Using population forecasts to project the health outcomes of suburbs

Community services

Client

City of Geelong

Challenge

To explore links between local prevalence of chronic disease, unhealthy lifestyle conditions and built form

Highlights

Using a series of socio-demographic and population forecast data, .id was able to project health outcomes of suburbs for the City of Geelong

Results

.id was able to help the City of Geelong better understand the relationship between health outcomes and built form of each suburb and township

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While there are well documented links between health behaviours (risks) – sedentary lifestyles/poor diet; and health outcomes – obesity/diabetes/heart disease, there is also a growing body of work suggesting that the way we are designing and building our suburbs can have a significant impact on the health outcomes of our communities. We know that where people live should not limit what opportunities they have. But in many cases, it does.

Challenge

.id undertook a project for the City of Geelong to explore links between local prevalence of chronic disease, unhealthy lifestyle conditions and built form.

This project was challenging, not the least because comprehensive and regularly updated health data is difficult to obtain at the small area level (LGA and suburb).

The .id solution

Fortunately, some data on health behaviours and health outcomes for the City of Geelong and most of its suburbs was made available through the Geelong Osteoporosis Study (GOS) 2014. Together with information from the City of Geelong’s social-demographic profiles and forecasts, .id put together a project framework in order to structure, understand and communicate the data. The thinking underlying the structure for this project was guided by the following assumptions:

  1. Health behaviours lead to health outcomes;
  2. Health behaviours have a strong relationship to socio-economic status;
  3. Health outcomes have a strong relationship to age; and
  4. The built environment has an impact on the access to opportunities that people have to engage in certain health behaviours

Outcomes

Based on the GOS data, Geelong’s community health challenges include:

  • More than a quarter of Geelong’s adult population (26%) is obese, which is comparable to the obesity rate for Victoria as a whole;
  • Eight percent of Geelong’s adult population suffers from diabetes, twice the state of Victoria rate;
  • Nearly one-third (29%) of Geelong’s adult population suffers from some form of cardiovascular disease, more than twice the state of Victoria rate;
  • 59% of the adult population suffers from some form of hypertensive disease;
  • 9% of the adult population currently smokes;
  • 28% of the adult population is sedentary and does not exercise;
  • 18% of the adult population consumes either junk food or dietary fat regularly; and
  • Based on future population growth in Greater Geelong and current age-specific prevalence rates, by 2031, the obese population will grow by over 12,100, the population with diabetes will increase by 3,300 and the population suffering from cardiovascular disease will grow by an additional 20,700 people.

With regard to the relationship between health outcomes and built from of each suburb and township, there is evidence of an association between higher density and higher levels of mixed use of the built environment and higher levels of physical activity, walking and active transport.

The built form characteristics of our cities and towns provide the opportunity for people to gain access to things that will improve their health. Nevertheless this must be accompanied with access to education, information and knowledge about how to live a healthy life.

Through using a series of demographic statistics and population forecasts, .id was able to provide the City of Geelong with evidence upon which to base their planning and investment decisions, empowering them to make better decisions and be more influential regarding the design of our cities for a healthier future for our communities.

“What emerged as valuable for local government officers was the ability to apply population forecasts to project chronic disease prevalence by suburbs out to 2031; and what those projections then mean for informing planning and decision making with regard to infrastructure and service provision. Having access to this extra layer of information for communities like Drysdale can actually trigger a review of scheduled infrastructure works.”

One of the project team members, City of Greater Geelong

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