New study finds postcode impacts Indigenous youth’s lung health - Institute for Respiratory Health

New study finds postcode impacts Indigenous youth’s lung health

Tuesday, February 13, 2024 | News

New research led by a team of collaborative research experts shows the lung health of young Indigenous Australians is being adversely impacted by where they live and early-life factors. 

The leading research, funded by the NHMRC and NIHR is the first of its kind to be undertaken and provides crucial insights into the lung health challenges young Indigenous Australians face.

The study analysed birth data from the Australian Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) over 18 months. The data goes back to 1981 and includes information on 686 Indigenous Australians across the Northern Territory.

Associate Professor Vidya Navaratnam, an honorary senior research fellow from the Institute for Respiratory Health said, “We know that respiratory problems are common in Indigenous communities. However, there is limited information about the specific impact on young adults and the factors contributing to their lung health issues.

“Thanks to data collected from the ABC, we could analyse respiratory data on young Indigenous adults in detail for the first time.

“The data showed a high number with abnormal lung function testing – almost 40 per cent of Indigenous adults aged around 26 had below-normal results.

“We also found that being overweight as a young child and being born in a remote community is associated with an increased chance of facing challenges with lung health as a young adult.”

The research study also found that children who had multiple respiratory infections before starting school had reduced lung health in later life. And, the younger a child’s mother was when giving birth also influenced lung health. 

“There’s still a lot of work to do to make things better and to close the lung health gap for Indigenous Australians,” Associate Professor Navaratnam said.

“The good news is we are now aware of what’s impacting poor lung health including a mother’s age, infection, poverty levels and where you live.

“Hopefully this research can drive simple public health strategies to improve the lung health of Indigenous Australians.”

The collaborative research project team involved researchers from across Australia including Associate Professor Doug Forrester from the Institute for Respiratory Health, Professors Anne Chang and Gurmeet Singh from the Menzies School of Health Research and Professor Shyamali Dharmage, from The University of Melbourne.