Defying the Odds - Aboriginal early childhood health outcomes

Project Details

Defying the Odds logo

Project details
A healthy start to life is essential for life-long health. Currently Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (0-5 years) experience greater rates of death and illnesses than other Australian children. The purpose of this project is to identify ways of reducing deaths and illnesses among Aboriginal infants and children.

1.To gather information on characteristics that increase or decrease the chance of death and illness among Aboriginal infants and children
2.To find out whether deaths and preventable illness among Aboriginal infants and children varies by the area of residence and to gather information on the characteristics of the community which are making a difference on the number of deaths and illness among children
3.To gather information on the objectives of existing community and State-run programs and services in regions of WA targeted towards health and social wellbeing of Aboriginal children and families
4.To examine whether health and social services and programs are making a difference in reducing the number of deaths and illnesses among Aboriginal infants and children.

Project Summary
The project uses population-level linked health data from multigenerational Aboriginal families in Western Australia (WA) with children born 2000-2013 (over 33,000 children, their siblings, parents and grandparents).  We are examining the causes and risk and protective factors for potentially-avoidable morbidity and death. Factors within families and geographic regions are being examined.  The research aims to identify targets for tailored prevention and for more effective resource allocation to reduce early childhood morbidity and mortality among Aboriginal children. Information is being collected on the scope, reach and cultural security of relevant health and social services for Aboriginal children and families in specifically selected regions of WA will also be used to support the development of services.

The project is part of the Centre of Research Excellence in Aboriginal Child and Adolescent Health.


Professor Sandra Eades - Indigenous Epidemiology and Health Unit Head

Alison Gibberd - Research Fellow

Dr Lina Gubhaju - Research Fellow

Dr Bridgette McNamara - Senior Research Fellow

Dr Robyn Williams - Aboriginal Research Officer (WA-based)


NHMRC Project Grant [2015-2018/19] GNT 1078214 - Exploring the impact of perinatal outcomes, maternal social and health outcomes and level of culturally appropriate service availability on the health of Western Australian Aboriginal infants and children.

Research Publications

McNamara B, Gubhaju L, Jorm L, Preen D, Jones J, Joshy G, Shepherd C, McAullay D, Eades S; Defying the Odds project investigators. Exploring factors impacting early childhood health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities: protocol for a population-based cohort study using data linkage (the 'Defying the Odds' study). BMJ Open. 2018 Mar 28;8(3):e021236

Brew B, Gibberd A, Marks GB, Strobel N, Allen CW, Jorm L, Chambers G, Eades S, McNamara B. Identifying preventable risk factors for hospitalised asthma in young Aboriginal children: a whole-population cohort study. Thorax 2021;76:539-546.

Gibberd A, Tyler J, Falster K, Preen D, Hanly M, Clarke M, McNamara B, Eades S, Scurrah K. Pregnancy and birth characteristics of Aboriginal twins in two Australian states: a data linkage study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 21, 448 (2021).

Gubhaju L, Williams R, Jones J, Hamer D, Shepherd C, McAullay D, Eades S, McNamara B. “Cultural Security Is an On-Going Journey…” Exploring Views from Staff Members on the Quality and Cultural Security of Services for Aboriginal Families in Western Australia. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health

Research Group

Indigenous Epidemiology and Health

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology, Child Health

School Research Themes

Data science, health metrics and disease modeling, Disparities, disadvantage and effective health care

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics

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