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Canberra named healthiest city

If you've ever wondered which Australian city is the healthiest place to live, the answer is Canberra.

A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that Canberra residents drink less, smoke less and use less drugs than those in other cities.

Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Tony Bartone said there was a lot of information to unpack from the report.

"What we found was that, for example, the percentage of ACT residents aged 14 or over who smoked every day was 9.4 compared to an Australian average of 12.4; so that’s a significant difference between the national average," Dr Bartone told ABC radio.

"Virtually if you look at any other population size and age demographic, Canberra – the ACT – outperformed on indicators of tobacco use and alcohol and drug use.

"It’s a complex issue, and information, messaging, public health, access to public health messaging, the information and services, has a lot to do with it; But also it probably has to do with other factors that we still need to work to identify.

"Clearly anything which can be of assistance in identifying what are the factors that are working in Canberra are obviously going to be useful in understanding why we’re still not getting the movement or the higher rates in the rest of the country."

Dr Bartone said that drug, tobacco and alcohol use among the younger generation was in decline across the country, but the report also revealed concerning trends in the Norther Territory.

"We’re finding and one of the key points is that the rates of drug use and illicit substance and tobacco and alcohol in our younger populations has been significantly falling, and that’s got to be a reflection of public health messaging, beginning in schools, and the strategy around the country," he said.

"There are some states that are doing worse than the national trend. The Northern Territory, for example, has the highest rate of daily smokers - It’s 16, nearly 17 per cent, and that’s compared to the national average of just over 12. So we need to look at that, obviously.

"And again, unfortunately – I don’t want to pick on States – but the Northern Territory has high rates of risky alcohol consumption and illicit drug use.

"We need to really unpack the information and look at what further messaging, what further public health resources, and what might be the primary prevention strategies we need to employ."

Dr Bartone said the solution was in prevention and primary health care.

"Prevention is nine-tenths of the issue in my book, and it begins with primary health care, as well as messaging information and public health campaigns, especially when it comes to alcohol," he said.

"For example, the community understands the relationship between health and tobacco, but doesn’t put that same relationship when it comes to the burden of health disease that alcohol causes. So we need that’s part of the cultural change, the community information change that needs to occur to understand the impact on health that alcohol – regular and significant alcohol consumption – does have on our health."

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