Vaccination initiates the body’s natural defence mechanism—the immune response—to build resistance to specific infections (immunise). It is a safe and effective way to protect against harmful communicable diseases. Vaccines are a powerful and cost-effective public health intervention, significantly reducing the risk of disease, disability and death, particularly in childhood (McGovern & Canning 2015; Orenstein & Ahmed 2017; WHO 2016). Successful immunisation interventions include the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the widespread elimination of poliomyelitis (polio). Children who do not receive complete and timely vaccinations are at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases and the short and long-term health consequences associated with these.
Immunisation also helps to protect people who are not immunised through a process called ‘herd immunity’, where enough people are immunised against a disease to stop the infection from spreading. Herd immunity helps to protect those more at risk of getting the disease, as well as those who are unvaccinated, so that those who are too young or too sick to be vaccinated can be protected. Outbreaks can occur where there is low immunisation coverage.
Death rates and causes of death are key indicators of the health status of a population. Changes in the pattern of causes of death can result from: changes in behaviours, exposures to disease or injury and social and environmental circumstances, data coding practices (AIHW 2018b).
Infant mortality provides insight into the effectiveness of the maternal and perinatal health system (AIHW 2018c). This section focuses on infant deaths (under the age of 1) and child deaths (ages 1–14).
Halving the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous child deaths (ages 0–4) by 2018 was a key priority of the Closing the Gap framework established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2008.
While Indigenous death rates have decreased, in 2017 the rate was not within the range to meet the target by 2018, and was, therefore, not on track (PM&C 2019) (see also Closing the Gap target in death rates below in this section). If the overall target will be met by 2018 will be determined when analysis of the final year of data (2018) has been completed.
In a national study of Australian young people’s perspectives, health ranked as the second most important domain for having a good life (Redmond et al. 2016). In addition to their own health, young people also reported that the health of family members (for example, a parent or grandparent) was important for their wellbeing (Redmond et al. 2016). Health is influenced by factors such as individual and psychological make-up, lifestyle, environmental and cultural influences, socioeconomic conditions and access to quality health care programs and services (AIHW 2018a). The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a multidimensional construct that incorporates physical, mental and social wellbeing and so is more than just the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO 1946). While the WHO’s definition of health is widely accepted, there can be variation across cultures. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people take a broader perspective of health and view it not just as the physical wellbeing of the individual, but the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community (AIHW 2016).
The Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) conducts national active surveillance of rare diseases of childhood, including infectious and vaccine preventable diseases, genetic disorders, childhood injuries and mental health conditions. The link contains links to annual reports on summary of surveillance results for communicable and/or vaccine preventable diseases.
The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 includes measures that report on the safety and wellbeing of Australia's children.
The National Standards for Out-of-Home Care are a priority under the National Framework and aim to drive improvements and consistency in the quality of out-of-home care.
This release updates data under these two indicator sets. It includes updated child protection indicators, along with a variety of other measures that focus on the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children.