Health service utilisation amongst urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged younger than 5 years registered with a primary health-care service in South-East Queensland

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Abstract

Aim

The majority of Australia's Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children live in urban areas; however, little is known about their health service use. We aimed to describe health service utilisation amongst a cohort of urban Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged <5 years.

Methods

We analysed health service utilisation data collected in an ongoing prospective cohort study of children aged <5 years registered with an Aboriginal-owned and operated primary health-care service. Enrolled children were followed monthly for 12 months, with data on health service utilisation collected at baseline and at each monthly follow-up. Health service utilisation rates, overall and by service provider and reason for presentation, were calculated and reported as incidence rates per 100 child-months with the corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results

Between February 2013 and November 2015, 180 children were enrolled, and 1541 child-months of observation were available for analysis. The overall incidence of health service utilisation was 52.5 per 100 child-months (95% CI 48.7–56.5); 81% of encounters were with general practitioners. Presentation rates were the highest for acute respiratory illnesses (30.7/100 child-months, 95% CI 27.8–33.9).

Conclusions

In this community, acute respiratory illnesses are predominant causes of health service utilisation in young children. The health-care utilisation profile of these children presents important opportunities for health promotion and intervention.

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