Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian children hospitalised for burn injuries: a population data linkage study

Holger Möller, Lara Harvey, Kathleen Falster, Rebecca Ivers, Kathleen F Clapham and Louisa Jorm
Med J Aust 2017; 206 (9): 392-397. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.00213


Objective: To investigate differences in the characteristics of burn injuries leading to hospitalisation of Indigenous Australian and non-Indigenous children in New South Wales.

Design, setting: Population-based cohort analysis of linked hospital and mortality data for 2000–2014.

Participants: 35 749 Indigenous and 1 088 938 non-Indigenous children aged 0–13 years.

Main outcome measures: The external cause of the injury, its anatomic location, total body surface area affected (%TBSA), burn depth, length of hospital stay (LOS).

Results: 4246 non-Indigenous and 323 Indigenous children were hospitalised for a first burn injury during 2000–2014. A higher proportion of Indigenous than non-Indigenous children were admitted with burns affecting more than 10% TBSA (17% v 12%) and a lower proportion of Indigenous children than of non-Indigenous children were treated at a hospital with a paediatric tertiary referral burn unit (40% v 50%; P < 0.001). The mean LOS during the index admission was almost 3 days longer for Indigenous children than for non-Indigenous children (6.1 days [95% CI, 4.8–7.4 days] v 3.4 days [95% CI, 3.2–3.7 days]; P < 0.001); the difference in LOS was still statistically significant after adjusting for characteristics of the burn and residential location.

Conclusion: The proportion of Indigenous children with burns who presented with burn injuries affecting more than 10% TBSA was greater than for non-Indigenous children. Their mean LOS was also longer; the difference remained statistically significant after adjusting for characteristics of the burn and of residential location.

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  • Holger Möller1
  • Lara Harvey2,3
  • Kathleen Falster1,4
  • Rebecca Ivers5,6
  • Kathleen F Clapham3,7
  • Louisa Jorm1

  • 1 Centre for Big Data Research in Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre, Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, NSW
  • 3 University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 4 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT
  • 5 The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, NSW
  • 6 Flinders University, Adelaide, SA
  • 7 Australian Health Services Research Institute, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW



Holger Möller and Kathleen Falster were supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) capacity-building grant (573122). Kathleen Falster was also supported by an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship grant (1016475). Rebecca Ivers was supported by an NHMRC fellowship (APP1031781). We thank Sanja Lujic for statistical advice, and Deborah Randall (both of the University of New South Wales) for cleaning and editing the linked data. We thank John Harvey for his comments on the revised manuscript. We acknowledge the NSW Ministry of Health and the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for allowing access to the data, and the NSW Centre for Health Record Linkage for conducting the probabilistic linkage of records.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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