If you reside in the countryside you may well not live as long as your urban counterparts, recently released health statistics state. The study by NSW Health shows that a person living in remote Western NSW can expect to live a shorter life than a person in North Korea or Iraq, although the study didn’t indicate the reason for these figures. Cowra Mayor, Councillor Bill West, says these statistics need closer examination. “While it’s all well and good to call for better health outcomes for our region, we first need to identify the issues that lead to lower life expectancies!” Cr West said. Executive Officer of Western NSW Local Health District, Scott McLachlan, explained that lifestyle issues play a role. “The numbers are terrible but no surprise, the major problem in our region is lifestyle related- smoking, obesity and diabetes” he said. Although Cr West agreed with this statement, he questioned the role of reduced access to specialist health services such as oncology in these outcomes. If you live in a rural community, you’ve probably heard of people becoming ill, having to empty their savings and travel long distances for treatment or babies being born on the roadside due to 70% of rural maternity units closing. “We have a duty to ensure that people in regional areas have access to the health services and workforce they deserve” Cr West concluded. But with suggestions that a doctor who relocates to Cairns will earn double the money on offer for a doctor in Orange, equal access to health care still seems a long way away.