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Childhood anaemia and developmental disadvantage


Paul Hayes


9/01/2020 1:28:21 PM

Research has found anaemia doubles risk of developmental disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote Far North Queensland.

Young Aboriginal child
The study found just over 46% of children who had experienced childhood anaemia had developmental issues at school age, compared to just over 23% for those who had not.

The first year of full-time school. It can present any number of challenges for a child.
 
But those challenges can be exacerbated by early childhood anaemia, which new research has found doubles the risk of developmental disadvantage in school-age Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Far North Queensland.
 
The James Cook University study looked at children in remote communities aged 6–23 months. Development was assessed using the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), which encompasses different domains of early childhood development at school age.
 
The AEDC assessments are a good indication of later NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) results, according to the researchers.
 
‘We found that just over 46% of children who had suffered childhood anaemia had developmental issues at school age, compared to just over 23% for those who had not,’ Dympna Leonard, from James Cook University’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, said.
 
An earlier report by Ms Leonard indicated that more than 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote communities in Far North Queensland experienced early childhood anaemia.
 
‘This [new study] adds further emphasis to the need to prioritise childhood nutrition and anaemia prevention,’ Ms Leonard said.
 
While the specific cause of early childhood anaemia is unknown, iron deficiency in the mother or baby is believed to be a key reason.
 
According to Ms Leonard, in areas where the prevalence of early childhood anaemia exceeds 20% – such as Far North Queensland – the World Health Organization recommends interventions combining nutrition promotion and food fortification for babies aged 6–23 months.
 
‘Supporting mothers with breastfeeding and encouraging nutrient-rich diets for both the child and mother is important to assist early development,’ Ms Leonard said. ‘Many traditional foods are nutrient-rich and these are encouraged to be included within the diet, if available.’
 
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health anaemia iron deficiency


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