According to recent study released, Indigenous children from the central Australia experience the highest rate of the potentially lethal severe pneumonia in the world.

Based on the strict definition of the condition, provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), every year the average cases for every 1,000 Indigenous babies less than one year old, were 72.3 in total, says Kerry-Ann O'Grady, a researcher.

She says, The incidence of WHO-defined radiologically confirmed pneumonia among children in the Central Australian region of Northern Territory is the highest incidence reported in published studies using WHO protocol.

The second worst child pneumonia rate was observed in the West African country, Gambia. Australia beats the country with 54 incidents of the condition for every 1,000 Indigenous children ages one to two and 20.1 cases per 1,000 of Indigenous children of two to five years of age.

O'Grady says, pneumonia is a disease of poverty. The study showed the number of cases for the rest of the Northern Territory from the desert centre to the tropical city of Darwin, were slightly lower and scientists were unable to say why.

The problem - according to O'Grady who finished the study while being employed at the Darwin-based Menzies School of Health Research - was poorer in the arid regions of the Outback than the tropical northern areas.

The high rate of respiratory disease in the first year is worrying, she says as it is associated with the development of chronic lung disease later as adults.

This is unacceptable in a wealthy country like Australia, and reducing this disease burden should be a national health priority, said O'Grady.

The study conducted involved analyzing hospital admissions of Indigenous children from 1997 to 2005 and in-depth research is urgently called for, says O'Grady.

Research must continue and policies that change the living environment and facilitate hygiene, improve educational outcomes for parents of the future and enhance parenting skills must be a priority, she said