NSW study finds no narrowing of child injury gap

More inclusive child safety measures are needed, after research from the George Institute of Global Health indicates that despite a decade of closing the gap, the inequities in health between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal children, remain the same.

Researchers from The George Institute for Global Health, the University of New South Wales and the University of Wollongong found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are twice as likely than non-Indigenous children to be hospitalised for accidental injuries, including falls, burns and poisonings.

The study analysed the health records of one million children born in NSW between 2003-2007 and 2008 – 2012. The research found that Aboriginal children were 1.7 times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be hospitalised for these unintentional injuries.

Falls were the leading cause of admission for Aboriginal children, accounting for one third of the examined data. Aboriginal children are 2.5 times more likely to suffer burns and from transport injuries than non-Aboriginal children. The rate of Aboriginal children admitted for injuries caused by being struck, by things such as falling objects, rose by 29%.

Lead researcher Dr Holger Möller highlights the high rate of Aboriginal children suffering these unintentional injuries despite nationwide safety campaigns and legislation.

“Children should not be turning up at our hospitals with preventable injuries and we need to recognise this inequality and put in place strategies that will start reducing this startling difference,” Dr Moller said.

Professor of Indigenous Health at the University of Wollongong’s Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) and co-author of the study Professor Kathleen Clapham, said there needs to be more communication with and inclusion of Aboriginal communities regarding issues of child health and safety.

“Working with Aboriginal community organisations is very important. Those organisations are on the ground, they’re working with local communities, they know the communities,” she said.

“Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations have an important role in helping reduce the risk of Aboriginal child injury because they engage with Aboriginal people within local community contexts and deliver holistic programs that address underlying health and social issues. There also needs to be much stronger leadership and coordination of child injury prevention from government and other agencies.”

Professor Clapham questioned the accessibility of past government-funded safety programs for Aboriginal people and said this could be addressed through the development of partnerships between government and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.

“We need information about what’s going on locally and for government and agencies to work together to improve that local level data. Local level programs that fit the diversity of Aboriginal communities exist and I think it’s really evident that we’re not seeing enough of those types of programs,” she said.

The study was recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

By Rachael Knowles

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