A study underwritten by The Fred Hollows Foundation has discovered alarming rates of anaemia among youngsters living in remote areas of northern Australia, as a result of insufficient nutrition.
During a survey of six communities in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, 90 per cent of children were found to have been anaemic at least once between the ages of six – 24 months.
The Early Childhood Anaemia and Prevention Project also reported that 56 per cent of infants (six – nine months) tested were anaemic – almost double the rate in other northern Australian communities.
These levels are classified as a severe public health problem by the World Health Organization.
Equally concerning is that only 29 per cent of babies and children found to be anaemic during the course of the two year project received a full course of iron treatment at the Health Centre.
The Fred Hollows Foundation’s CEO, Brian Doolan, said that the report shows young children living in remote communities are suffering severe health disadvantages.
“These children are being let down. Services need to be improved to make sure all babies and young children receive regular health checks and treatment,” he said.
Growth restriction in utero, stunting and iron deficiency and anaemia in early life affect the structure and function of the growing baby’s brain, influencing the child’s physical and cognitive development.
“The results of this project highlight the need for urgent action on maternal nutrition – both pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy – as well as the nutrition of babies and young children,” said Mr Doolan.
“It’s well known that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in remote communities suffer worse health problems than other Australians and this report highlights one of the reasons why.”
“How can Aboriginal children have good health if, as this report suggests, their diet lacks iron- rich foods and only five per cent in one community ate fruit regularly?”
> Download the Early Childhood Nutrition and Anaemia Prevention Project report to find out more: