Excessive rates of childhood mortality in the Northern Territory, 1985-94

J Paediatr Child Health. 1998 Feb;34(1):63-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.1998.00156.x.


Objectives: To estimate the post-infant/childhood mortality rate (1-14 years) in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia.

Methods: A retrospective study of post-infant death in the 10 years 1985-94 inclusive in the NT.

Results: Two hundred and forty-four deaths were identified. Compared to a non-Aboriginal, an Aboriginal child was twice as likely to die from accidents, 11 times more likely to die from infection and 3.2 times more likely to die from all causes. Road traffic accidents were the leading cause of accident mortality in Aboriginal children. All children who died in collisions or rollovers were unrestrained. Drowning was the major cause of death amongst non-Aboriginal children aged 1-4 years; none of the residential pools in which drowning occurred had fencing which complied with the recommended Australian fencing standards. Mortality rates from infection were highest in Aboriginal children aged 1-4 years. The overall mortality rate decreased over the 10-year period with a significant reduction in non-Aboriginal but not in Aboriginal children.

Conclusions: NT children aged 1-14 years have higher mortality rates than their Australian counterparts and these are significantly higher in Aboriginal compared to non-Aboriginal children. Legislation and enforcement of isolation pool fencing, car seat restraints and safer driving on rural roads could have a significant impact on reducing accident mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / mortality*
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander*
  • Northern Territory / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies