Keeping kids strong and healthy
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families provide love and care for their children with safe and secure, culturally strong traditions. You want to keep your baby strong and help them grow into a healthy child.
Good food, water to drink and plenty of exercise are all important for children. So is getting check-ups — these can help them avoid hearing loss, troubles with eyesight, trouble with teeth, skin problems and developing common adult diseases like diabetes.
A baby’s eyes should be clear, not cloudy. As their sight develops, they will be able to see beyond the faces closest to them and will be able to recognise people moving around them. Babies will start to try and reach for things further away. If they can’t see properly, it can slow their development.
Eye infections are common and easy to treat. Have your baby’s eyes checked regularly, especially for trachoma. Trachoma is infectious, and if it is not treated with antibiotics, can lead to damage of the eyes and eyelids.
Ear infections are common, especially before children start school. The most common of these is a middle ear infection, or 'otitis media'.
You should get your baby checked if they:
- have liquid coming out of their ears
- have had a cold
- don't seem to hear sounds around them
- are pulling at their ears
- have pain or fever
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services can prescribe treatments and advise you how to prevent ear infections. The symptoms are not always obvious. Even a child who finds it hard to adjust to play groups and preschool should have their ears checked, in case they have an ear infection.
You can help prevent ear infections by not letting people smoke near children, by keeping children’s ears and faces clean, and by getting check-ups. Keeping an eye on their hearing can help avoid long-term infections, which can make it harder for children to learn to talk.
Healthy teeth are important. It’s all part of preventing disease later in life.
You should give your child good food and plenty of water to drink. Avoid sugary drinks like juice and soft drinks. Clean baby teeth as soon as they appear. By the time your toddler is 18 months old, you should be using a toothbrush with toothpaste regularly.
Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services also have dental clinics.
Skin conditions can be caused by unsafe water supplies or not being able to maintain a clean environment for the baby. Health services and parenting classes can provide advice on treatment and hygiene.
Food and drink
Good nutrition depends on knowing which foods are healthy, being able to get them, and knowing how to store and prepare healthy meals.
Healthy foods include:
- fresh vegetables and fruits
- whole grains
- low-fat dairy products
- lean meats
- foods low in fat and salt.
You can talk to doctors, nurses and health services about a healthy diet. Local support services may also be able to provide tips on how to cook healthy low-cost meals, how to shop on a tight budget and how to store food and keep meal preparation areas clean.
Help and support
Finding and accessing the right sort of help isn't always easy.
Make sure your child has regular health checks at the local health service. This will help to avoid confusion and unnecessary delays.
You can also find an Aboriginal controlled community health organisation in your state or territory:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
At your local community health service, you can ask for a child and maternal health nurse or ask at the local hospital if they have an Indigenous health liaison service.
You should check with the local health service what free or subsidised services are available — for some, you can ask directly, for others, you need a referral from the local health clinic or hospital. To find out more, contact a social worker at Centrelink.
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Last reviewed: August 2019