A report released 24 September by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) examines progress made in child and youth health and wellbeing over the last decade and focuses on both improvements and future challenges.
‘It highlights the areas where progress has been made to ensure that all Australian children have the best possible start in life,’ said Sushma Mathur of the AIHW’s Children, Youth and Families Unit.
The report uses a variety of health and welfare indicators designed to focus policy attention on important issues for children and youth health, development and wellbeing.
Included in these indicators are the Children’s Headline Indicators, which have been endorsed by Health, Community and Disability Services Ministerial Councils.
The full set of the Headline Indicators, designed to link data to policy efforts to improve outcomes for child health and wellbeing across Australia, are available on the Department of Health and Ageing website.
The AIHW report, Making progress: the health, development and wellbeing of Australia’s children and young people, highlights improvements such as the 30 per cent fall in mortality rates for people under the age of 20, and the fact that teen smoking rates have halved since 2001.
‘It also shows that in the last decade Indigenous infant mortality rates have fallen, and that more Indigenous students remain in school until year 12 than ever before,’ Ms Mathur said.
But in addition to reporting progress, the AIHW report also highlights areas where improvement can be made.
Indigenous children are still twice as likely as others to be low birth weight, to be hospitalised for various chronic conditions, and to die before the age of 20.
Findings showed that disadvantage is not limited to Indigenous children and youth.
The report found that over 95,000 (7 per cent) of 15 to 19 year olds were neither employed nor studying, putting them at risk for decreased opportunities to fully participate in society.
In 2005, almost 50,000 children under the age of 5 had unmet demand for child care or preschool due to lack of available places.
Teenage girls living in regional areas were twice as likely to give birth, and those living in remote or very remote areas five times as likely to give birth, as their peers in major cities.
And 15 per cent of Australian children under the age of 15 live in jobless families.
International comparisons show that Australia has the second highest percentage of children living in jobless families in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
(Source: Making progress: the health, development and wellbeing of Australia’s children and young people: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: October 2008)