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Child health – how is Australia doing and what more do we need to do for our kids?

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Focusing on the health and wellbeing of our children is the most important investment Australia can make

Australia is similar to other wealthy Western democracies for many aspects of child and youth health and wellbeing but, despite our material wealth, Australian rates of vaccination, obesity, child abuse and neglect do not compare well, and youth unemployment and the gap between rich and poor are increasing.1,2 Canadian researchers suggest that an unwanted outcome of economies focusing heavily on wealth creation is an impoverishment of the health and wellbeing of children, which will affect adult health and the human capability of nations — so-called modernity’s paradox.3

Problems including developmental delays, substance misuse, child maltreatment and obesity and overweight are occurring at such high rates that they are already putting pressure on our health and welfare services. Most of these problems do not have effective treatments, hence they demand an urgent preventive approach. With a third of Australian children now overweight or obese, baby boomers may be the last generation to live longer than their parents, given the disease complications that will result.4

Further, mental health problems including substance misuse and autism appear to be…