Ballarat Community Health boss Sean Duffy warns health toll in rising living costs
The Wimmera Mail-Times
5 June 2023
A "SLOWLY BUILDING" health crisis amid fast rising living costs could be felt for years, Ballarat Community Health's boss warns.
Frontline welfare agencies have reported a skyrocketing demand in middle-class households seeking crisis support ahead of the city's annual Ballarat Winter Appeal.
Ballarat Community Health chief executive Sean Duffy said there was also the unseen and unrecorded - people not presenting to charities - whose health was at risk amid tighter budget squeezes.
"One of the biggest impacts we will see more and more is in the choices of what people forgo," Mr Duffy said.
"Rental affordability and housing is a major issue. People are compromising in the food they buy and in their health...To some degree, the people needing welfare we can measure. Everyday, families and making choices on what they forgo.
"Thousands of people are hurting and at the end of the day, it's about significant choices."
Mr Duffy said such choices could be in forgoing fresh fruit and vegetables or paying for dental care and other routine medical check-ups in a bid to save money in the short term.
But long term, these choices could have a big cost for individuals, for families and for the community.
Mr Duffy said the constant interest rate rises would likely continue to push up rental costs and that put enormous pressure on vulnerable families.
He said these impacts might be slowly building but for people in low to medium income households it was already particularly hurting.
Housing costs have climbed almost nine per cent in the past month, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown.
Health costs are up 4.7 per cent while food costs have risen almost eight per cent and transport about seven per cent.
This comes as the state's independent health organisations are no clearer on flagged funding cuts to preventative health programs.
Mr Duffy said the fact there had been no obvious funding commitment changes in the state budget papers, released late last month, could be a positive sign.
Independent community health organisations across the state have this year been united in a Community Health First campaign, calling on the state government to better recognise holistic health. Key to this is a focus on social factors, such as housing.
Ballarat welfare agencies have already been pointing to higher energy costs still to be fully realised as another looming pressure on households this winter.
The Ballarat Foundation, as stewards for the Ballarat Winter Appeal, has set a $50,000 fundraising target for this year's campaign in a bid to best help the community's most vulnerable with food, blankets and financial support.
Financial donations can be made via ballaratfoundation.org.au