More than a third of Wagga residents are living their lives with a diagnosed long-term health condition, with asthma proving the most prevalent in the region.
For the first time ever, the Australian Bureau of Statistics collected information on ongoing health conditions in the 2021 census.
The data released earlier this week revealed 11.1 per cent of residents in the Wagga local government area have been diagnosed with asthma.
Diagnosed mental health issues were the second most common long-term ailment at 10.3 per cent, followed by arthritis at 9.1 per cent.
Wagga is lagging in the health stakes compared to the rest of NSW, reporting above average rates of nearly every condition measured.
The local prominence of asthma contrasts with the rest of the country, where the respiratory disease is only the third most common condition - sitting below mental health and arthritis.
Experts have attributed asthma in the region to the huge amount of pollen, due to crops like ryegrass, canola and wheat grown in the nearby countryside.
Charles Sturt University researcher Bruce Graham said this means people with allergies to dry grass pollens are more likely to have their asthma triggered in Wagga.
"You get cases where people move from the coast to Wagga and their asthma all of a sudden gets significantly worse," he said.
Dr Graham said the prominent pollen has also led to a significant awareness campaign surrounding asthma, which could also be a cause of Wagga's higher figure.
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Dr Ayman Shenouda from Glenrock Country Practice said it is not uncommon for previously healthy people to suddenly get asthma after they move to the region.
"Sometimes people have never had asthma in their life and then they come to Wagga and they get adult-onset asthma," he said.
"Because of the dry weather, the pollen and the winds, Wagga has become a hot spot for asthma."
Dr Shenouda said the census results are further evidence of the health disparity between rural and metro regions.
The census revealed about 34.6 per cent of Wagga residents have been diagnosed with a long-term health condition, compared to just 27.5 per cent in Greater Sydney.
"The impact of disease is far higher in regional and rural areas than it is in the cities," Dr Shenouda said.
"That comes back to workforce issues like having enough doctors and filling services."
He called on the state and federal governments to recognise the disparity put on display by the census results and promise better outcomes for regional areas.
"The regional health system has been on the agenda for a while with nothing happening and the census is a good opportunity to show that rural and regional Australia desperately need attention," Dr Shenouda said.
"They need to put more resources into recruiting doctors and nurses but also funding to the practices that are in place and doing well ... especially for primary care."
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