Cause and treatment of burn injuries in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: baseline data from a prospective study

Professor Andrew Holland2, Dr  Tamara Mackean1, Prof. Rebecca Ivers1, Dr  Kate  Hunter1, Professor Roy Kimble4, Professor Kathleen Clapham3, for the Coolamon Study Investigators

1The George Institute For Global Health, UNSW, Missenden Road, Australia, 2Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Westmead, Australia, 3University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, 4Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

Background: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience burns at least double the rate of other children but there is little research exploring the context of injury or care.

Aims: The objective of the Coolamon Study is to describe the burden of burns, access to care, and functional outcomes in Aboriginal children; this paper describes characteristics of the cohort.

Methods: A cohort of Aboriginal children under 16 years of age (and their families) presenting with a burn to a tertiary paediatric burn unit were recruited between 2015-2017 from tertiary burn units in NSW, Queensland, SA and NT. Data were collected from participant interviews and clinical data from medical records. The study is governed by an Aboriginal advisory group and uses Indigenous methodologies as a frame of reference.

Results: Of 144 children recruited by May 2017, most were male, ranging from 57% in Sydney to 83% of participants in the NT. Half of the participants (n=73, 50%) were inpatients. Parents reported the mechanism of burn injury was from direct contact with a hot object (n=48, 33%) a scald burn (n=47, 33%) or from flames (n=32, 26%). Most children received some first aid within five minutes of the injury (n=74, 54%) and 119 (88%) were medically assessed on the day of their injury.

Discussion: Burns sustained by children in this cohort were largely scald and contact burns in boys. Although first aid was applied in most cases, there were delays in application and in accessing medical treatment.

Dr Tamara Mackean is a Waljen woman and Public Health Medicine Physician (FAFPHM) working as a Senior Research Fellow with the George Institute for Global Health and the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity.  Her research interests span Indigenous health and social and emotional wellbeing, health policy and equity, and health systems research.  She is a Board member for the Lowitja Institute and Chair of the RACP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee.

Prof Andrew Holland is a paediatric surgeon with over 200 publications in the peer reviewed literature and has been awarded collaborative international research grants and scholarships.

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