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Med J Aust. 2014 Aug 4;201(3):162-6.

Trends in hospital admissions for conditions associated with child maltreatment, Northern Territory, 1999-2010.

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Health Gains Planning, Northern Territory Department of Health, Darwin, NT, Australia.
School of Population Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia.
Epidemiology and Health Services Division, Menzies School of Health Research, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.



To use hospital admissions data to investigate trends in maltreatment among Northern Territory Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.


A historical cohort study using diagnosis and external cause codes from hospital admissions among children aged 0-17 years.


Annual rates of admission with either a definitive or indicative code for child maltreatment.


From 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2010, the average annual rates of hospital admission of NT Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children with a definitive code of maltreatment were 8.8 (95% CI, 7.4-10.2) and 0.91 (95% CI, 0.59-1.22) per 10 000 children, respectively. There was no evidence for change over time in either population. The corresponding rates of admission with a code indicative of maltreatment were 28.4 (95% CI, 25.8-31.1) and 5.2 (95% CI, 4.4-6.0) per 10 000 children, with average annual increases of 3% (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.03; 95% CI, 1.00-1.07) and 4% (IRR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.96-1.11). Physical abuse was the prominent type of maltreatment-related admission in both populations. There were increases in rates of admission for older Aboriginal children (13-17 years) and older non-Aboriginal boys. Most perpetrators in the assault of younger children were family members, while among older children most were not specified.


Our study shows the utility of hospital admissions for population surveillance of child maltreatment. The relatively stable rate of maltreatment-related hospital admissions among NT Aboriginal children shown here is in contrast to substantial increases reported from child protection data. The results also highlight the overlap between violence within families and in the wider community, particularly for older children, and lends support for population-level interventions to protect vulnerable children.

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