Academics tell Australian government ‘childhood injury is preventable’

Researchers and clinicians specialising in paediatric medicine and childhood trauma have called on the Australian federal government to urgently establish a new national injury prevention plan.

This is in response to Australia’s first ever national study of nearly 700,000 hospitalisations over the past 10 years. This found that injuries are the number one cause of death in children under 17 and have twice the number of hospital admissions as cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined. "It is quite astounding that injury to children is the largest cause of disability and death but we don't have a national prevention plan," said Professor Kate Curtis, a co-author of the report and a professor of emergency and trauma nursing at Sydney University and clinician academic in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Health District. The study, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, was authored by academics from Macquarie University, University of Sydney and Australian Catholic University, and backed by at least 17 specialists. Findings include: 
  • Falls (38.4%), most often from playground equipment (8.3%), were the most common injury mechanism.
  • Sporting activities (19.0%) were the most common specified activity performed at the time of the incident.
  • The child’s home (24.5%) was the most common specified place of the incident.
  • The head (23.7%) was the most common location of injury on the body.
  • Fractures (41.9%) were the most common type of injury.
  • Child injury hospitalisation rates have not decreased over a ten year period.
  • There were 686,409 injury-related hospitalisations, which equates to an age standardised injury hospitalisation rate of 1,489 per 100,000 children in Australia.
The report stated that ‘childhood injury is costly, life changing, but preventable’ and stressed the importance of parent wellbeing, with the finding that up to 47% of parents of critically injured children in Australia develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Professor Rebecca Mitchell, co-author, from Macquarie University Mitchell, said the group was calling for routine injury surveillance to begin as soon as possible to inform and evaluate immediate prevention strategies. They also want a federal agency to coordinate injury prevention strategies to identify and act locally where they saw injury hotspots occurring. The study is the first time that injuries have been ranked, as previously non-fatal rankings didn't exist, said academics. It was funded by the Day of Difference Foundation.
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