Children’s use of health care services

Children’s use of health care services

Diana Warren

LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2017 chapter— October 2018
Young girl getting her eyes checked by a medical doctor

Delivering health care services that meet the needs of the community is one of the fundamental challenges faced by health care systems. Given the substantial cost of providing health care, it is of particular policy interest to examine the level and nature of health care service use among Australian children.

Using LSAC data collected between 2004 and 2014, we provide a snapshot of how health care services are used; any problems in gaining access to health services; and how children’s use of health services differs depending on characteristics such as household income, parental education, private health insurance coverage, location and parents’ reports of the general health of the child.

Key messages

The use of health care services changed as children got older. For example, the percentage of children who had seen a GP in the past 12 months decreased as they got older but the percentage who had been to the dentist increased.

Medical attention due to injuries changed as well. In the early years of childhood, cuts and scrapes were the most common injuries requiring medical attention but in the teenage years, fractures and broken bones were the most common.

Medical attention for boys and girls at 14–15 years of age was needed for:

  • sprains or strains by 12% of boys and girls
  • breaks or fractures by 4% of girls and 11% of girls
  • internal head injuries or concussions by 1% of girls and 4% of boys.

For teenage boys, concussions were an issue of concern – around 5,000 15-year-old boys across Australia required medical attention for an internal head injury or concussion in 2014.

Around one in 10 parents reported having difficulties accessing health care services for their children, with reports of access difficulties more common for families with low incomes, those living in regional and remote areas, and those who speak a language other than English. For example, compared to children living in major cities, the odds of having seen a GP in the past 12 months were halved for children and adolescents in regional and remote areas.

Publication details

LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2017 chapter
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2018.

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