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
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