Frailty map will help providers better plan services

A new interactive map developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide shows where frail and pre-frail Australians live today and how this will change in coming years.

The frailty web map has been developed by Dr Danielle Taylor and a team of researchers at the University of Adelaide’s NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing.

The world first tool will enable greater planning of health services, with the prevalence of frailty in some suburbs in metropolitan areas set to double.

“Frailty is an increased vulnerability to adverse health outcomes, such as loss of mobility, falls leading to hospitalisation and death,” she says.

“Frailty is associated with ageing, but is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. It is a preventable and treatable condition that reduces the quality of life of many older people.

“The first step in addressing frailty is to identify people who are frail or likely to become frail (pre-frail). While this can be done on an individual level by frailty screening, on a population level, geospatial population modelling can be used to model frailty prevalence and identify frail and pre-frail populations and how their distribution is likely to change in the future.”

The interactive map shows population estimates of the number of frail and pre-frail people within all Australian suburbs for 2011, 2016 and 2027.

It shows that the number of frail people in some suburbs around capital cities are projected to double. Examples of these include among others:

Sydney — Padstow, Chatswood, Bexley, Hurstville
Melbourne — Epping, Mulgrave, Keilor East
Canberra — Monash, Florey, Rivett
Brisbane — Eagleby, Raceview, Birkdale
Adelaide — Hallett Cove, Happy Valley, Mount Barker and Golden Grove
Perth — Armadale, Canning Vale, Bassendean, Kingsley
Darwin — Fannie Bay, Rapid Creek, Wanguri
Hobart — Risdon Vale, Brighton, South Hobart

In 2016 3.6 million Australians (15.7 per cent of the total population) were over 65 years old. More than half of them are estimated to be frail (more than 415,000) or pre-frail (1.7 million) and the number is expected to grow rapidly. It’s estimated that more than 600,000 people will be frail and 2.2 million pre-frail in 2027. The growth is expected to be fastest in regional, remote and outer metropolitan areas.

“Australia is the first country to have an interactive frailty map and that shows where frail and pre-frail people live and is in a unique position to address this growing issue,” says Dr Taylor.

“This information can be used to inform resource distribution, such as the provision of health services to areas that are likely to have a high level of need.”

“The map is available for anyone to use including individuals or community groups that may wish to use the information to advocate for additional local services.”

Frail people need assistance from physiotherapists, dieticians, occupational therapists, social workers, aged care assessment services and community services to help alleviate the effects of ageing.

“This is a step forward in the way frailty can be identified, leading to more targeted treatment and prevention and ultimately a reduction in frailty prevalence. It also raises awareness of the projected rapid growth of frailty and the need to act to prevent and better manage frailty,” says Dr Taylor.

“Reducing frailty will improve the quality of life of many older Australians, enabling them to remain independent and living for longer in their own homes, while also reducing the higher utilisation of health services, a characteristic of frailty.”

The new map will be presented by Dr Taylor today at a research showcase in Adelaide, Heathy Ageing: Every Step Matters. This research was supported by The Hospital Research Foundation Mid-Career Fellowship held by Dr Danielle Taylor and the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing.


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