Parents, infants and health care: utilization of health services in the first 12 months of life

J Paediatr Child Health. May-Jun 2003;39(4):249-53. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.2003.00146.x.


Objective: To describe patterns of health-service use in the first 12 months of life.

Methods: In this prospective cohort study, 173 first-born infants and their families living in two middle socio-economic urban areas of Melbourne were enrolled consecutively when presenting for their initial maternal and child health nurse (MCHN) visit (at approximately 4 weeks of age). Families kept a daily "health diary" for the entire 12-month period, recording use of all health services for their infant, and reasons for the contact.

Results: There was an 87% completion rate of diaries. The mean number of visits to any health service, including medical, hospitals, MCHN services, pharmacists, allied health services and naturopaths, was 35.7 (95% CI 34.7-36.6) during the 12 months. Of these, 31% (mean 10.9 visits) were visits to a general practitioner (GP) and 41.5% (mean 14.3 visits) were visits to the MCHN. Infants' visits to the MCHN were far more frequent in the first 6 months of life compared with the second 6 months (10.3 vs 3.6, P < 0.001). Rates of GP use were constant over the same periods (5.3 vs 5.7, P = 0.8).

Conclusions: In a universal health-care system, this high rate of health-service use equates to approximately one visit to a health service every 2 weeks in the first year of life. The majority of these visits appeared unrelated to illness. This previously undocumented data has implications for future integrated service delivery, health-professional training and policy development for this age group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Victoria