Two babies with unequal futures

THIS is a tale of two babies.

They were born 730km apart, but statistics suggest their prospects are worlds apart.

Data shows Frankie Lindsay is at risk of dying four years earlier than Sophia Milosevic, pictured right with her mum Kate.

For both children their distance from capital cities makes all the difference.

Sophia's home is in the Federal seat of Bennelong in the north of Sydney, a seat long held by former prime minister John Howard.

Frankie was born in Casino, 195km from Brisbane and 1000km from Canberra.

A special Northern Star investigation reveals how regional Australia has been let down, with health, education and infrastructure funding failing to help those who need it most.

In Lismore, the life expectancy for a baby born in 2014 is 81.2 years compar- ed with 85.3 where three- month-old Sophia lives in the Sydney suburb of Ryde.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal the median age of death for locals is 82 compared with 84 in the Ryde council area.

Frankie's mother, Al Lewis-Lindsay, pictured above, wasn't surprised because she has seen it first- hand.

"The opportunities for people in rural Australia are much less than those in the city," she said.

"You don't have guidance and support and access to services so of course the life expectancy will be lower."

Ms Lewis-Lindsay said early education in schools was the key.

"There should be a lot more school-based programs looking at prevention rather than the cure of illnesses like mental illness," she said.

"I worry there's a great risk of our kids being exposed to more illegal substances and convenience foods. I see it every day, hence my concern about a lack of education."

Meanwhile, Ms Milosevic said there was no better place to raise a child in Australia than Ryde.

"It is a Liberal seat so it seems to do very well for itself," she said.

"There are constantly things happening, new playgrounds and projects with new funding.

"It's brought a different demographic of people and the area has become quite affluent."

Public health policy expert Dr Rob Moodie said Lismore's life expectancy rates and median age of death would not improve until the Northern Rivers matched its metropolitan cousins on income, education, employment and access to more top quality health services.

The University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health lecturer said rates of smoking and drinking in low socio-economic communities added to the problem.

"One of the biggest drivers around life expectancy is not whether you get treatment, it's around how wealthy you are, what your education level is and what your income levels are," Dr Moodie said.

"Your risks of chronic diseases from smoking will be greater; the risk of dying from alcohol-related diseases will be greater."

Ms Milosevic said some people were moving to Ryde to enrol their children in public schools in the area.

"You hear about regional areas in trouble all the time and one big thing I think is education, and people just don't seem to have the same opportunities," she said.

"And other mothers have praised the public health here, too.

"It would be awesome if that sort of opportunity and lifestyle was available everywhere, especially in regional areas where things seem to be tough."

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