Background: Aboriginal Australians have a life expectancy more than ten years less than that of non-Aboriginal Australians, reflecting their disproportionate burden of both communicable and non-communicable disease throughout the lifespan. Little is known about the health and health trajectories of Aboriginal children and, although the majority of Aboriginal people live in urban areas, data are particularly sparse in relation to children living in urban areas.
Methods/Design: The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) is a cohort study of Aboriginal children aged 0-17 years, from urban and large regional centers in New South Wales, Australia. SEARCH focuses on Aboriginal community identified health priorities of: injury; otitis media; vaccine-preventable conditions; mental health problems; developmental delay; obesity; and risk factors for chronic disease. Parents/caregivers and their children are invited to participate in SEARCH at the time of presentation to one of the four participating Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations at Mount Druitt, Campbelltown, Wagga Wagga and Newcastle. Questionnaire data are obtained from parents/caregivers and children, along with signed permission for follow-up through repeat data collection and data linkage. All children have their height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure measured and complete audiometry, otoscopy/pneumatic otoscopy and tympanometry. Children aged 1-7 years have speech and language assessed and their parents/caregivers complete the Parental Evaluation of Developmental Status. The Study aims to recruit 1700 children by the end of 2010 and to secure resources for long term follow up. From November 2008 to March 2010, 1010 children had joined the study. From those 446 children with complete data entry, participating children ranged in age from 2 weeks to 17 years old, with 144 aged 0-3, 147 aged 4- 7, 75 aged 8-10 and 79 aged 11-17. 55% were male and 45% female.
Discussion: SEARCH is built on strong community partnerships, under Aboriginal leadership, and addresses community priorities relating to a number of under-researched areas. SEARCH will provide a unique long-term resource to investigate the causes and trajectories of health and illness in urban Aboriginal children and to identify potential targets for interventions to improve health.