Indigenous children not to be part of ABS survey
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Indigenous children not to be part of ABS survey

Indigenous children should be included in voluntary medical tests being conducted as part of a national health survey, a federal inquiry has heard.

Australian Bureau of Statistics officials were asked yesterday during a Senate Estimates hearing about a decision to exclude Aboriginal children from the voluntary bio-medical testing element of the survey.

ABS statistician Paul Jelfs told the Senate committee the exclusion was recommended by indigenous health experts.

''The money is not the issue, it's statistical robustness,'' Dr Jelfs said. ''If we don't get good quality information, it's almost worse than having no information.''

Dr Jelfs said indigenous health experts advised participation rates would be low and recommended building trust with the adult indigenous population first.

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The national survey, conducted every five years, involves 50,000 randomly selected adults and children across the country to give a snapshot of the health of Australians.

For the first time it will collect blood and urine samples on a voluntary basis to gauge chronic disease risk factors.

The ABS is due to begin surveying 13,500 indigenous people in April. Dr Jelfs said indigenous adults would be able to participate in the voluntary medical testing part of the survey and the bureau aimed to extend that to children in 2017.

Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion said it was a ''missed opportunity'' to measure the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous children. He referred to a prominent group of researchers who undertook health surveys on 539 indigenous children between 1998-2001. However, Dr Jelfs dismissed that example, saying the sample size was small compared with what the ABS needed.

''We're talking about trying to run a survey right across Australia across remote communities into urban parts of Australia and regional parts,'' he said. AAP

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