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Call to cut billion-dollar child injury bill

13 June 2017
Injury is the leading cause of death among children

The Federal government should establish a national injury prevention plan, say the authors of a new report putting the cost of treating 680,000 children hospitalised for injuries at $2.1 billion.

Injury is the leading cause of death among children aged 1 to 16 years in Australia. In the 10 years to 2012 there were 1,759 injury-related deaths among children in this age-group.

Funded by The Day of Difference Foundation, the report released today is the first national profile of childhood injury in Australia. Accompanied by nine recommendations to government, it provides extensive data and commentary on the causes, costs and incidence of hospitalisations and deaths arising from injuries among children aged 16 years and younger.

“Australia’s injury prevention plan expired three years ago and we urgently need to reduce the burden of suffering and deaths arising from childhood injuries,” said the report’s co-author, Professor Kate Curtis from the University of Sydney.

“Childhood injury rates have not reduced over the past 10 years and deaths have increased from 108 to 149 deaths per year. An injury can happen in the blink of an eye and can be life-changing. Even when their wounds have healed, injured kids often face ongoing issues such as chronic pain, physical limitations and psychological issues,” she said.

We urgently need to reduce the burden of suffering and deaths arising from childhood injuries.
Professor Kate Curtis, University of Sydney

In addition to calling for a national injury prevention plan, the report’s authors say Australia needs a routine injury surveillance system using real time access to hospital record data.

“We recommend routine injury surveillance commence as soon as possible, and in real time, so that injury prevention strategies can be informed, targeted and evaluated with timely, robust data,” said report co-author, Associate Professor Rebecca Mitchell of Macquarie University.

“There is presently no such capability and the logistics of linking national hospitalisation and mortality data to compile this new report were convoluted and took four years to obtain.”

The authors have also called for:

  • enhancing the Australian Trauma Quality Improvement Program and the National Trauma Registry so that injured children get optimal care, no matter where they are injured or treated.
  • funding injury family support coordinators in all paediatric trauma centres nationally to coordinate physical and psychosocial care of injured children and their families for two years from a child’s discharge from hospital

Snapshot: childhood injuries in Australia for the ten-year period, 2002-2012

  • Injury is the leading cause of death among children aged 1 to 16 years in Australia
  • There were 1,759 injury-related deaths among children aged 1 to 16 years over the 10-year period
  • Child injury hospitalisation rates have not changed over a ten-year period
  • There were 686,409 injury-related hospitalisations, equating to an age-standardised injury hospitalisation rate of 1489 injuries per 100,000 children
  • Child deaths following hospitalisation for injury have increased

Children had a higher risk of dying from their injuries if they:

- lived in regional/remote Australia
- were aged ≤10 years
- were more severely injured
- were injured in a transport incident
- drowned
- self-harmed
- sustained a head injury

  • The average hospitalisation cost per seriously injured child was more than $12,000 with male costs being higher than females
  • Males accounted for nearly two-thirds of injury hospitalisations (63.6 percent) while females accounted for a third of hospitalisations (36.4 percent)
  • Childhood injury is catastrophic for families: nearly half the parents of critically-injured children develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • For every severely injured child, there are at least 13 children hospitalised with minor or moderate injuries
  • Child injury hospitalisations varied by socioeconomic status: a higher proportion of injured children in all age groups resided in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage
  • Falls, particularly from playgrounds and transport incidents cause the most injury-related hospitalisations
  • One in four injuries occurred in the home
     

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