Children with chronic conditions

David Isaacs and Jill R Sewell
Med J Aust 2003; 179 (5): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2003.tb05524.x
Published online: 1 September 2003

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, using the definition “a disability which restricts a child’s ability to perform tasks associated with daily living”,1 reported that in 2002 almost 300 000 Australian children (7.5%) had a disabling chronic illness. The disability was primarily physical in 54% of children, and intellectual/developmental/behavioural in 46%. Asthma comprised 31% of the physical conditions, the rest being other respiratory diseases and diseases of the ears and nervous system.1 It is estimated that, at any given time, 23% of Australian children have recent asthma, 10% have eczema, and 15% have emotional/behavioural problems. For comparison, 0.5%–1% of the whole population has epilepsy, of which about 60% begins in childhood; about two per 1000 schoolchildren have juvenile-onset diabetes mellitus; and the incidence of childhood cancer is about 14 per 100 000, with a 75% survival rate.1

  • 1 Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, NSW.
  • 2 Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, VIC.



We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Adam Scheinberg and Helen Somerville from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney; Andrew Kemp from the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne; and Crista Wocadlo and Ingrid Rieger from King George V Hospital, Sydney.

  • 1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s children: their health and wellbeing. Canberra: AIHW, 2002. (AIHW Catalogue No. PHE-36.)
  • 2. Doyle LW, Casalaz D. Outcome at 14 years of extremely low birthweight infants: a regional study. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2001; 85: F159-F164.
  • 3. Swanston H, Williams K, Nunn K. The psychological adjustment of children with chronic conditions. Vol 5. In: Kosky R, O’Hanlon A, Martin G, Davis C, editors. Clinical approaches to early intervention in child and adolescent mental health. Adelaide: Australian Early Intervention Network for Mental Health in Young People, 2000.
  • 4. Su JC, Kemp AS, Varigos GA, Nolan TM. Atopic eczema: its impact on the family and financial cost. Arch Dis Child 1997; 76: 159-162.
  • 5. Schneider JW, Gurucharri LM, Gutierrez AL, Gaebler-Spira DJ. Health-related quality of life and functional outcome measures for children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol 2001; 43: 601-608.


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