Aborigines have more pneumonia18th May 2010
Indigenous Australian children have the highest rates of pneumonia in the world, according to a recent study.
Lead researcher Kerry-Ann O'Grady said that her team found an average of 72.3 yearly pneumonia cases for every 1,000 indigenous babies under one year old.
She said that the incidence of WHO-defined radiologically confirmed pneumonia among children in the Central Australian region of Northern Territory was the highest incidence of the disease reported in published studies.
For every 1,000 children between the ages of one and two, there were 54 incidents of pneumonia, compared to 20.1 in every 1,000 children between the ages of two and five.
The new study shows Australia's pneumonia rates to be higher than those in Gambia in West Africa, one of the world's poorest countries.
O'Grady said that pneumonia was a disease of poverty, and that, among indigenous Australians, the disease was the leading cause of preventable infant mortality for babies older than 28 days.
She said that researchers were not able to pinpoint why occurrences of the disease varied throughout Australia's Northern Territory, but argued that the country's levels of pneumonia were unacceptable for a developed country.
O'Grady said that reducing the disease burden should be a national health priority for all Australians, especially since the disease was known to contribute to chronic lung disease in adulthood.
For the study, the researchers looked at hospital admission rates among indigenous children between 1997 and 2005.
O'Grady said she believed research must continue so that the government could change its policies and people could rearrange their priorities.
Indigenous Australians currently comprise about 2.5% of the country's population.
On average, their life expectancy is much lower than that of Australians with European roots.
Each year, about 1.8 million children die from pneumonia.
Other studies have shown that one in five indigenous children get admitted to Australian hospitals for acute lower respiratory tract infection.
O'Grady said that she believed the country's response to the study should be multi-pronged, and that parents needed to enhance their parenting skills.
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