In this section
Inequities in children’s health
and development are differential outcomes that are unnecessary and potentially
preventable. Inequities in children’s health and development are increasing in
Australia, across children’s physical health, social-emotional wellbeing, and
academic learning. Early inequities lead to a range of serious problems in
later life and carry significant costs for society, such as greater costs for
health services, and forgone public benefits, such as lower productivity.
The Changing Children’s Chances
research project will contribute to a greater understanding of the causes of
inequities, including the potential for health and education systems to prevent
inequities. To achieve this, powerful existing data and new analytic approaches
will be used to examine the many contexts in which children and their families
live and grow. We are working collaboratively with policymakers and practitioners
to find the most promising short to medium-term leverage points for
interventions to reduce child inequities in Australia.
By the time Australian children start school,
clear inequities in their health and development are evident. In the 2015 Australian
Early Development Census, 6.7% of Australian school entrants living in the
wealthiest areas were developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains of
early childhood development, compared with 18.4% of children who lived in the
most disadvantaged areas. Inequities in early childhood often continue into adulthood, contributing
to the unequal prevalence of physical, social-emotional, and academic difficulties.
The major causes of health and developmental inequities
arise from the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age
(the social determinants of health). Inequities in child health, development, and
wellbeing can be reduced through public health and public policy interventions,
but for these interventions to be effective we first need to better understand
the complex pathways through which inequities arise. This requires a broad
perspective that examines the relative contribution and cumulative impact of
the many factors at the child, family, school, and community level that play a
role in shaping inequitable child outcomes.
Changing Children’s Chances brings together leading national
and international child equity researchers to identify potential ways to reduce
early developmental inequities in Australian children. This will contribute to
the development of an evidence-based framework for informing effective policy
responses that can potentially reduce child health and developmental inequities.
Specifically, Changing Children’s Chances aims to:
Describe inequities in Australian
children’s physical health, social-emotional wellbeing and academic development,
mapping the ways in which disadvantage and development interact over time;
Identify child, family, early childhood education, school, and community factors
contributing to inequitable health and developmental outcomes that may be
amenable to change through public health and policy interventions (intervention
Changing Children’s Chances will capitalise on powerful national and
Victorian datasets. This includes a new linkage between the:
Australian Early Development Census (AEDC),
providing teacher-reported information on key domains of early child
development, including physical, social-emotional, and academic development, with
near universal coverage of Australian school entrants in 2009, 2012, and 2015;
National Assessment Program – Literacy and
Numeracy (NAPLAN), a population–level direct assessment of Australian children’s
academic skill development at grades three, five, seven, and nine;
Victorian School Entrant Health Questionnaire
(SEHQ), a detailed population assessment of child health completed by parents
at school entry; and
Geospatial measures for the AEDC communities,
including the presence of parks and green spaces, schools, distances to
neighbourhood destinations, and neighbourhood walkability.
In addition, the AEDC has been linked to the:
Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
(LSAC), where six completed waves of data collection provide data from
Australian children from birth to ages 10-11 years. Detailed descriptions of
the child’s family environment and wider social context, including multiple
indicators of family-level disadvantage, as well as linked Medicare records are
Changing Children's Chances – Addressing disadvantage
to optimise children’s
development in Australia (PDF)
Changing Children's Chances – Understanding Child Disadvantage (PDF)
Goldfeld, S., O’Connor, M., Cloney, D., Gray, S., Redmond, G., Badland, H., Williams, K., Mensah, F., Woolfenden, S., Kvalsvig, A., & Kochanoff, A. (2018). Understanding child disadvantage from a social determinants perspective. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 72, 223-229. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech-2017-20903
Goldfeld, S., O’Connor, M., O’Connor, E., Chong, S., Badland, H., Woolfenden, S., Redmond, G., Williams, K., Azpitarte, F., Cloney, D., & Mensah, F. (Accepted). More than a snapshot in time: Pathways of disadvantage over childhood. International Journal of Epidemiology.
Goldfeld, S., O’Connor, M., Chong, S., Gray, S., O’Connor, E., Woolfenden, S., Redmond, G., Williams, K., Mensah, F., Kvalsvig, A., & Badland, H. (in press). The impact of multidimensional disadvantage over childhood on developmental outcomes in Australia. International Journal of Epidemiology. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/ dyy087
Changing Children’s Chances brings
together leading equity researchers with policy experts.
Professor Sharon Goldfeld, Department
Professor Katrina Williams, Department
Professor Gary Freed, Melbourne School
of Population and Global Health
Changing Children’s Chances is funded by the Australian Research
Council Discovery Program (DP160101735, 2016-2018).
For further details
about Changing Children’s Chances, contact lead investigator Professor Sharon
Goldfeld, or Dr Sarah Gray, Project Manager.
The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.