NSW Health data indicates that the health gains achieved over recent decades have not been equally shared across the entire NSW population, with a gap between those with good and poor health. Whilst some of these differences are attributable to ageing, biological or lifestyle factors, there is considerable evidence that social factors such as income, employment and education also have a critical role in health outcomes.
Within South Western Sydney and the Southern Highlands, there are pockets of significant disadvantage with some families, groups and communities characterised by lower socio economic status, shorter life span, poorer health including higher levels of disease risk factors (e.g. smoking, low fruit and vegetable intake) and lower use of preventative health services.
Although there is evidence that people experiencing disadvantage are more likely to consult their general practitioner, they may also have difficulty accessing and using the range of health services available due to factors such as poor health literacy i.e. understanding and using health information to maintain their health across the life-span (including knowledge of the culture of the health system); cost of treatment, medication and transport; disability; language skill and cultural background; and institutional or systemic barriers such as long waiting lists, lack of flexibility in service design, absence of cultural sensitivity or ad hoc distribution of services. As a result, they may require additional support, enhanced coordination and/or greater service flexibility from health and other services to achieve the same health outcomes as the broader community. This includes development of policies, programs and services which specifically target vulnerable communities.
Fact sheets are being developed which profile local groups and communities that are vulnerable and experience disadvantage and multiple levels of disadvantage. These fact sheets aim to assist local services in reviewing and designing services to better meeting the complex needs of these groups. Communities at risk of experiencing disadvantage include: