The majority of Australian children are faring well in terms of health, but there is room for improvement for some, according to a new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).


The report, A picture of Australia’s children 2012, shows that the death rate of infants and children has halved since 1986, asthma in children is decreasing over the same period and the rates of risky drinking and smoking in children has dropped.


Almost three quarters of infants have stories read to them on a regular basis, and most children achieve above the national minimum standard for reading and numeracy.


The majority of households with children in Australia perceive their neighbourhood as a safe place for their children, and most households could count on assistance from outside the home in a time of crisis.


“'The report indeed shows that most Australian children are faring well, but despite this good news, there are several areas where improvements could be made,” said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.


Dr Al-Yaman pointed to the dropping rates of breast feeding as a particular concern, with only 40 per cent of infants exclusively breastfed to four months, and around 45 per cent of children aged six having dental decay, as do 39 per cent of children aged 12.


“The report also shows that almost one-quarter of children are developmentally vulnerable at school entry,” Dr Al-Yaman said.


About 7% of Australian children had a disability in 2009 and, of these, over half had profound or severe core activity limitations. The most common disability types among children were intellectual, affecting 161,600 children (3.9%), and sensory/speech (119,100 children or 2.9%).


The full report can be found here