Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are hospitalised due to injury at three times the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Injury-Related Hospitalisations 1991-92 is the first of its kind on Indigenous injury statistics.
Author of the report, Mr Jerry Moller, said the results 'should be treated with caution' owing to difficulties with the data, but despite these limitations it was obvious that injury is 'an important public health issue for Indigenous peoples'.
Major findings of the report include:
If Indigenous peoples were to experience the same rate of injury as their non- Indigenous counterparts, the number of Indigenous hospitalisations in Australia could be expected to fall by more than 60% or 7,000 each year.
Males accounted for 57% of hospitalisations among Indigenous peoples; they suffered higher rates of hospitalisation than females for all causes of injury except drowning and submersion, unintentional poisoning by pharmaceuticals, and self-harm.
The most common specifically identified causes of injury for which Indigenous peoples were hospitalised were transport-related injuries, interpersonal violence, and accidental falls.
The overall rates of interpersonal violence injury-related hospitalisation are similar for males (1,433 per 100,000) and females (1,353 per 100,000).
Injuries from fire flames and scalds, unintentional poisoning with pharmaceuticals and self-harm were less common but still occur more frequently among Indigenous peoples than non-Indigenous peoples.
Mr Moller said that to better understand the injury burden of Indigenous peoples, we need to identify Indigenous people more accurately, use culturally appropriate classifications, and obtain better data on Indigenous populations. In the short term though, he noted that 'existing data can be used to start setting prevention priorities until more accurate data are available'.