Red Book

Chapter 3

Preventive activities in children and young people

Age range chart

0-9 10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 30-34 40-44 45-49 50-54 60-64 70-79 >80

Prevention and health promotion in the early years, from conception to 5 years of age, is important for an individual’s lifelong health and wellbeing.1 It may also be an opportunity to redress health inequalities.2, 3 In adolescence, neurodevelopmental studies support the value of early intervention to prevent ongoing harm.

Many infants and children visit their general practitioner (GP) frequently, and adolescents visit at least once a year.5 This frequent contact provides opportunities for disease prevention and health promotion.

Evidence provides moderate support for the hypothesis that ‘accessible, family-centred, continuous, comprehensive, coordinated, compassionate and culturally effective care improves health outcomes for children with special healthcare needs’.6 There is also evidence that supports the beneficial impact of similar care for children without special healthcare needs.7-8

What are the key equity issues and who is at risk?

  • Low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with increased childhood morbidity and mortality.9 This includes higher rates of death from neonatal hypoxia, sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), prematurity-related disorders, and accidental and non-accidental injury;10,11 hospitalisations related to asthma;12 and risk of child abuse.13 Low SES is also associated with overweight and obesity in children.14
  • While there has been a decline in infant mortality since the 1990s, infant mortality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is more than twice that of non-Indigenous children,10 in part due to pregnancy, labour and delivery complications, and trauma and congenital malformations.15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants have higher rates of death from SUDI.16 They are also more likely to be born premature or with low birth weight17,18 and are more likely to be hospitalised before 1 year of age.19
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to experience low immunisation rates.20

What can GPs do?

  • Refer to the general strategies for supporting patient education and health literacy in disadvantaged groups.
  • Consider advocating for and supporting community-based strategies or policies for health promoting changes within the environments in which families live (eg school-based programs targeting nutrition and physical activity).21–27
  • Use resources supporting the provision of culturally competent care to adolescents from culturally diverse backgrounds.28
Age-related health checks in children and young people

Table 3.1

Age-related health checks in children and young people

 Explanatory notes for Practice Points

Table 3.2

Explanatory notes for Practice Points
This event attracts CPD points and can be self recorded

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