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Original research
Identifying preventable risk factors for hospitalised asthma in young Aboriginal children: a whole-population cohort study


Background Australia has one of the highest rates of asthma worldwide. Indigenous children have a particularly high burden of risk determinants for asthma, yet little is known about the asthma risk profile in this population.

Aim To identify and quantify potentially preventable risk factors for hospitalised asthma in Australian Aboriginal children (1–4 years of age).

Methods Birth, hospital and emergency data for all Aboriginal children born 2003–2012 in Western Australia were linked (n=32 333). Asthma was identified from hospitalisation codes. ORs and population attributable fractions were calculated for maternal age at birth, remoteness, area-level disadvantage, prematurity, low birth weight, maternal smoking in pregnancy, mode of delivery, maternal trauma and hospitalisations for acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) in the first year of life.

Results There were 705 (2.7%) children hospitalised at least once for asthma. Risk factors associated with asthma included: being hospitalised for an ARTI (OR 4.06, 95% CI 3.44 to 4.78), area-level disadvantage (OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.28 to 1.94), being born at <33 weeks’ gestation (OR 3.30, 95% CI 2.52 to 4.32) or birth weight <1500 g (OR 2.35, 95% CI 1.39 to 3.99). The proportion of asthma attributable to an ARTI was 31%, area-level disadvantage 18%, maternal smoking 5%, and low gestational age and birth weight were 3%–7%. We did not observe a higher risk of asthma in those children who were from remote areas.

Conclusion Improving care for pregnant Aboriginal women as well as for Aboriginal infants with ARTI may help reduce the burden of asthma in the Indigenous population.

  • asthma epidemiology
  • paediatric asthma
  • respiratory infection

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Please contact BM (senior author) regarding information about data access. In each case, a protocol and ethics amendment will be required.

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