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4725.0 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, Apr 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/05/2012  Reissue
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Contents >> Health >> Children's health


HEALTH: CHILDREN'S HEALTH

This article is part of a comprehensive series released as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth.


Note: In this section, the term 'children' refers to people aged 0–14 years unless otherwise stated. Information was provided by the parent or guardian or, where they were not available, by a close relative or other household member with responsibility for the child. Data presented are from the ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2008 (cat. no. 4714.0).

KEY MESSAGES

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years in 2008:
  • the majority (79%) were reported to be in excellent or very good health, 18% were reported to be in good health and 4% were reported to be in fair or poor health
  • those in excellent or very good health were more likely than those in fair or poor health to have a carer who was also in excellent or very good health (53% compared with 32%)
  • 9% had ear or hearing problems, 7% had eye or sight problems and 30% had teeth or gum problems.

CHARACTERISTICS OF HEALTHY CHILDREN

One of the most direct ways of improving outcomes in childhood and influencing the life course is to ensure that all care taking environments in the early years are nourishing, stimulating and meet the health and developmental needs of young children (Endnote 1). A child's main carer and their family's household situation are central to the care taking environment for the child.

In 2008, the majority (79%) of children aged 0–14 years were reported to be in excellent or very good health, 18% were reported to be in good health and 4% were reported to be in fair or poor health. The proportions of children with excellent or very good health did not vary significantly between non-remote and remote areas, or between boys and girls.

Children in excellent or very good health were more likely than those in fair or poor health to:
  • play with children their own age every day (57% compared with 37%) (Endnote 2)
  • have a main carer who was also in excellent or very good health (53% compared with 32%)
  • have a main carer who had completed Year 10 or above (72% compared with 60%)
  • have a main carer with a non-school qualification (37% compared with 26%)
  • be living in a home that was owned or being purchased (28% compared with 19%).

They were also less likely than children in fair or poor health to:
  • have had problems sleeping in the previous month (18% compared with 54%) (Endnote 3)
  • have experienced a stressor in the previous year (56% compared with 87%)
  • have been exposed to passive smoking at home (19% compared with 38%)
  • be living in a household that had run out of money for basic living expenses in the last 12 months (28% compared with 50%).

There were no statistically significant differences between the proportions of children who were in excellent or very good health and those who were in fair or poor health across a range of other indicators that might also contribute to wellbeing. These included daily fruit and vegetable intake, participation in organised sport, participation in sport/social/community activities, school attendance, and living in overcrowded conditions.

1.1 SELECTED WELLBEING INDICATORS BY HEALTH STATUS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years—2008
Graph: Selected wellbeing indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years, by health status, 2008
(a) Difference between children with excellent/very good health and children with fair/poor health is statistically significant.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey

HEALTH CONCERNS

Comprehensive information on health concerns and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years is presented in Mothers' and children's health and Social and emotional wellbeing: stressors and life events - children in The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (cat. no. 4704.0).

Some of the key health concerns highlighted in this publication include:
  • 9% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years had ear or hearing problems, 7% had eye or sight problems and 30% had teeth or gum problems (Endnote 4)
  • children living in non-remote areas were twice as likely as those living in remote areas to have eye or sight problems (8% compared with 4%)
  • gum and teeth problems were more commonly reported in non-remote areas than in remote areas (32% compared with 22%)
  • in both non-remote and remote areas, 8% of children needed to see a dentist but had not been in the last 12 months (Endnote 4)
  • 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children did not brush their teeth at all
  • 59% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children had experienced a life stressor in the last 12 months.
ENDNOTES

1. Moore, T. 2006, Early childhood and long term development: the importance of the early years, Centre for Community Child Health, Melbourne <www.aracy.org.au>

2. Data are for children aged 3–14 years.

3. Data are for children aged 4–14 years.

4. Excludes infants without teeth.

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