Important work is being done to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but the high rates of injury remain a significant concern. The Australasian Injury Prevention Network (AIPN) continues to advocate strongly for more work to be done to close the gap in injury between Indigenous and other Australians.
A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare provides an update on statistics of hospitalisations among Indigenous people due to injury, including the type and cause of injury requiring hospitalisation. The report shows that over the five year period between 2011–2016 a total of 115,021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were hospitalised due to injury at an average of 23,000 cases per year.
The leading cause of hospitalisation due to injury among Indigenous people overall was falls followed by assault, with a greater proportion of Indigenous people (27%) sustaining injuries to the head than non-Indigenous people (18%).
The report found that while Indigenous males were more likely to be hospitalised than Indigenous females, rates of injury among Indigenous females were two times that of non-Indigenous females, with Indigenous females more likely to experience injury due to assault.
Alarmingly, the rate of injury to the head for Indigenous females was 12 times that of non-Indigenous females, and 4 times the amount for Indigenous men to that of non-Indigenous men of the same age.
Injury expert, Dr Sophie Pointer, said that complex factors are the causes for such high rate injury among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and that the report gives us an understanding of where to act.
“I think the report points to opportunities to reduce injury sustained by Indigenous people. Road crash cases, child drowning, burns and some other types of injury have clear potential for prevention – but that requires targeted and appropriate preventative programs. Programs are more likely to work if developed and implemented with Indigenous people,” she said.
The report also highlighted that the highest rates for hospitalisation due to accidental poisoning among both Indigenous males and females, were seen in very young children aged 0–4.
Indigenous Health expert, Professor Kathleen Clapham, drew attention to the urgent need to address the injury inequities between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal children.
“We know that Aboriginal children experience a significant higher burden of unintentional injury compared with their non‐Aboriginal counterparts. A study we did in NSW showed that the largest relative inequalities for injuries are due to exposure to fire and flame, and the largest absolute inequalities for injuries due to falls from playground equipment.”
“Targeted injury prevention measures aimed at injury mechanism and age groups need to be implemented if we are serious about closing the gap,” she said.
Location also is a factor within injury hospitalisations among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people among all age groups. The report found that rates of injury increased in relation to remoteness and the proportion of hospitalisations was higher in inner and outer regional and remote and very remote areas than within major cities. In areas classified as remote and very remote, rates of injury were more than two times that of non-Indigenous people.
Importantly, the Australasian Injury Prevention Network acknowledges the interplay between social determinants of health and injury among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including, but not limited to, connection to culture, socioeconomic disadvantage and barriers to accessing health services. The AIPN will continue its advocacy work to ensure injury prevention among Indigenous Australians remains a priority area.
A copy of the report can be found on the AIHW website.