2012 focus needed on child and youth health (Australia)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 27 April 2012




(2012), "2012 focus needed on child and youth health (Australia)", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 25 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/lhs.2012.21125baa.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

2012 focus needed on child and youth health (Australia)

Article Type: News and views From: Leadership in Health Services, Volume 25, Issue 2

Keywords: Child and youth health issues, Healthcare equality measures, Healthcare policy

Australia Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Steve Hambleton has called on the Government and health groups to place a renewed focus on child and youth health issues in 2012.

Children and young people confront a range of health issues including poor diet and obesity, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and bullying. The degree to which these conditions have an impact can be influenced by socio-economic factors.

Dr Hambleton said that children in disadvantaged families feel deprivation more acutely at times like Christmas and school holidays, and this deprivation may be exacerbated if global and local economic circumstances take a downturn in the New Year.

“It is important that as a community we focus on the health needs of young Australians, especially those from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds”, Dr Hambleton said.

“Government policy needs to address the inequities in income distribution that are associated with health disadvantage.

“Young people are significantly over-represented among the long-term unemployed, who in turn are known to have poorer physical and mental health outcomes.

“Pregnancy rates among children and adolescents from low socio-economic backgrounds are high, and early motherhood can affect educational, employment and social outcomes.

“The provision of services that promote the health and wellbeing of children and young people is an investment, not a cost.

“Access to health services needs to be improved for children and their families.

“GPs play an important role in the early identification of problems and in coordinating services for young people, and can be a trusted source of advice and information for young patients about staying healthy”.


  • On measures of developmental wellbeing such as mental health and obesity, Australian children and young people have experienced a significant deterioration in outcomes over recent decades. These poorer outcomes are concentrated among children from low-income families.

  • Child poverty is a significant issue in Australia: around 11 per cent of children in Australia live in poverty, higher than the OECD average, with poverty concentrated in jobless households and sole-parent families.

  • Poverty and ill-health are frequent companions: those on low incomes are at greater risk of missing out on essentials such as access to medical treatment and nutritious food, suffer disproportionately from ill health, have higher rates of chronic illness and death, and are more likely to have unhealthy behaviours (eg. inactivity, substance abuse, and poor diet).

Dr Hambleton said that poverty impacts on the health of children by:

  • Placing basic health services beyond the reach of families on low incomes, especially when major out-of-pocket expenses apply.

  • Limiting preventive and health lifestyle options (e.g. recently released National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) food guidelines noted that healthier food options were more expensive and beyond the reach of the poorest families – the capacity to eat a balanced diet can be constrained by economic disadvantage; accordingly, children from low-income families have higher rates of obesity).

  • Impacting negatively on early childhood development, and limiting educational outcomes (the link between poor health and impaired educational opportunity is well established).

For more information: www.ama.com.au

Related articles