22 October 2015 | General Interest
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) recently released its second annual report on the health performance indicators in the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Indigenous Early Childhood Development. The report uses data collected up to 2012.
The NPA on Indigenous Early Childhood commenced on 1 January 2009 and expired on 30 June 2014. A final evaluation report on the NPA, conducted by Urbis, was released in July 2014. The AIHW reports on the NPA, which are still being released, go into more detail on specific health indicators than the overarching evaluation.
The report focuses on Indigenous antenatal care, sexually transmissible infections, low birthweight, infant mortality, substance use during pregnancy and hospitalisation rate for children under five-years-old. Some key findings from the report are presented below.
Low birthweight is a risk factor for several physical and developmental disabilities and poor childhood health, as well as susceptibility to chronic disease in adulthood. From 2000 to 2010, available data showed a significant decrease in babies born with low birthweight from 12 per cent to 11 per cent of births (a rate decrease of 9 per cent). While this is still 2.4 times that of the non-Indigenous population, when compared to overall trend data in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births from 1991 to 2009, which show both a steady increase in low birthweight births and a widening gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous births, this decrease is a significant indicator of improvements to antenatal care in recent years.
From 2001 to 2011 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate decreased by more than half (11.2 to 6.6 deaths per 1000 births), narrowing the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people by 85 per cent.
The notifications rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STIs have risen from 2010 to 2012, and are identified in the report as being 4 times that of non-Indigenous population for chlamydia, 57 times for gonorrhoea and 29 times higher for syphilis. These outcomes could possibly be attributed to better screening techniques as well as improvements in health-seeking behaviour in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
From 2010 to 2011, overall hospitalisation rates have rise by 13 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, with respiratory diseases being the most common cause for hospitalisation. It was explained in the report that while hospitalisations can be health indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, they represent only acute presentations and there are limitations to current data sets. Increases in recorded hospitalisations may also signify positive changes in access to and use of hospitals and preventative treatment services and improvements in the recording of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status.
SNAICC believes it is important to further efforts in these areas to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child health and development.