Credit: Rusty Stewart(Flickr)

Indigenous communities in central Australia have ranked the worst in the world for rates of severe pneumonia among young children.

The study was conducted by Dr Kerry-Ann O'Grady, from Darwin-based Menzies School of Health Research using methods set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr O'Grady and her team found an annual rate of almost 60 cases of severe pneumonia per 1,000 indigenous infants aged less than 11 months. In the next age bracket, children aged one to two years - the annual rate was about 40 pneumonia cases per 1,000 children every year.

In those aged two to five, there were just over 13 cases of severe pneumonia per 1,000 children per year.

The problem was found to be much worse in the arid areas of central NT compared to the tropical northern region, Dr O'Grady said.

She said the finding prove to be unacceptable since Australia is a wealthy country, and reducing such disease should be the national health priority.

Dr O' Grady also points to further research which showed one in five indigenous infants would be admitted to hospital at least once before their first birthday, for treatment of an acute lower respiratory tract infection.

She expresses her concern on the high rates of respiratory disease in infancy and if not tend to would contribute to chronic lung disease later in life.

Dr O'Grady further states that research has to continue and policies have to be changed to put priority to the living environment, facilitate hygiene, improve educational outcomes for parents in the future and enhance parenting skills.

The research is published in the Medical Journal of Australia.