Objective: Much of the ill health of Australian Indigenous populations can be attributed to diet-related diseases. Many of these diseases and the deleterious dietary choices are thought to begin in early childhood. This project therefore aimed to assess the nutritional health status of children in Townsville. It enabled the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander community to identify and redress nutrition-related issues considered important in improving the overall health status of their community.
Design: Baseline urinalysis, anthropometrics, general overall health assessment, dietary and exercise histories were collected. This screening was repeated annually. Diet and exercise histories were recorded biannually.
Setting: Based in three Northern Queensland health region (pre)primary schools with a high proportion of Indigenous children.
Results: Baseline results demonstrated that more children are overweight to obese than underweight. There was no significant difference in body mass index between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous children. Indigenous children were shown to consume less vegetable and dairy products and were significantly more likely to suffer from anaemia, iron depletion and eosinophilia than non-Indigenous children. Indigenous children were also twice as likely to have runny noses and are more than three times more likely to have skin sores.
Conclusion: These results support that the health status of the Indigenous children is poorer than that of non-Indigenous children. They demonstrate an immediate need to implement culturally appropriate nutritional and exercise programs within the school environment to improve dietary habits and overall health. Implementation of nutritional, drinking and exercise programs may significantly improve these children's overall awareness and behaviour concerning nutrition and health.