Health care experts brand plan for a “Big Australia” as disaster waiting to happen

By Candy Lashkari

Increased immigration rates are set to make Australia’s population hit 36 million by the year 2050 according to Federal Government estimates. This would be a huge leap from the present 22,300,000 people that the nation has today. The added population is being seen as a necessity to ensure economical survival for the country.

However health care experts are branding the plan for a “Big Australia” as a disaster waiting to happen. An article published in the Medical Journal of Australia by Dr Deborah Pelser says that the influx will hit all the major towns and cities and will push up the levels of chronic disease in them.

"Increasing urbanisation is associated with higher rates of obesity, asthma and depression, unless it is accompanied by appropriate town planning that provides adequate pedestrian amenities, limits pollution, ensures public safety, encourages social cohesiveness and allows access to fresh food," Dr Pelser said.

University of Adelaide demography expert Professor Graeme Hugo supported the view that Australia needed to grow. What was to be seen was how the growth was to be managed and handled by the federal government. Professor Hugo appreciated population minister Tony Burke’s commitment to creating a workable population strategy which would make best use of the resources available.

"We have people who want massive, unlimited growth - and others saying no growth. It has to be somewhere in between. We are going to have to decide what sort of Australia we want” said Professor Hugo.

Given the current state of preparation fears of the failure of current health care infrastructure which is struggling with the current population numbers may be well founded.

“The Federal Government has said that to meet the challenge of a growing population, cities would have to increase their urban density. But increasing urbanisation was linked to higher rates of obesity, asthma and depression unless it was accompanied by appropriate town planning.” said Dr Pelser.

The urban sprawl is usually linked with less physical activity and more overweight and obese people. There is a lot of research to support the fact that the less green area available to a population the more likely they were at a risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, chronic neck and back pain, asthma, migraine, some types of cancer and even schizophrenia.

"Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's vision of a super-sized Australia, while it might have some short-term economic benefits, will put further strain on the health system.” said Dr Pelser.

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