Fraser Coast bubs deserve better

THIS is a tale of two babies.

They were born 1205km apart, but statistics suggest their prospects are worlds apart.

Data shows one-week-old Levi Gruettner, pictured above, is at risk of dying 4.6 years earlier than Sophia Milosevic, pictured opposite with her mum Kate.

For both children their distance from capital cities makes all the difference.

Sophia's home is in the Federal seat of Bennelong in the north of Sydney, a seat long held by former prime minister John Howard.

Levi was born on the Fraser Coast, 305km from Brisbane and 1495km from Canberra.

A special Fraser Coast Chronicle investigation reveals how regional Australia has been let down, with health, education and infrastructure funding failing to help those who need it most.

In the Fraser Coast region, the life expectancy for a baby born in 2014 is 80.7 compared to 85.3 where three-month-old Sophia lives in the Sydney suburb of Ryde.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal the median age of death for locals is 79 compared to 84 in the Ryde council area.

The figures shocked Levi's mother Kaylee Cousins, 26, who moved to Urraween from Sydney 12 years ago "for a better life" .

"You think someone in a country area would have a better life expectancy," she said.

But she said the facilities on offer on the Fraser Coast simply did not match up to city standards.

"In Brisbane they have more hospitals and better support to care for people," Ms Cousins said.

"Look at the Maryborough hospital - while it has things there, it is not up and running like the one in Hervey Bay."

As her partner has to go away for work with a gas company at Roma, she also fears for the employment opportunities that will be available to her son.

"The kind of money (my partner) earns isn't available here," she said. "It is hard to find a job here, there's no industry."

Meanwhile Ms Milosevic said there was no better place to raise a child than Ryde.

"It is a Liberal seat so it seems to do very well for itself," she said. "There are constantly things happening, new playgrounds and projects with new funding.

"It's brought a different demographic of people and the area has become quite affluent."

Public health policy expert Dr Rob Moodie said the Fraser Coast's life expectancy rates and median age of death would not improve until the region matched its metropolitan cousins on income, education, employment and access to more top quality health services.

The University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health lecturer said rates of smoking and drinking in low socio-economic communities also added to the problem.

"One of the biggest drivers around life expectancy is not whether you get treatment, it's around how wealthy you are, what your education level is and what your income levels are," Dr Moodie said. "Your risks of chronic diseases from smoking will be greater; the risk of dying from alcohol-related diseases will be greater."

Ms Milosevic said some people were moving to Ryde to enrol their children in public schools in the area.

"You hear about regional areas in trouble all the time and one big thing I think is education and people just don't seem to have the same opportunities.

"And other mothers have praised the public health here, too.

"It would be awesome if that sort of opportunity and lifestyle was available everywhere, especially in regional areas where things seem to be tough."



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