IMPROVING transport within the Murray Mallee region, and to and from the region, has been highlighted as a regional health priority for the next five years.
Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illness are now the leading causes of death in the Murray Mallee, most of which require travel to larger hospitals, such as those in Adelaide, for treatment.
Councils in the Murray Mallee area worked together for several months to create the first Murray Mallee LGA Regional Public Health Plan 2013-2018 which identified better transport, support for an ageing population, stronger partnerships between State and local governments and prevention and management of type 2 diabetes as regional health priorities.
Murray and Mallee Local Government Association president David Burgess said transport was a key factor in preventative health measures.
"People need to be able to get to their doctors and hospitals - if it's convenient for people to get there, they're more likely to use it," he said.
"A lot of the treatment is Adelaide-centric but it would be far more convenient and better if people could access treatment at local hospitals."
The eight councils in the Murray and Mallee Local Government Association plan to lobby governments and organise a database to track public transport options.
Hospitalisations could often be avoided if people had access to timely and effective primary health care, the report suggested.
Some of the issues included access to and retaining existing health services, the ageing population and access to services, insufficient transport services in the region, loss of younger people to the city, drug, alcohol and mental health issues and ensuring the health of the River Murray remains a priority for the government.
Accidents and suicide were also mentioned as significant causes of death in the Murray Mallee community.
The Regional Public Health Plan is a legislative requirement of the South Australian Public Health Act 2011.