine 2011
Despite a perception that we're a healthy, wealthy society, some parts of Geelong are being left behind. CAMERON BEST reports IF a healthy body equals a healthy mind, then many healthy minds equals a healthy community. is seemingly simple equation has become extraordinarily challenging for the Geelong region. While the northern suburbs of Corio and Norlane, along with Whittington and parts of Colac, have long been recognised as under-serviced regions, pockets of Grovedale and Belmont are also emerging as areas of disadvantage. Addressing the imbalance and improving the health of people in these under-ser viced areas has become a major priority for local governments, not-for-profit groups, health and education providers, the private sector and representative bodies -- it seems everyone, except those holding the purse strings, the state and federal governments. G21 Geelong Region Alliance chief executive Elaine Carbines says despite several funding bids submitted to address education, health and community service infrastructure, there has been little or no investment from both levels of government on a sustained basis. "A lot of work has been done within and for the communities, but there's been little dollar investment in those areas and we were really hoping the recent state election was an opportunity to turn that around,' ' she says. It's thought the benefits of having a healthy community will spread across the entire economy. Dr Mark Kennedy, who's worked as a GP in Corio since the 1980s, has seen health and social problems skyrocket while the availability of services has barely changed. "It's a wonderful community to work in, but on a daily basis I'm faced with the lack of services to which I can refer my patients,' ' he says with a touch of frustration. " e need is enormous but the availability of health, housing, welfare and employment services are terribly under-provided.' ' "After decades of neglect, it's time to be fair dinkum at looking at all the factors leading to the problem and addressing them.' ' It's not just the availability of health ser vices and GPs that can affect the health of a community -- education and employment opportunities, a shortage of public housing, as well as crime and safety issues all play a part. Many under-serviced areas have a much higher prevalence of poor health conditions. As an example, the rate of diabetes in the Corio-Norlane region is up to 60 per cent higher than the national average. Health practitioners in the northern suburbs, from GPs to allied health providers, are all grossly under-represented -- and that's in a region that accounts for 12 per cent of all emergency presentations at Geelong Hospital. A key to prevention is promoting healthier messages from school age, encouraging healthy exercise habits and providing cheaper healthy food choices. But without addressing all areas, the impact on health of a community is always going to be limited. Community leaders have changed their approach to the problem and are looking at ways to engage the private sector. "Years of work gone have gone into addressing this on a community level, expectations have been raised many times and we run the risk of leaving thousands of people behind and no one in this region wants to see that happen,' ' Ms Carbines says. Despite this work, proponents have been frustrated by a lack of investment from both the State and Federal Governments on a sustained basis. Led by G21 and the Department for Human Services, a taskforce has been formed to address the critical issue of entrenched disadvantage across the region. Government departments, education and health providers, not-for-profits, local councils, the Committee for Geelong, G21, Victoria Police and the private sector are committed to form a united front for the first time. e taskforce will have three key themes to tackle - education, employment and child health. "We need to celebrate the leadership and encourage the commitment to this project, as well as compel the government to work with us and invest,' ' Ms Carbines says. Dr Mark Kennedy, a Corio GP, has seen social and health problems skyrocket and service levels barely change. "The rate of diabetes in the Corio-Norlane region is up to 60 per cent higher than the national average.'' 48 GEELONG ADVERTISER
Breakaway Autumn 2011