Experts to fight horrific burns rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

The George Institute for Global Health has begun a four-year project to reform treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who sustain burns.

Burns in children can be a devastating injury, causing life-long scarring, severe psychological trauma and loss of function in multiple areas. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience burns at least double the rate of other children. Having consistent access to high quality care is fundamental to good outcomes in burns care.

Scald injuries are the most common type of burn injuries in Aboriginal Children, which is consistent for other children, followed by flame burns, such as from campfires, and contact burns.

Study leader Professor Rebecca Ivers, of The George Institute and The University of Sydney has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council to conduct a four year study examining burns in Aboriginal children in four Australian states (NSW, SA, NT and QLD).

This week at The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, the study's first meeting was held between leading researchers, clinicians, health economists and policy makers, as well as community leaders, from Westmead, Brisbane, Adelaide, Ceduna and the Northern Territory.

Investigators on the team will examine the care received (including cost), look at the relationship between care and outcome, and identify barriers and facilitators to appropriate care. They will look at what support services are needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, and follow-up care for burns, including where and how best treatment could be delivered and by whom.

Professor Ivers said: "Our aim is to work with clinicians, policy makers and the community to develop a ‘blueprint’ for reform of services, to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children receive appropriate and cost-effective care, and inform service delivery and future intervention trials."

The outcomes will also have relevance to delivery of other specialist health care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, in both urban and rural settings.

"Now we are beginning the work, we needed to ensure we are asking the right questions, and therefore able to generate research of relevance to all stakeholders. This roundtable provided an important opportunity to bring together experts and leaders to identify key questions for the study, and begin an ongoing conversation about opportunities for improvement in burn care."

Kurt Towers, Director of Aboriginal Health, and former Manager of the Aboriginal Burns Program for South Australia Health said: “The significance and devastation of burn injury in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is often overshadowed by other priorities in Aboriginal health. It is very satisfying to finally see burn injuries in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on the national research agenda.”

“The study has engaged significant and creditable Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal key stakeholders from around Australia and representing the Torres Strait, and I am confident future recommendations from this study will provide valuable tools to improve burn patient health journey and long term outcomes.”

The investigators for this study are:

  • Professor Rebecca Ivers, University of Sydney
  • Professor Andrew Holland, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, NSW
  • Professor Roy Kimble, The Royal Children’s Hospital, QLD
  • Professor Kathleen Clapham, University of Wollongong
  • Dr Serigne Lo, The George Institute for Global Health
  • Dr John Daniels, University of Wollongong
  • Ms Delia Hendrie, Curtin University of Technology

With associate investigators:

  • Dr Anthony Sparnon
  • Dr David Read
  • Anne Darton
  • Linda Quinn
  • Kurt Towers
  • Professor Sandra Eades

Also, international injury experts:

  • Professor Belinda Gabbe
  • Dr Tom Potokar
  • Professor Ronan Lyons