Better learning, but Aussie kids get fatter

Numeracy and literacy skills are up among Australian children and infant deaths are down, but obesity remains a big health problem, reports the AIHW.
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01.Mixed bag for Aussie kids' health and welfare

child at early learning centre

Obesity remains an ongoing health problem for Australian children, and incidents of child abuse and neglect are on the rise, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

New data from the AIHW’s Children’s Headline Indicators project shows the proportion of overweight and obese children was at 26% in 2011-12, up from 23.1% in 2007-08. New South Wales had the biggest increase, jumping from 21.2 to 27.7 in that timeframe.

And while there was a nationwide increase in substantiated incidents of child abuse and neglect from 2009-10 to 2010-11, it was most dramatic in NSW, which saw a 30% increase over the same period. The latest figures for Northern Territory are more than three times the national average.

But the snapshot also shows some positive trends. "The information released today shows good news in that infant deaths continued to decline between 2006 and 2012 from 4.7 to 3.3 per 1000 live births," said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

Overall improvements continue to occur in a number of other areas too:

  • In 2013 the majority of children (94%) attended an early education program in the year before beginning primary school, up from 86% in 2012.
  • The proportion of children who were developmentally vulnerable at school entry fell between 2009 and 2012.
  • The proportion of children in year 5 achieving at or above the national minimum standards for literacy is at 96.1%, and for numeracy is at 93.4%, up from 2008 figures of 91% and 92.7% respectively.

"However, the data released today also shows that some children are faring worse than the general population," Dr Al-Yaman said.

  • Indigenous mothers were more than four times as likely as non-Indigenous mothers to smoke during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Child deaths from injuries in 2010-12 were three times as high in outer regional, remote and very remote areas as in major cities.
  • Infant mortality was about 1.6 times as high in areas with the lowest socioeconomic status compared with those areas with the highest socioeconomic status.

The Children's Headline Indicators are a set of 19 indicators relating to children's health, development and wellbeing. They're designed to concentrate policy attention on identified priority areas for children aged 0–12, with a focus on different groups of children (for example, Indigenous children and children living in remote areas).

The Children's Headline Indicator interactive data portal is updated annually and currently contains data for 15 indicators. The project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.



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