In this interview, Vicki Xafis, Amireh Fakhouri, Kathryn Currow, Stephen Brancatisano, and Wendy Bryan-Clothier discuss their unique research examining how social determinants of health impact the lives of Australia’s youth, bringing to light the challenges faced by health professionals in finding solutions for children, young people, and families facing health inequity.
We are familiar with statistical figures relating to social determinants of health that lead to health inequity but we never see the children/young people associated with those figures. This work is based on real children/young people and their families. Although the research relates to Australia, the findings are relevant globally.
The empirical research we report on in Health Inequity Experienced by Australian Paediatric Patients focuses on the impact health inequity has had on 61 children/young people and their families in Australia. The research identifies the social determinants of health (SDH) that each child/young person was affected by at the time of their presentation to a health professional for treatment. These included: Crime and Safety, Education, Employment, Food Environment, Health Systems and Services, Housing, Income and Wealth, Secondary Consequences of SDH, Social Environment and Transport.
The research also identifies the challenges health professionals faced on the ground and the solutions they adopted to reduce health inequity. The work presents the outcomes for the children/young these solutions brought about, thus highlighting the need for health practitioners to use every opportunity to make a difference.
This research uncovered the extraordinary depth, breadth, and range of SDH that impacted these children/young people and their families, and by extension their communities. It also revealed the disproportionate impact SDH have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children/young people.
Health inequity has a devastating impact on child health, the effects of which persist into adulthood and affect every aspect of their lives if it not addressed via appropriate targeted policies and public health interventions. In addition to the extraordinary benefits children/young people gain, there are considerable economic and societal gains when SDH that lead to health inequity are tackled.
This research aims to highlight the significant social changes required to eradicate or minimise health inequity. All levels of government, healthcare systems, and other sectors of society, including local communities, must work together to effect such changes. This work is a call to action to achieve this.
Our research relates to the following UN SDGs:
GOAL 1: No Poverty
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
This research would be useful to policymakers, health professionals, educators, politicians and anyone involved in areas relating to children and young people.
It is critical to prioritise developing lasting and genuine partnerships with research participant groups and collaborators alike. While the research is under way, it helps to approach those researchers, policy makers, and other relevant stakeholders who would benefit from knowing about the research being conducted and to give periodic updates on the findings as they emerge. This will help disseminate the work when published and will contribute to the research achieving maximum impact. It is important to choose the journal which will be read by the people researchers are trying to influence with their research. Publishing in open access journals will make the research easy to access (but researchers should choose journals which treat researchers fairly by not imposing exorbitant article processing fees).
The best support publishers can give is to ensure that their licences are fair and help researchers preserve their rights over the work published. Exorbitant publishing fees which are well beyond the actual publication costs and company profits discourage researchers from publishing. Publishers should also actively promote the published work using the substantial marketing strategies they have at their disposal. This is particularly important when the authors no longer hold rights to their work as a result of unacceptably high publishing fees.
Vicki Xafis, Centre for Biomedical Ethics, National University of Singapore; Amireh Fakhouri, Monash University, Melbourne; Kathryn Currow, School of Medicine, University of Sydney; Stephen Brancatisano, Blacktown and Mt Druitt Hospitals, Sydney; and Wendy Bryan-Clothier, Ministry of Health, New South Wales Health, St Leonards, are co-authors of Health Inequity Experienced by Australian Paediatric Patients: Empirical Analyses of Case Reports.