MOTHERS’ AND 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

There are a number of positive findings in relation to maternal health and factors affecting childhood development including high rates of breastfeeding and physical activity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children:
In 2008, the majority of birth-mothers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years (87%) had regular check-ups while pregnant (at least one every two months).
According to the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, three-quarters (76%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years had been breastfed.
Three out of every four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–14 years (74%) were physically active for at least 60 minutes everyday, though the proportion was higher for those who lived in remote areas (84%).
The proportion of children aged 0–14 years who lived in a household where members usually smoked inside the house decreased from 29% in 2004–05, to 21% 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 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.
Eye or sight problems and ear or hearing problems were experienced by 7% and 9% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years respectively in 2008.

Patterns and behaviours experienced early in life can have far-reaching effects. Health and wellbeing, participation in society, educational attainment and employment outcomes in adulthood can be influenced by the experiences of childhood. Certain lifestyle choices made during pregnancy can determine risk factors for the developing infant (Endnote 1). For example, smoking or high alcohol consumption during pregnancy can increase the risk of health impairment in both mother and child.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children generally experience poorer health than their non-Indigenous counterparts in Australia. Several factors contribute to this outcome including the relatively poor socioeconomic status and social disadvantage experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families as well as the health-related behaviours of the mother during pregnancy.

This article provides a range of information on aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers’ and children’s health, drawing mostly on data from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS).

Topics covered in this article include:
pregnancy and maternal health
child nutrition and breastfeeding
child exercise
children’s sleep habits
children and passive smoking
children’s health
mothers’ and children’s health: Torres Strait Islander people.

Other related topics:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births and perinatal mortality, see discussion on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and children (2008)
maternal mortality, see discussion on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers (2008)
children’s long term health conditions, see discussion on Healthy child development (2008).

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ENDNOTE

1. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ‘Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs, and Pregnancy’ June 2008, .

This page last updated 16 February 2011
Source: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/lookup/4704.0Chapter600Oct+2010

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