13. Children in Australian society

Karen J Zwi and Richard L Henry
Med J Aust 2005; 183 (3): 154-160.


  • Although children in Australia generally have good health, some alarming indicators of poor health and wellbeing exist, which are related to major socioeconomic discrepancies.

  • The pathways connecting socioeconomic disadvantage to child health outcomes are complex and poorly understood.

  • Reducing social disadvantage requires strategies beyond the health arena, involving political, moral, cultural and economic initiatives.

  • Developing “social capital” — cohesion in communities, a sense of belonging and involvement in community affairs — may be a key strategy in improving health indicators.

  • Overseas studies of early intervention and home visiting programs in early childhood have shown improvements in child health and development outcomes. Similar programs have been introduced in Australia and face considerable challenges in their widespread roll-out and evaluation.

  • Health professionals need to develop practical ways to interact with community programs and thus improve social capital.

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  • Karen J Zwi1
  • Richard L Henry2

  • 1 School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of New South Wales, and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.


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