Development of a new National Women’s Health Policy Consultation Discussion Paper 2009 Women in rural or remote areas

Page last updated: 20 April 2009

Women in rural and remote areas have poorer health than women living in urban areas, including higher rates of diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and asthma (in inner regional areas).159 Diabetes is a large contributor to excess deaths among women in rural and remote areas, who are significantly more likely to report diabetes than women in major cities,160 as is lung cancer for females under 65 years.161 For young women in rural and remote areas, the death rate is three to four times higher than in major cities.

Other preventable cancers, such as melanoma and cervical cancer, also have significantly higher incidence rates in women living in rural and remote areas than those in the cities.162, 163

Women in remote areas of Australia participate in bowel cancer and cervical screening at lower levels than in other areas, and in breast cancer screening at lower levels in very remote areas.164, 165 However, women in rural and outer regional areas participate in breast cancer screening at a higher rate than women living in other areas.166 The higher participation rates in rural and remote regions reflect the success of BreastScreen Australia mobile screening units. Mobile screening units allow easier access to breast screening services for women living outside major cities.

They also have higher levels of risk factors such as being overweight or obese, smoking tobacco and lower consumption of fruit and low fat milk.167

Higher death rates than expected are also experienced by women living in regional and remote areas compared to women living in major cities, and the death rate rises with increasing remoteness.168

Analysis suggests that higher death rates and poorer health outcomes in regional and remote areas are likely to be the result of factors such as greater socioeconomic disadvantage (lower levels of education and poorer access to work, particularly skilled work), poorer access to health services, higher levels of personal health risk factors, and environmental issues linked to road travel and occupation.169, 170