Indigenous Australians with asthma have higher morbidity and mortality compared with non-Indigenous Australians. In children hospitalised with acute asthma, we aimed to:
(i) determine if acute severity, risk factors and management differed between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children
(ii) identify intervention points to reduce morbidity and mortality of asthma.


Asthma is the most common long-term medical condition affecting at least 10% of Australian children. Genetic factors, ethnicity and socio-economic status are associated with difference in asthma severity. Asthma is the second most common self-reported long-term illness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Our research has found:
  • Other than exposure to tobacco smoke, Indigenous children hospitalised with asthma have similar asthma severity, risk factors, length of hospitalisation and re-admissions compared with non-Indigenous children.
  • Unlike other common respiratory diseases requiring hospitalisation (e.g. bronchiolitis), biological factors are unlikely major contributory factors to the known gap in asthma outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
Implications for policy and practice:

Intervention points to improve the management of asthma, particularly in Indigenous children, incorporate better identification, documentation and management of tobacco smoke exposure, acute delivery of medication and discharge planning (including education and utilisation of asthma action plans).

Chief investigator:
Project manager:
Contact information:
Project dates:


  • NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Respiratory Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children.
  • Blake Giarola, Northern Territory Flinders Medical School
  • Gabrielle McCallum, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Emily Bailey, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute
  • Professor Peter Morris, Menzies and Royal Darwin Hospital
  • Carolyn Maclennan, Royal Darwin Hospital
  • Professor Anne Chang, Menzies and Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute.
  1. Giarola, B.F., McCallum, G.B., Bailey, E.J., Morris, P.S., Maclennan, C., & Chang, A.B. (2013). Retrospective review of 200 children hospitalised with acute asthma. Identification of intervention points: A single centre study. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 50(4), 286-290.