Ethnicity and neonatal outcome


  • Craig Mellis


There are known inequities in health for Indigenous compared with non-Indigenous Australian infants, but less is known about other ethnic groups in Australia. A paper using the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) database for Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales reported outcomes in mothers and their infants born at 22–31 weeks' gestation from 1996–2006, stratified into ‘Caucasian’, Asian, Indigenous and Maori-Polynesian.[1] There was no difference in mortality between ethnic groups. Indigenous mothers were younger, less likely to have received antenatal corticosteroids and to have a Caesarean section and much more likely to give a history of illicit drug use. Maori-Polynesian mothers were more likely to have pregnancy-induced hypertension. ‘Caucasian’ (10.7%) and Asian mothers (8.7%) were far more likely to have conceived using assisted reproductive technology and ‘Caucasian’ mothers were more likely to have multiple births. Maori-Polynesian infants were more likely to have birth asphyxia and intraventricular haemorrhage. Asian infants were more likely to have retinopathy of prematurity. Although this paper did not show ethnic differences in mortality, it did illustrate major health differences. The paper did not discuss that the proportion of infants admitted to NICUs who were Indigenous (4.3%) was almost twice the proportion of the local population that is Indigenous (2.2%).



Reviewer: David Isaacs,