Rates of avoidable hospitalisations among Aboriginal children are now almost double those of non-Aboriginal children.

Analysis of hospital admissions data for more than a million children born between 2000 and 2012 has found more than 365,000 avoidable hospitalisations by December 2013.

Among those, Aboriginal infants were twice as likely to be hospitalised for conditions that could have been prevented or treated outside of a hospital.

Experts say more needs to be done to monitor and prevent avoidable hospitalisations in children, especially Aboriginal children.

“It doesn’t matter if children live in a poor area or a wealthy area, in the city or remote communities, there is a big gap,” says ANU researcher Dr Kathleen Falster. 

“There should be no difference in avoidable hospitalisations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.

“The good news is that this study shows we can make a big difference to children’s lives, because these hospitalisations are largely preventable.”

Dr Falster has called on governments to routinely monitor child-specific avoidable hospitalisations in Australian children.

“At the moment the measure used is mostly focused on adult diseases, so you aren’t going to pick up on the areas where you could improve things for children,” Dr Falster said.

“A child-specific measure, like the one we used for the first time in this study, could be incorporated into routine government reporting to support action to close the gap, and target efforts effectively.”

Fellow researcher Professor Sandra Eades – a leader in the field of Aboriginal health studies - said many of the issues were costly, but easily preventable.

“We need to support and enhance affordable family-friendly health services, particular Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services who are on the front line caring for families,” she said.

“We also need to ramp up prevention efforts, such as quit smoking programs for new parents, because smoking has a big impact on respiratory illnesses in infants.

“Many of the illnesses causing these hospitalisations have also been linked to overcrowded and poor quality housing. Policies that support affordable and quality housing for Aboriginal and disadvantaged families are also part of the solution.”