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Med J Aust. 2008 Apr 21;188(8 Suppl):S84-6.

Preventing growth faltering among Australian Indigenous children: implications for policy and practice.

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Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT, Australia.



To determine what preventive models or programs are most likely to improve patterns of growth faltering in children aged under 5 years in remote Australian Indigenous communities.


Nine electronic databases and the websites of key stakeholder, government and non-government agencies were searched. Two reviewers independently assessed articles for inclusion and for study quality. All types of study design were eligible.


140 studies assessing a diverse range of interventions were identified. Of these, 51 articles referring to 44 individual programs and 7 review articles met the review criteria. The evidence for the effectiveness of many interventions to prevent growth faltering is not strong, and any observed effects are modest. Community-based nutrition education/counselling and multifaceted interventions involving carers, community health workers and community representatives, designed to meet program best-practice requirements and address the underlying causes of growth faltering, may be effective in preventing growth faltering. Other interventions, such as food distribution programs, growth monitoring, micronutrient supplementation and deworming should only be considered in the context of broader primary health care programs and/or when there is an identified local need.


For remote Indigenous communities, development and implementation of programs should involve a consideration of the evidence for potential impact, strength of community support and local feasibility. Given the lack of strong evidence supporting programs, any new or existing programs require ongoing evaluation and refinement.

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