Injury is the leading cause of death for children under 15 according to Australia's Children: Their Health and Wellbeing 1998 to be released on Thursday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Motor vehicle accidents, drowning and pedestrian accidents are the major causes of childhood injury deaths and boys have a higher death rate than girls.
Injury is also the second most common reason for hospital admissions for under 15 year olds (after respiratory conditions like asthma), and boys were hospitalised more than girls-at double the rate for girls from 10-14 years.
During 1996-97, injuries caused over 68,000 hospitalisations (1,800 for every 100,000 children) with the most common causes being accidental falls, followed by accidental poisoning.
Australia's Children: Their Health and Wellbeing 1998, the first national report to focus entirely on the health of Australian children, includes information-much of it not previously published-on major risk factors and wider health and wellbeing determinants, as well as information on injuries and important diseases. It also includes separate sections about the health of some priority groups, including Indigenous children, children living in rural and remote locations, overseas-born children, and children from socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.
Indigenous identification is reliable enough for reporting on children's health in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Co-author of the report, Ms Lynelle Moon, said 'Combined data for these states show that between 1991 and 1996 the death rate for Indigenous infants under 1 year old was 3 times higher than that for other Australian infants.'
The report also shows where children's health has improved. Ms Moon said that 'there's been a steady downward trend in infant death rates over the past 10 years to 5 female deaths per 1,000 live births in 1996, and just over 6 male deaths per 1,000 live births in 1995. The death rates for 1-14 year olds also declined during the same period. The falls are largely due to declines in the number of deaths from injury and from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.'
Other findings in the report include:
- Vaccine preventable diseases in children under 15 caused on average nearly 1000 hospitalisations per year between 1994-95 and 1996-97, and on average just over 5 deaths per year between 1994 and 1996.
- In 1995, 16% of under 15 year olds were reported to suffer from long term asthma.
- Almost 60% of children under 4 in 1995 had been breastfed for at least 3 months.