Lung cancer is a poor man’s disease while prostate cancer affects the rich in vastly greater numbers, according to the first online health demographic tool to map cancers in Australia.
A ground-breaking data analysis by Torrens University, the Social Health Atlas of Australia tracks the incidence of medical conditions by gender, age, indigenous status, local government area, primary health network area, socioeconomic status and education level, and this year includes cancer data for the first time.
Produced by the university's Public Health Information Development Unit, the new interactive atlas surprised researchers by indicating that all cancers have a relationship with socioeconomic status, with lung cancer rates occurring in greater numbers in disadvantaged areas, and prostate and breast cancers more prevalent in wealthy locations.
The online cancer atlas allows health authorities for the first time to target public prevention campaigns, provide essential healthcare facilities, and identify clusters.
“An important focus of our work is on inequality and the geographical variation in health outcomes and determinants at the small area level. This can identify areas of greatest need in terms of health-related programs and services,” PHIDU Research Fellow Matt Freeman told Healthcare IT News Australia.
Produced since 2008, the online atlas relies on data from custodians such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, state and federal government departments, agencies research institutes and healthcare network databases, and says advances in location technology have increased accuracy.
“One area where there has been improvement in recent years with health data is that some custodians are able to geocode each individual record which means that they can accurately provide data at all geographical levels that we require,” Freeman said.
The map tracks breast, colorectal, melanoma, lung, uterine and lymphoma in women, and prostate, colorectal, melanoma, lung, head and neck, lymphoma, leukaemia, bladder and kidney in men.
Researchers are waiting for more 2016 Census data to be released to add to the portal, which will help identify trends and service shortfalls.
“We regularly update our data when new data is available allowing healthcare providers and clinicians to not only gain a snapshot of their geographical area of interest but also see how this has changed over time,” Freeman said.
“Data may also be used to determine gaps in the use of services: if for example there is high prevalence of a disease in an area but relatively low service use there may be issues in terms of accessibility to services.”