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Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Our children’s health – good and bad news

Australia’s record on children’s health and wellbeing is strong but we need to do better in many areas Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony said today.

Mr Anthony said the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report, Australia’s Children: Their Health and Wellbeing 2002 shows that rates of obesity, injury, diabetes, smoking, mental disorders, alcohol and drug use for Australian children have not improved.

The report shows:

  • 24 per cent of children aged 12-14 years had consumed alcohol in the week prior to the survey;
  • 29 per cent of boys and 23 per cent of girls aged 12-15 years have taken an illicit drug at least once;
  • 15 per cent of boys and 14.4 per cent of girls aged 4-12 years have a number of emotional and/or behavioural problems; and,
  • Death rates for indigenous infants were three times higher than for other Australian children.

“Childhood obesity is getting worse. While most children aged 2-14 are of an acceptable weight, 18 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls are overweight or obese.

“This is totally unacceptable and parents have a responsibility to ensure their children have a well balanced diet and regular exercise. Not only will overweight and obese children have serious health concerns later in life, they may not be able to fully participate economically and socially.

“However, there is much we can be proud of:

  • Death rates for children aged 1 – 14 years fell by 22 per cent over the last decade;
  • Infant deaths fell by 26 per cent for boys and 23 per cent for girls; and,
  • Deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – the leading cause of death among Australian infants – also fell by 62 per cent in the last decade.

“Lifting the rates of immunisation of Australian children has been a major success of the Coalition Government. In 1997 the rates of immunisation for children up to two years were as low as 53 per cent. Through direct Government intervention we now have a rate of more than 90 per cent.

“The health and wellbeing of our children is something we should all be concerned about to ensure our children have the best possible opportunity in life,” Mr Anthony said.