Clinician checking a child

Research reveals Flying Doctor role in Indigenous child health

Date published

23 Nov 2016

Most people associate the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) with outback farmers, but new research released today reveals one in three RFDS aeromedical retrievals are for Indigenous Australians, 14% of these children under the age of five.

The research reveals the key reasons for RFDS aeromedical retrievals from remote Indigenous communities as being for:
> 17.9% for injury or poisoning;
> 14.4% suffering a stroke, heart attack or disease of the circulatory system;
> 12.8% having pneumonia, asthma or other disease of the respiratory system.

One in every five aeromedical retrieval's of Indigenous people suffering respiratory illness were under one year of age. 40% were below school age.

Indigenous Health

"This research is a first for the RFDS. It warns Indigenous children are over-represented in aeromedical retrieval data. Preventable or manageable illnesses such as pneumonia, asthma and croup are leaving kids so ill the only option is to fly them to hospital," said Martin Laverty, CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

The research outlines illness and injury rates requiring a sample of 17,606 to be flown from remote communities to hospitals over a three year period. It points to how illness and injury can be prevented and how health services can improve Indigenous health care.

"An aeromedical retrieval in response to a chronic illness only happens when a patient has become very unwell. The high demand for patients to be flown with chronic illness shows illness prevention is key to achieving 'Close the Gap' targets," Mr Laverty said.

The RFDS research finds more resources for health service provision in remote communities are vital. The report also recommends development of new cultural credentials for mainstream health services to better meet Indigenous health care need.

Inforgraphic common retrievals