THE health of indigenous children from low-income families improved significantly after a weekly subsidised fruit and vegetable program, new research shows.
The children required less antibiotics and there was a small, but significant increase in their haemoglobin levels, according to the research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Study author Dr Andrew Black said a broader trial was needed to investigate whether it was feasible to have subsidised healthy food programs in Australia.
“The program could be adapted to target low-income families more generally,” Dr Black and his co-authors wrote.
But Dr Black, who is a general practitioner with a NSW Aboriginal health service and a fellow at the University of South Australia, said the proportion of children with iron deficiency and anaemia did not change.
The study involved children from 55 families who were aged under 18 and lived in northern NSW.
Each family was given a weekly box of subsidised fruit and vegetables, valued at $40 and nutritional information and recipes were provided to families.
A separate study published in the same journal found the health and behaviour of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children in urban areas may be adversely affected by their high-levels of exposure to stressful events.
The study conducted between 2007 and 2010 at a Brisbane indigenous health service found that of 344 indigenous children aged 14 years or under about half had experienced a stressful event in their lives.
There was a strong association between those events and a history of ear and skin infections and parental or carer concerns about the child’s behaviour, the study says.
Eleven per cent of study participants had witnessed domestic violence, while 10 per cent had experienced it personally.
“The risk of not addressing both the causes and the effects of childhood exposure to stressful events is that the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is unlikely to improve,” the study authors wrote.
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