Chest Infection Rates Among Australian Indigenous Kids Among The Worst In The World

Mount Isa, Queensland Nick Laham/Getty Images

Rates of hospitalisation for acute lower respiratory tract infections in indigenous children in the Mt Isa region of north-west Queensland are among the worst in the world, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

A group of medical students lead by Dr Elisabeth Janu from the University of Western Sydney found that rates of infections in Mt Isa were comparable to those in the Northern Territory, which is reported to have rates of pneumonia among the highest in the world in children under 12 months of age.

The researchers reviewed chart data from admissions to the Mt Isa Base Hospital of children under the age of 15 between January 2007 and the end of 2011, and population data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Children admitted with pneumonia numbered 164, 77% of whom were indigenous. Again the annual rates in indigenous children were higher than in non-indigenous (13.71 v 2.33 per 1,000 population).

Of 160 hospitalisations for bronchiolitis, 71% involved ndigenous children.

“Given the rise of ALRI (acute lower respiratory tract infections) in north-west Queensland, the Indigenous health gap is widening despite national aspirations to close it”, the authors write.

“More attention needs to be paid to this distant region.”

An editorial in the same issue of the medical journal was written by Professor Paul Torzillo, executive clinical director at the Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney and Medical Director of the Nganampa Health Council in Alice Springs, with Professor Anne Chang of the Queensland Children’s Respiratory Centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.

“We can make substantial gains in health for Indigenous children now,” they write.

“Clinicians and a competent primary health care service that efficiently links with the hospital system are vital.

“We need to get the basics right: high levels of vaccination coverage, systems and training to ensure implementation of standard treatment protocols and early identification of children at risk of chronic suppurative lung disease.”

They also also highlighted anti-smoking interventions, attention to perinatal and early childhood care, improved parenting and the implementation of a nurse home-visiting model programs where these are possible..

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