Victoria’s Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, was recently asked what the government would do about the City of Maribyrnong having the state’s highest rate of children’s hospital admissions for asthma. This was her answer.
The City of Maribyrnong, being an inner city area, has absolutely no problem with access to both primary and secondary healthcare. In fact we are only a 15 minute drive from two of Victoria’s leading paediatric hospitals – The Royal Children’s Hospital and the Sunshine Hospital. There are many areas in Victoria that are at a lower socio-economic status with higher smoking rates and lower parental education levels. And many that don’t have the excellent access to healthcare that we enjoy. But NONE of them have our high asthma rate.
What sets us apart are 22,000 trucks a day using our residential streets, driving past our houses, schools, child care centers, kindergartens and parks. Emitting diesel exhaust at levels not found in any other residential area in Australia. We know diesel exhaust is a respiratory irritant and worse than that, we know it causes lung cancer. We have the dubious honour of being one of Australia’s top 12 air pollution hot spots.
THIS is why our children are attending hospital for asthma and other respiratory issues 171% more than the rest of Australia.
Surely preventative healthcare is better than increasing access to health services or delivering integrated chronic disease management? Surely it’s preferable to prevent our children’s respiratory health from being compromised in the first place?
We urge Minister Hennessy to acknowledge the link between the alarmingly high respiratory illness rates in children in the Inner West, and the volume of truck traffic experienced by this community. We also urge the Department of Health, the EPA, VicRoads and the Maribyrnong City Council to reconvene the Trucks in the Inner West partnership to urgently look at further short term measures to protect the health of this community. We cannot wait 6 years for the Western Distributor, we need action now and we need our health to be taken seriously.