National Framework for Universal Child and Family Health Services

2.1 The health of Australia’s children

Page last updated: 20 May 2013

In Australia, the overall health, development and wellbeing of children is high on many indicators. Childhood mortality rates have halved over the last two decades, the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases has been reduced since the introduction of immunisation (92% of two-year-olds being fully vaccinated in 2004) and the proportion of households with young children in which a household member smoked inside the house has decreased over the past decade [8].

It is concerning however, that despite this seemingly healthier society, increasing numbers of Australian children and young people are displaying worsening or poor outcomes in a number of complex and chronic conditions that have emerged as the challenging morbidities of the 21st century. For example, rates of diabetes, eating disorders, behaviour problems, depression, anxiety, suicide and child protection notifications are increasing [9].

A recent review and analysis of the health and wellbeing of Australia’s children, the ‘ARACY Report Card’, indicates that the health and safety of Australian children, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children2, does not compare favourably with many other countries [10]. Compared with their non-Indigenous Australian counterparts, Indigenous children are two to three times more likely to die in the first 12 months of life, are more likely to be stillborn, to be born pre-term, to have low birth weight, nearly 30 times more likely to suffer from nutritional anaemia and malnutrition up to four years of age, are at a much higher risk of suffering from infectious and parasitic diseases and to be cared for by adults, who are also at higher risk of premature death and serious illness, than other Australian adults [11].

The national Framework for universal child and family health services is designed to meet the needs of all Australian children and must be informed by the emergent research, policy and service context.

2 Throughout this document Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be referred to as such unless a direct quote from another source uses different terminology.