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Juniper Journal

The importance of Juniper to regional Australians living with obesity

How Juniper can help reduce geographical access barriers to obesity treatment.

The importance of Juniper to regional Australians living with obesity
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The Australian government acknowledges that healthcare access is a significant barrier in regional Australia and has committed to expanding bulk billing for primary care services.  However, this intervention only targets financial access, when research has shown that geographical barriers, such as long travel times between patients and doctors, are more significant [1].

These barriers are particularly challenging for patients with complex conditions — like obesity —  who often have to travel to see multiple providers in different locations.

Considering the life-threatening complications linked to obesity, it’s crucial that we figure out how to improve access to proper care regardless of where a patient lives — and this is where Juniper comes in. 

Let’s deep dive into this topic and explore how Juniper can help reduce geographical access barriers to obesity treatment. 

How prevalent is obesity in Australia?

Obesity is fast becoming the most concerning public health issue in the world. In Australia, the situation is particularly alarming, with the proportion of overweight and obese people in the country’s adult population being among the highest in the OECD [2].

Other statistics paint quite a gloomy picture: 

  • The most recent population study revealed that ⅔ of Australia’s population is either overweight or obese, with these figures being higher among people living in inner-regional (71%) and outer-regional areas (70%) than major-city dwellers (65%) [3]
  • While obesity rates among school-aged children (7-15) have plateaued since the mid-90s, the percentage of this group who were overweight has doubled [4]
  • An examination of a wider cohort of children (ages 2-17) revealed that regional Australian kids are over 10% more likely to be overweight and obese than their metro peers [5]

Why is access to obesity care in regional Australia so problematic?

It’s no secret that healthcare access is an issue in regional Australia.

However, what the media has largely failed to capture is just how much this issue impacts people with complex conditions like obesity — which might explain the statistics we listed above.

Most commentary has focused on doctor shortages and Medicare reform, both important discussions, but ultimately, ones that steer attention away from a more serious problem (and a relevant solution).

While it is clear that access to regional GPs should improve, achieving this will have only a marginal impact on population health, as the vast majority of primary care consultations are for non-serious diagnoses and treatment. 

In rarer cases where serious conditions are detected, 1 of 2 paths is typically taken:

  • If the condition is acute, the patient is referred to an emergency department, where regional patients typically experience shorter wait times than their metro peers [6]
  • If the condition is chronic, the patient is referred to a specialist, or ideally, a multidisciplinary team of specialists to proceed with ongoing care

This is where the issue lies. Often, regional patients with chronic conditions cannot access care in face-to-face settings because the travel times are unmanageable. 

Additionally, very few health practitioners use the Government’s My Health Record to document and coordinate care. So on the off chance that a patient attempts to drive hours to see each member of their care team, they are likely to encounter care continuity issues.

In other words, for most regional Australians living with obesity, managing periodic visits to multiple clinicians would be comparable to a full-time job commitment.

Lowering access barriers to regional GPs would increase the rate of chronic disease detection, but with obesity, it is unlikely that many sufferers would fail to recognise the symptoms themselves. Plus, even if more regional patients got an official diagnosis, they would still have difficulties accessing treatment.

That’s where Juniper’s weight loss services come in.

How does Juniper address this access issue for regional Australians?

No matter where they are in Australia, patients living with obesity can join Juniper’s Weight Reset Program and access medical advice, health coaching, and weight loss treatments from the comfort of their own homes. 

It’s a telehealth service, which means that the geographical challenges we mentioned before cease to exist.

Removing access barriers to quality, holistic healthcare is imperative in the context of the obesity epidemic. Regional Australians living with obesity are disadvantaged by their distance to coordinated care teams, whose support they need to manage their complex condition.

There's no doubt that this drawback contributes to the higher prevalence of obesity among adults in regional Australia relative to major cities (70-71% vs 65%) [7].

Our weight loss program offers a safe and effective solution to this problem by providing continuous, coordinated care through a rigorous online platform. 

The Australian government acknowledges that healthcare access is a significant barrier in regional Australia and has committed to expanding bulk billing for primary care services.  However, this intervention only targets financial access, when research has shown that geographical barriers, such as long travel times between patients and doctors, are more significant [1].

These barriers are particularly challenging for patients with complex conditions — like obesity —  who often have to travel to see multiple providers in different locations.

Considering the life-threatening complications linked to obesity, it’s crucial that we figure out how to improve access to proper care regardless of where a patient lives — and this is where Juniper comes in. 

