Childhood injury in Australia – a 10-year review of the characteristics and health outcomes of injury-related hospitalisations

Prof. Kate Curtis1, A/Prof Rebecca Mitchell2, Prof Kim Foster1,3

1Sydney Nursing School, Coledale, Australia, 2Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 3North Western Mental Health & School of Nursing, Midwifery & Paramedicine, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia

Background: Injury is the leading cause of death of children aged 1 to 16 years in Australia. Despite this enormous incidence and impact, there has been no comprehensive national examination of childhood injury characteristics and health outcomes in Australia.  This information is essential to quantify the childhood injury burden, resource planning and to identify and evaluate priorities for injury prevention.

Aim: To determine the incidence, characteristics and health outcomes of injury-related hospitalisations of children in Australia

Methods: A retrospective epidemiological analysis of injury-related hospitalisations involving children aged 16 years or less in Australia during the financial years 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2012 was conducted.  Linked hospitalisation and mortality records were used to describe the characteristics of injury hospitalisations.  Binomial regression was used to examine temporal trends and Cox proportional hazard regression was used to examine factors associated with 30-day and 12-month survival post injury.  Hospital treatment costs were also estimated.

Results: There were 686,409 injury-related hospitalisations and child injury hospitalisation rates have not decreased over a ten year period. For every severely injured child, there are at least 13 children hospitalised with minor or moderate injuries.  The total hospital cost of injury hospitalisations of was $2.1 billion and falls (38.4%), most often from playground equipment (8.3%) were the most common injury mechanism. A higher proportion of injured children resided in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.  Children had a higher risk of dying from their injuries if they; lived in regional/remote Australia, were aged ≤10 years, were more severely injured or sustained a head injury.

Conclusions: For the first time in Australia, we have a national profile of childhood injury causes, descriptions, costs and mortality. Childhood injury is costly, life changing, but preventable.  The development of a national multi-sectorial evidence informed childhood injury prevention strategy is urgently needed.


Kate Curtis has been an Emergency Nurse since 1994 and is Professor at Sydney Nursing School. She is an honorary professorial fellow at the George Institute for Global Health, a Fellow of the College of Emergency Nursing Australasia. Kate’s translational research program continues to focus on improving the way we deliver care to patients and their families