Background: Hospitalisation with skin infection in Western Australian (WA) Aboriginal children is common, with the highest rates in infants and children from remote WA.
Objective: We aimed to quantify infant, maternal, and sociodemographic risk factors for skin infection hospitalisation in WA children, focussing on Aboriginal children aged <17 years.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective population-based cohort study with linked perinatal and hospitalisation data on WA-born children (1996-2012), of whom 31 348 (6.7%) were Aboriginal. We used Cox regression to calculate adjusted hazard ratios and associated population attributable fractions (PAFs) for perinatal factors attributed to first hospitalisation with skin infection. To identify specific risk factors for early-onset infection, we further restricted the cohort to infants aged <1 year.
Results: Overall, 5439 (17.4%) Aboriginal and 6750 (1.5%) non-Aboriginal children were hospitalised at least once with a skin infection. Aboriginal infants aged <1 year had the highest skin infection hospitalisation rate (63.2 per 1000 child-years). The strongest risk factors in Aboriginal children aged <17 years were socio-economic disadvantage, very remote location at birth, and multi-parity (≥3 previous pregnancies) accounting for 24%, 23%, and 15% of skin infection hospitalisations, respectively. Other risk factors included maternal age <20 years, maternal smoking during pregnancy, and low birthweight.
Conclusions: We have quantified the relative influence of perinatal risk factors associated with skin infection hospitalisations in WA children, providing measures indicating which factors have the potential to reduce the most hospitalisations. Our evidence not only supports existing calls for substantial government investment in addressing underlying social and environmental barriers to healthy skin in WA Aboriginal children but also identifies potential areas to target health promotion messaging at individuals/families on maternal smoking during pregnancy and skin hygiene for families.