Let’s deep dive into this topic and explore how Juniper can help reduce geographical access barriers to obesity treatment. 

How prevalent is obesity in Australia?

Obesity is fast becoming the most concerning public health issue in the world. In Australia, the situation is particularly alarming, with the proportion of overweight and obese people in the country’s adult population being among the highest in the OECD [2].

Other statistics paint quite a gloomy picture: 

  • The most recent population study revealed that ⅔ of Australia’s population is either overweight or obese, with these figures being higher among people living in inner-regional (71%) and outer-regional areas (70%) than major-city dwellers (65%) [3]
  • While obesity rates among school-aged children (7-15) have plateaued since the mid-90s, the percentage of this group who were overweight has doubled [4]
  • An examination of a wider cohort of children (ages 2-17) revealed that regional Australian kids are over 10% more likely to be overweight and obese than their metro peers [5]

Why is access to obesity care in regional Australia so problematic?

It’s no secret that healthcare access is an issue in regional Australia.

However, what the media has largely failed to capture is just how much this issue impacts people with complex conditions like obesity — which might explain the statistics we listed above.

Most commentary has focused on doctor shortages and Medicare reform, both important discussions, but ultimately, ones that steer attention away from a more serious problem (and a relevant solution).

While it is clear that access to regional GPs should improve, achieving this will have only a marginal impact on population health, as the vast majority of primary care consultations are for non-serious diagnoses and treatment. 

In rarer cases where serious conditions are detected, 1 of 2 paths is typically taken:

  • If the condition is acute, the patient is referred to an emergency department, where regional patients typically experience shorter wait times than their metro peers [6]
  • If the condition is chronic, the patient is referred to a specialist, or ideally, a multidisciplinary team of specialists to proceed with ongoing care

This is where the issue lies. Often, regional patients with chronic conditions cannot access care in face-to-face settings because the travel times are unmanageable. 

Additionally, very few health practitioners use the Government’s My Health Record to document and coordinate care. So on the off chance that a patient attempts to drive hours to see each member of their care team, they are likely to encounter care continuity issues.

In other words, for most regional Australians living with obesity, managing periodic visits to multiple clinicians would be comparable to a full-time job commitment.

Lowering access barriers to regional GPs would increase the rate of chronic disease detection, but with obesity, it is unlikely that many sufferers would fail to recognise the symptoms themselves. Plus, even if more regional patients got an official diagnosis, they would still have difficulties accessing treatment.

That’s where Juniper’s weight loss services come in.

How does Juniper address this access issue for regional Australians?

No matter where they are in Australia, patients living with obesity can join Juniper’s Weight Reset Program and access medical advice, health coaching, and weight loss treatments from the comfort of their own homes. 

It’s a telehealth service, which means that the geographical challenges we mentioned before cease to exist.

Removing access barriers to quality, holistic healthcare is imperative in the context of the obesity epidemic. Regional Australians living with obesity are disadvantaged by their distance to coordinated care teams, whose support they need to manage their complex condition.

There's no doubt that this drawback contributes to the higher prevalence of obesity among adults in regional Australia relative to major cities (70-71% vs 65%) [7].

Our weight loss program offers a safe and effective solution to this problem by providing continuous, coordinated care through a rigorous online platform. 

It’s more than just weight loss

Thousands of Australian women have found new confidence with Juniper.

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References

  1. Shukla, N., Pradhan, B., Dikshit, A. et al. (2020). A review of models used for investigating barriers to healthcare access in Australia. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 4087; Ward, B., Humphreys, J., McGrail, M., et al. (2015). Which dimensions of access are most important when rural residents decide to visit a general practitioner for non-emergency care? Australian Health Review, 39: 121-126.
  2. ​​https://www.oecd.org/australia/Health-at-a-Glance-2017-Key-Findings-AUSTRALIA.pdf 
  3. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/rural-remote-australians/rural-and-remote-health
  4. Xu, J., Hardy, L., Gu, C. & Garnett, S. (2018). The trends and prevalence of obesity and morbid obesity among Australian school-aged children 1985-2014. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health; 54(8):907-912. 
  5. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/rural-remote-australians/rural-and-remote-health 
  6. Bureau of Health Information (2016). The Insights Series - Healthcare in rural, regional and remote NSW. Sydney (NSW); BHI. 
  7. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/overweight-obesity/overweight-and-obesity/contents/summary
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