Australia's children -- a picture of good health?

Australias children are generally in good health and their health has improved over the last decade, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Australias Children: Their Health and Wellbeing 2002 shows that death rates for children aged 114 years fell by 22% over the last decade, and infant deaths fell by 26% for boys and 23% for girls.

Deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) -- the leading cause of death among Australian infants -- also fell by 62% in the last decade.

Notification rates for many vaccine-preventable diseases decreased between 1993 and 2000, in line with an increase in the proportion of children immunised against these diseases.

However, report co-author, Fadwa Al-Yaman, said there was no room for complacency, because some important threats remain to the health of Australias children.

Injury is the leading cause of death for children aged 1-14 years, Dr Al-Yaman said. Motor vehicle accidents, drowning and pedestrian accidents are the main causes of childhood injury deaths -- and boys have a higher death rate than girls.

The report also shows that injury is also the second most common reason for hospital admissions of children aged 1-14 years (after respiratory conditions like asthma), and boys were hospitalised more than girls -- at double the rate for girls aged 10-14 years.

During 1999-00, injuries and poisoning caused over 68,000 hospitalisations (1,737 for every 100,000 children) with the most common causes being accidental falls, followed by pedal cyclist injuries and accidental poisoning.

Asthma was the most common reason for hospitalisation of children aged 1-4 years, while chronic tonsillitis was responsible for the highest rate of hospitalisation for children aged 5-14 years.

Dr Al-Yaman said the overall health of Indigenous children remained poor. Indigenous children were hospitalised at a higher rate than other Australian children of the same age, particularly for skin diseases, diseases of the circulatory and respiratory system and parasitic diseases.

The death rate for Indigenous infants (children under 1 year old) was 3 times higher than that for other Australian infants. Similarly, the death rate for Indigenous children aged 1-14 years was 2.5 times that for other children.

Australias Children: Their Health and Wellbeing 2002, is the second national report to focus on the health of children in Australia. It provides information on the current and long-term status of childrens health, and on the risk and protective factors influencing their health and wellbeing.

Other findings include:

  • Asthma continues to threaten childhood health, affecting almost 1 in 7 children.
  • Most children aged 2-14 years are of an acceptable weight; 18% of boys and 22% of girls are overweight or obese; 7% of boys and 4% of girls are underweight.
  • Just over 90% of children aged 1 year, and 88% of children aged 2 years were fully immunised in 2001.

17 May 2002


Further information: Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1146, or tel. 0409 307 671 (mobile)
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, 02 6244 1032