Doctors welcome progress report on child health and development

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) congratulates commonwealth, state and territory governments for the progress made against multiple headline indicators relating to children’s health, development and wellbeing.  

A progress report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals a downward trend in smoking rates during pregnancy and homelessness as well as improved literacy and numeracy rates.

“The AIHW report shows lower smoking rates during pregnancy and improvements in child literacy and numeracy,” said RACP President of Paediatrics and Child Health, Professor Paul Colditz. “This is very encouraging when it comes to providing children with a strong foundation for future development.” 

Professor Colditz said there is still work to do to ensure children are kept safe and well. 

“We are very concerned by the significant rates of child abuse and neglect.

“Commonwealth, state and territory governments must continue to develop and implement action plans around child abuse and neglect with a focus on prevention through initiatives such as The Common Approach. 

“All governments need to make child health equity a priority, given the divergence in indicators between lowest and highest socioeconomic status groups and between regional/remote areas and major cities. 

“While there have been gains in some areas, disparities exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Long term investment in Indigenous child health is needed.”

The RACP has been calling for a comprehensive approach to measuring the impacts of health inequity in childhood and implementing measures to address these. 

At the federal level, this includes: 

• Appointment of a Commonwealth Chief Paediatrician to provide national clinical leadership and advocacy for child health to help improve these indicators.
• Reinstating the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council subcommittee on child and youth health.
• Developing equity-based key performance indicators for governments that promote the health, development and wellbeing of all children. 
• Ensuring that responses to Indigenous child health are led by communities and key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child health groups.    

The Children's Headline Indicators (CHI) are a set of 19 indicators endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers' Conference, Community and Disability Services Ministers' Conference and the Australian Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs Senior Officials Committee in 2008 (first reported in 2009). 
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