Children in Auckland are five times more likely than those in other developed countries to need hospital admission for pneumonia, and researchers from The University of Auckland are hoping to find out why.
Dr Cameron Grant, who is Associate Professor of Paediatrics in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and a paediatrician at Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital, is the principal investigator in the project which is currently recruiting the last 200 of 900 preschool-aged children.
The project is enrolling children with pneumonia from Starship Children’s Hospital and well children from the community. The aim is to recruit 300 children hospitalised with pneumonia, 300 children presenting with pneumonia to the Starship Emergency Department but not hospitalised, and 300 children from the community who do not have pneumonia.
“ Pneumonia is a major problem in New Zealand. We believe a significant proportion of it is preventable. We want to know what the risk factors are so that we can find ways to reduce the number of children who get so sick they need hospital care,” he says.
Children of Pacific descent are particularly vulnerable to pneumonia, with one in 20 Pacific infants being hospitalised with pneumonia in Auckland every year. Pacific children with pneumonia also have more severe disease than children of other ethnic groups.
Dr Grant says pneumonia puts a burden on the health system, and also leads to chronic chest problems in later life which can cause major disability and early death.
He says the researchers will look at several issues including nutrition, housing (such as dampness and mould), primary care, family history of illness, and socio-economic factors like overcrowding. Information is being collected by interviewing parents, measuring dietary intake and reviewing primary care and hospital records.
The research team will complete enrolment by the end of this year. The information collected will be analysed during 2005 with results likely to be available towards the end of 2005 and in 2006.
“ This study will help us to answer the question often posed by parents ‘why has my child got pneumonia?’ At the moment, we can’t provide a good answer to this important question,” Dr Grant says.
The research project is a collaboration between The University of Auckland, Massey University and Starship Children’s Hospital. It is funded by the Health Research Council, the National Child Health Research Foundation, the Auckland Medical Research Foundation and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.