'Doing well' but 'could do better' for Australia's kids

The latest report on Australia's children, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows a continuing fall in child death rates - mostly due to fewer injury deaths - as well as declining asthma hospitalisations, teen births and smoking rates in older children.

'Combined with favourable trends in some risk and protective factors, such as immunisation coverage, these factors suggest that overall Australian children are doing well,' said Deanna Eldridge of the Institute's Children, Youth and Families Unit.

'Improvements in leukaemia survival rates are also encouraging, as is the fact that most children meet national physical activity guidelines and achieve national minimum standards for reading and numeracy,' she said.

In terms of international comparisons however, Australia doesn't measure up to other OECD countries on infant and under 5 mortality rates, teenage birth rates and jobless families with children. And there are other areas that also need improvement.

According to the report, A picture of Australia's children 2009, far too many children spend more than the recommended time of 2 hours a day in front of a video screen (including television and computers), are overweight or obese, and are not eating recommended amounts of vegetables.

'Rising rates of severe disability, diabetes, and the disadvantages faced by Indigenous children and children who live in remote areas are also a concern,' Ms Eldridge said.

'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are far more likely to be disadvantaged across a broad range of health and socioeconomic indicators,' she said.

Indigenous children are 2 to 3 times as likely as other Australian children to die, be of low birthweight and have dental decay.

They are 5 times as likely to be born to teenage mothers; 8 to 9 times as likely to be in the child protection system; and 24 times as likely to be under juvenile justice supervision.

The report also shows that children living in remote areas had higher death rates, higher rates of neural tube defects, lower rates of cancer survival, worse dental decay, and were less likely to meet minimum standards for reading and numeracy than their counterparts living in major cities.

A picture of Australia's children 2009 is the fourth in a series of AIHW national statistical reports on children aged 0-14 years. It provides the latest available information on how Australia's children are faring according to key national indicators of health, development and wellbeing. This includes reporting, for the first time, against the Children's Headline Indicators endorsed by Ministerial Councils for Health, Community Services and Disability, and Education.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Further information: Ms Deanna Eldridge, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1011, mob. 0418 271 395.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.