This second report on the health indicators in the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development finds areas of improvement as well as areas of concern in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and mothers.
In 2010, 51% of Indigenous mothers attended at least 1 antenatal visit in the first trimester of pregnancy in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory combined. Although the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers access antenatal care at least once during their pregnancy, they tend to access these services later and less often than other mothers (AHMAC 2012a).
Teenage rates of sexually transmissible and bloodborne virus infections
Between 2010 and 2012, in jurisdictions with at least 50% completeness of Indigenous status reporting for teenagers aged 15-19, notification rates for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis were much higher for Indigenous teenagers than for other teenagers (6,807 and 1,560 per 100,000 for chlamydia; 3,182 and 55 per 100,000 for gonorrhoea; and 81 and 3 per 100,000 for syphilis).
Between 2008 and 2010, for all Australia, singleton live babies born to Indigenous mothers were 2.4 times as likely to have low birthweight as those born to non-Indigenous mothers. The proportion of low birthweight babies born to Indigenous mothers, and the gap, declined substantially between 2000 and 2010. Infants who are born with low birthweight are at greater risk than other infants of poor health, disability and death in the first year of life.
Between 2001 and 2011, in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory combined, Indigenous infant mortality declined by 55% (from 11.2 to 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births). But the infant mortality rate in 2007-2011 was still almost twice as high for Indigenous infants as for non-Indigenous infants.
Substance use during pregnancy
Nationally, in 2010, 51% of Indigenous mothers smoked during pregnancy. Indigenous mothers were almost 4 times as likely as non-Indigenous mothers to have smoked during pregnancy (age-standardised rates of 49% and 13%, respectively). These figures did not change substantially between 2007 and 2010. Smoking during pregnancy is a significant risk factor for the mother and her baby, for whom the effects persist into childhood.
Hospitalisations for children under 5
Between 2004-05 and 2010-11, hospitalisation rates for Indigenous children aged 0-4 years increased (from 288 to 322 per 1,000 population) in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory combined.