Chronic wet cough in Aboriginal children: It's not just a cough: It's not just a cough

Pamela D'Sylva, Roz Walker, Mary Lane, Anne B. Chang, André Schultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Chronic respiratory disease is common among Aboriginal Australians. Chronic wet cough is an early marker of chronic disease in children but often goes undetected due, in part, to delayed health seeking by families. Currently, no studies have examined the reasons for delayed health seeking for children's chronic cough. To identify the barriers to, and enablers for, seeking medical help for chronic wet cough in Aboriginal children. Methods: This was a qualitative study, gathering data through individual semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus groups to ascertain Aboriginal family knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about seeking health care for chronic wet cough in children in a regional Kimberley town, Western Australia between October 2017 and March 2018. Results: Forty Aboriginal community members participated. The three key barriers identified were: ‘Cough normalisation’, that is, 70% of participants considered chronic cough normal (with 53% of participants' previous interactions with doctors informing their understanding of chronic cough); the lack of health literacy information; and a sense of disempowerment (belief that no medical action would be taken and inability to challenge doctors). The key expressed enablers were provision of health literacy information and health practitioner training to assess and treat chronic wet cough in children. All participants reported that they would seek help for chronic wet cough once they were informed that it could signify underlying disease. Conclusion: Results highlight the need for a culturally appropriate information and education to inform Aboriginal families and their health practitioners of the importance of chronic wet cough in children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-843
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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