HEALTH OF THE LATROBE VALLEY

In order to fully appreciate the effects of the smoke and ash from the Hazelwood mine fire on the local community, it is important to have an understanding of the overall health of the Latrobe Valley, and in particular Morwell, prior to the mine fire.

The Department of Health conducted an investigation into the burden of disease in Victoria in 1996.63 The term ‘disease burden’ refers to the loss of healthy years due to disease.

The study examined the six key health conditions suffered by communities in Victoria. The six conditions are cancer, diabetes, mental disorders, cardiovascular disease, asthma and injuries. The study showed that the Gippsland region, and in particular the Latrobe Valley, had a higher than state average of healthy years lost due to disease, as reflected in Figures 4.8 and 4.9.

Figure 4.8 Disability adjusted life year males, Gippsland region, 199664

4-8

 

Figure 4.8 above shows the healthy years lost for males in the Gippsland region (referred to as disability adjusted life year) for the six key health conditions. The Figure demonstrates that males in the Gippsland region lose more years to disease than males in the rest of Victoria. In addition, males in the Latrobe Valley have the largest number of years lost to disease of any area of Gippsland.

Figure 4.9 Disability adjusted life year females, Gippsland region, 199665

4-9

 

Figure 4.9 shows the healthy years lost for females in the Gippsland region (referred to as disability adjusted life year) for the six key health conditions. The Figure demonstrates that females in the Gippsland region lose more years to disease than females in the rest of Victoria. In addition, females in the Latrobe Valley have the largest number of years lost to disease of any area in Gippsland.

The Figures demonstrate that in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley the leading causes of healthy years lost are cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

A further study demonstrated that within Gippsland, in the period 2003 to 2007, the Latrobe Valley had one of the highest rates of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease in Victoria.66

Figure 4.10 Lung cancer mortality in Gippsland by Local Government Area and Victoria 2003–200767

4-10

 

Figure 4.10 shows the deaths per 100,000 people from lung cancer during the period 2003–2007. The Figure demonstrates that the Latrobe region had the second highest rate of lung cancer mortality in Gippsland for males during this period, and the highest for females.

 

Figure 4.11 Cardiovascular disease mortality in Gippsland by Local Government Area and Victoria 2003–200768

4-11

Figure 4.11 shows the deaths per 100,000 people from cardiovascular disease during the period 2003–2007. The Figure demonstrates that the Latrobe region had the second highest rate of cardiovascular disease mortality in Gippsland for males and females during this period.

The Latrobe Valley has a long history of asbestos-related disease. Asbestos was widely used in the construction of power stations in the Latrobe Valley.69 A 2001 report found that the Latrobe Valley had the highest rates of mesothelioma of all municipalities in Victoria for the period 1986–1998 (Begg, Vos and Stone, 2001, pp. 10–12).

Ms Vicki Hamilton, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary of the Asbestos Council of Victoria and the Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support Inc., told the Board that the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland have seven times the rate of mesothelioma relative to the Victorian average, and that for every case of mesothelioma there are two to three asbestos–related lung cancers, and up to eight cases of asbestos– related disease in the community.70 Ms Hamilton described to the Board the devastating effects of asbestos disease for affected individuals, their families and the community.

In addition to its disadvantaged health status, the population of the Latrobe Valley also faces a number of social and economic challenges.

 

Key health and social indicators for the Latrobe Valley are outlined in Figure 4.12 below.

Figure 4.12 Key health and social indicators for the Latrobe Valley71

 

Health/social indicator

Latrobe Valley

Victoria

Life expectancy (male) 75.7 years 79.6 years
Life expectancy (female) 81.5 years 84.3 years
DALY (male) 169.8 143
DALY (female) 138 129.1
YLD (male) 80.2 71.7
YLD (female) 80.7 71.4
Emergency department presentations per 1,000 population 328.7 226.8
Mental health contacts per 1,000 population 513.4 353.1
Community health occasions of service per 1,000 population 397.4 105.1
SEIFA (IRSED) rank 6
GP’s per 1,000 population 1.3 1.5
Unemployment rate 6.5% 5.4%
Percentage of individuals with income less than $400 per week 45.2% 39.9%
Median household income $942 $1,216

DALY – Disability adjusted life year combines a measurement of premature mortality and disability. A high DALY rate indicates poor health status of a population. A low DALY rate reflects better health.

YLD – Years lived with a disability includes what is disabling people or causing ill health. A high YLD indicates poor health status of the population. A low YLD rate reflects better health.

SEIFA (IRSED) is an index to measure the relative socioeconomic disadvantage of geographical areas, based on a range of Census variables considered to reflect disadvantage, including low income, unemployed and lack of educational attainment. 1 = most disadvantaged; 79 = least disadvantaged.

MORWELL

Morwell is the closest populated area to the Hazelwood mine and is one of the most disadvantaged towns in Victoria.72

Morwell is an ageing community. The average age of a Morwell resident is 38 years, and 16.6 per cent of the population is aged 65 years or over. Compared to the rest of Victoria, Morwell has a lower percentage of adults aged between 25 and 49 years, and a higher percentage of adults aged over 50 years.73

The most common ancestries in Morwell are Australian (28.7 per cent), English (27.9 per cent), Scottish (7.6 per cent), Irish (7 per cent) and Italian (4.5 per cent). The majority of residents in Morwell were born in Australia (77.4 per cent). In 85.1 per cent of households, English is the only language spoken at home. Other languages spoken at home include Italian (2.6 per cent), Mandarin (0.8 per cent), Greek (0.6 per cent), Arabic (0.5 per cent) and German (0.5 per cent) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011 Census).

A high proportion of Morwell residents require assistance in their day-to-day lives due to disability.74

In the area of Morwell south of Commercial Road, 24.6 per cent of the population are aged over 65 years. This is greater than the proportion in regional Victoria (17.5 per cent) and Victoria as a whole (14.2 per cent).75 10.6 per cent of the community in this area need assistance due to a disability, a long-term health condition, or old age.76

The number of young children in the south of Morwell is lower than the regional and state average­— 4.7 per cent compared to 6.3 per cent (regional Victoria) and 6.4 per cent (Victoria).77