Understanding burn injury among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: baseline results from the Coolamon Study

Dr Catherine Hunter1,2, Dr Courtney Ryder1,2, Dr Julieann Coombes1, Professor Kathleen Clapham3, Associate Professor Tamara Mackean1,2, Dr Sarah Fraser4, Hayley Williams5, Dr Holger Moeller4, Dr Bronwyn Griffin6, Professor Andrew Holland7, Professor Rebecca Ivers1,4, The  Coolamon Study Investigators

1The George Institute For Global Health, Newtown, Sydney, Australia, 2Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, The College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, 3Ngarruwan Ngadju First Peoples Health and Wellbeing Research Centre, The University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, 4School of Population Health, Faculty of Medicine, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 5The Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 6Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 7The University of Sydney, School of Medicine, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Clinical School, The Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney, Australia


Little is understood of the burdens and healthcare experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who sustain burns. The Coolamon Study recruited children aged 16 years and under with burns who presented to burn services in Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane, Townsville and Adelaide between 2015 and 2018. Informed consent was obtained and carers completed a baseline and additional interviews at 3,6,12 and 24 months. Data were collected on sociodemographic factors, health related quality of life (PedsQL) of the child and psychological distress (Kessler 5) of the carer. Clinical information was extracted from medical records. Of the 208 participants, 64% were male, 26% were aged less than 2 years, 37% 2-4 years, 14% 5-7 years and 24% aged 8 and over with 46% treated as inpatients. Common injury mechanisms were scalds (37%), contact burns (33.2%) and flame burns (21%). First aid was applied within one minute for 38%, and within 10 minutes for 64%; cold water was applied for 82%, with clothing removed for 38%. Of carers, 70% reported that they received enough information about care, 16% reported they would have liked more and 2.4% reported they received no information. The project was guided by a Steering Committee and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group; Indigenous research methods were utilised in data collection, analysis and interpretation. Data from this cohort provides rich new information about burden of burns and care received that will inform development of quality models of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


Dr Kate Hunter is a Senior Research Fellow and acting co-lead of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health research program at The George Institute for Global Health and a conjoint senior lecturer at the University of NSW. In her current research in burn care Dr Hunter draws on her earlier career as an RN working in burn units in both Australia and the US.   Her research expertise includes quality and safety in healthcare and assessing equitable access to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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