Social Exclusion, Deprivation and Child Health: A Spatial Analysis of Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions in Children Aged 0-4 years in Victoria, Australia

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Journal Article

Abstract

Recent Australian policy initiatives regarding primary health care focus on planning services around community needs and delivering these at the local area. As in many other countries, there has also been a growing concern over social inequities in health outcomes. The aims of the analysis presented here were firstly to describe small area variations in hospital admissions for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) among children aged 0-4 years between 2003 and 2009 in the state of Victoria, Australia, and secondly to explore the relationship of ACSC hospitalisations with socio-economic disadvantage using a comparative analysis of the Child Social Exclusion (CSE) index and the Composite Score of Deprivation (CSD). This is a cross sectional secondary data analysis, with data sourced from 2003 to 2009 ACSC data from the Victorian State Government Department of Health; the Australian Standard Geographical Classification of remoteness; the Australian 2006 Census of Population and Housing; and AMPCo General Practitioner data from 2010. The relationship between the indexes and child health outcomes was examined through bivariate analysis and visually through a series of maps. The results show there is significant variation in the geographical distribution of the relationship between ACSCs and socioeconomic disadvantage, with both indexes capturing important social gradients in child health conditions. However, measures of access, such as geographical accessibility and workforce supply, detect additional small area variation in child health outcomes. This research has important implications for future primary health care policy and planning of services, as these findings confirm that not all areas are the same in terms of health outcomes, and there may be benefit in tailoring mechanisms for identifying
areas of need depending on the outcome intended to be affected.

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