The Riverina has been called to put its best foot forward in a state health challenge after statistics revealed it was the highest ranking region for heart admissions in NSW.
It comes as Heart Foundation figures also revealed the Riverina had the second highest obesity rate in Australia.
Wagga accredited dietitian Peta Adams said prevention was key to tackling obesity.
“I certainly think a community is more effective than if you go it alone but if it’s just reinventing the wheel it can miss the mark,” Ms Adams said.
“Changing initiatives rather than doing the same thing each time can effectively engage people.”
Ms Adams said making changes to mitigate lifestyle factors was crucial.
“I am obviously an advocate of going and seeing a dietitian because it is important to prevent a heart attack or stroke rather than treat it,” she said.
“Having the skills and a good amount of knowledge to work through all these things is valuable.”
With one person dying each 12 minutes from heart disease across Australia, NSW Preventative Health Director Chris Rissel has encouraged the community to get behind the NSW Healthy Town Challenge.
“It is a terrific opportunity for rural and regional towns to improve the environment and make a change,” he said.
“People may generally be aware it’s a concern but often it doesn’t come home.
“This makes it local for people and brings them together to talk about the topic.”
Mr Rissell has encouraged people to register and get involved, with applications recently opened for local community groups to reverse the statistics and improve their health.
“We were concerned about what was happening and we didn’t have a viable model, we tried this approach and it’s been reasonably successful,” he said.
“I hope people take the opportunity and step up.”
Heart Foundation chief executive Kerry Doyle said the challenge encourages an active lifestyle for regional towns suffering from higher levels of obesity.
Towns with a population between 1000 and 15000 are eligible to apply to win $15,000 and receive extra support from the Heart Foundation.
Nominations are open until November 20, with the challenge kicking off on January 22.