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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/02/2011  Final
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MOTHERS' AND CHILDREN'S HEALTH: CHILDREN'S HEALTH
This article is part of a comprehensive series released as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.


KEY MESSAGES

In 2008, more than three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 014 years (79%) were reported as being in excellent or very good health.

For the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 114 years (86%), aspects of their health had not led to concerns about their learning in 2008.

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years brushed their teeth at least once a day (71%). However, 25% of 1014 year olds had a tooth or teeth filled because of dental decay and 20% of 59 year olds had experienced dental decay.

Eye or sight problems and ear or hearing problems were experienced by 7% and 9% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 014 years respectively in 2008.

This topic presents results from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) which provides the most recent data for Indigenous child health.

Information presented in this topic includes:
Other related topics:

SELF-ASSESSED HEALTH

In 2008, more than three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years (79%) were reported to be in excellent or very good health and 4% in fair or poor health. There were no significant differences between boys and girls in non-remote and remote areas who reported excellent or very good health.

For three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1–14 years who lived in non-remote areas (76%), their health was reportedly much the same as it was one year before the interview, (71% in remote). However, health was reported to have improved for over one-quarter (27%) of children in remote areas and 20% in non-remote areas.

For the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1–14 years (86%), aspects of their health had not led to concerns about their learning. Where aspects of health had led to concerns for the child's learning, a higher proportion of boys (18%) were affected than girls (10%).

6.1 HAS CONCERNS FOR CHILD'S LEARNING(a), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children—2008
chart: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with health issues that have led to concerns for learning by age group and sex, 2008
(a) Information provided by a parent, guardian or proxy on whether health issues led to concerns for child's learning.
(b) Difference between males and females is not significantly significant.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Mothers' and children's health datacube.

USE OF HEALTH SERVICES

The health services usually used for children aged 0–14 years differed according to remoteness, with 73% of those in non-remote areas using a doctor or GP compared with 17% in remote areas. More children in remote areas used an Aboriginal Medical Service (38%), more than double the rate in non-remote areas (16%).

6.2 HEALTH SERVICES USUALLY USED FOR CHILD, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years—2008
Health services usually used for child, by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years, 2008
(a) Includes GP outside AMS, health clinic or hospital.
(b) Includes casualty, outpatients or emergency area.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Mothers' and children's health datacube.


TEETH AND GUM PROBLEMS

Good dental health is important for general health and wellbeing. Establishing effective preventative habits in childhood such as teeth brushing contributes to better dental outcomes later in life. Poor oral health has far reaching effects on a person's quality of life through influencing eating, sleep, work and social roles (Endnote 1).

In 2008, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years brushed their teeth at least once a day (71%), though the proportion was higher in non-remote areas than in remote areas (75% compared with 56%).

Nearly two-thirds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years (63%) did not have gum or teeth problems (69% of those in remote areas). However, 25% of children aged 10–14 years had a tooth or teeth filled because of dental decay and 20% of children aged 5–9 years had experienced dental decay. Some of the teeth or gum problems had persisted for several months. Among children aged 0–14 years with teeth or gum problems, 39% experienced those problems for up to 6 months and a further 21% from 7–12 months.

6.3 TEETH AND GUM PROBLEMS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children(a)—2008

Age group (years)

0–4
5–9
10–14
Total 0–14

Has teeth or gum problems
Tooth or teeth filled because of dental decay%
*0.7
18.2
24.7
14.3
Cavities or dental decay%
4.8
20.1
17.5
14.0
Teeth pulled out because of dental decay%
1.3
9.8
8.0
6.3
Problems with teeth or gums(b)%
*1.3
6.5
10.1
5.9
An accident caused breakage or loss of teeth%
1.8
5.2
4.7
3.9
Total with teeth or gum problems%
8.4
39.0
42.0
29.5
Does not have teeth or gum problems%
72.7
59.1
55.9
62.7
Not known if has teeth or gum problems%
*1.7
1.8
2.0
1.9
Does not have teeth%
17.2
n.p.
n.p.
5.9
Total(c)%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

* Estimate has a relative standard error between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.
n.p. Not available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated.
(a) Information provided by a proxy. Wherever possible, the proxy was a parent or guardian. If no parent or guardian was available, a close relative or other household member who had responsibility for the child provided information about the child.
(b) Includes bleeding or sore gums and other problems.
(c) Sum of components may exceed 100% as child may have had more than one type of tooth or gum problem.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey These estimates are also available for download in the Mothers' and children's health datacube.


Among those who had been to a dentist, 54% went to the school dental service and 14% to a private dental practice for their last visit.

Some 8% of children had needed to go to the dentist but didn't in the 12 months prior to interview. Of these, nearly one-third (32%) did not go because the waiting time was too long or the service was not available at the time required. A further 21% did not go to the dentist when needed in the 12 months prior to interview, because of cost.
EAR AND HEARING PROBLEMS

Nationally, ear or hearing problems were experienced by 9% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years in 2008, similar to the findings of the 2004–05 NATSIHS. In 2008, proportions were similar for those living in non-remote and remote areas. More than one-third of the problems experienced (35%) were runny ears or glue ear (Otitis media) and 28% were hearing loss or partial deafness. Treatment for the ear or hearing problems included medication (47%) and surgery (24%). For those children with ear or hearing problems in non-remote areas, 55% had experienced the problems for more than two years, compared with 40% who lived in remote areas.


EYE AND SIGHT PROBLEMS

Nationally, eye or sight problems were experienced by 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years in 2008. The prevalence had not differed significantly since the 2004–05 NATSIHS. However, in 2008, the proportion was lower for those living in remote areas (4%). More than one-third of the problems experienced (37%) were due to difficulty reading or seeing close up (longsightedness) and 28% were for difficulty seeing far away (shortsightedness). For those with eye or sight problems, 61% wore glasses or contact lenses.
ENDNOTES

1. National Advisory Committee on Oral Health (NACOH) 2004, 'Healthy mouths healthy lives: Australia's national oral health plan 2004–2013', South Australian Department of Health, Adelaide, <www.health.sa.gov.au>.



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