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Australia’s children are generally faring well in terms of their health and wellbeing, but there is room for improvement in several areas, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Headline indicators for children’s health, development and wellbeing, 2011, provides information on how children aged 0–12 years are tracking across 12 of 19 nationally agreed priority areas covering health, early learning and care, and family and community. Data are at varying levels of development for the remaining indicators.

‘Internationally, Australia’s performance was better than the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) average based on data for infant mortality, low birthweight, dental health, injury deaths and teenage births,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

‘However, there is still room for Australia to improve in comparison to the top OECD countries.’

Within Australia, there is considerable variation among the states and territories for some indicators, and some population groups are not doing so well, particularly Indigenous children, children living in remote areas and children living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas.

Children living in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory ranked similar to, or better than, the national average across most or all indicators.

Indigenous children were 2–3 times as likely to be of low birthweight, to die as infants, to die from injury, and to be developmentally vulnerable at school entry.

Children living in remote areas experienced poorer outcomes across many indicators compared to children in major cities. They were 40–50% less likely to meet minimum literacy and numeracy standards, and 30% more likely to be born with low birthweight or to be overweight or obese in childhood. They were also twice as likely to die as infants.

‘Children living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas also experienced significantly poorer outcomes. They were 1.7 times as likely to be overweight or obese than children living in the highest socioeconomic status areas, and 1.3 times as likely to be born with low birthweight,’ Dr Al-Yaman said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 27 July 2011

Further information: Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, tel. (02) 6244 1146, mob. 0407 068 033

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032

Full report: Headline indicators for children’s health, development and wellbeing, 2011