Helping close the gap through innovative home visit program
The Minister for Health and Ageing has launched a program for nurses to visit Indigenous children and their families at home to ensure they get the support they need earlier.
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5 February 2008
Health Minister Nicola Roxon last night launched a program for nurses to visit Indigenous children and their families at home to ensure they get the support they need earlier.
Professor David Olds, the US-based architect of the revolutionary program, was present for the launch.
Australia is only the second country after the United Kingdom given permission to use this program.
This is an important part of the Rudd Government’s commitment to closing the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people within a generation.
This program, along with our other programs that are part of our $260 million downpayment on Indigenous women’s and children’s health, will help ensure that Indigenous children are healthy, happy and ready to learn.
It is aimed at giving Indigenous children a healthier start in life through ongoing home visits.
The program will be based on the Nurse Family Partnership, pioneered in the United States by Professor Olds, the Director of the Prevention Research Centre for Family and Child Health at the University of Colorado. The Nurse Family Partnership has produced impressive short- and long-term benefits for children and their families and has been proven to improve the health, welfare and life choices of both mothers and their children.
Results have shown that children who receive the nurse visits have improved birth weights, cognitive ability and school readiness. Mothers smoke less, have increased intervals between births and have improved parental skills. They also use community services more effectively and are more likely to hold jobs.
Originally designed for first-time, financially-disadvantaged mothers, the Nurse Family Partnership will be adapted here to reflect the Australian health care system and the geographic and cultural diversity across Indigenous communities.
Most current home visiting programs in Australia provide only a single visit, often by a volunteer rather than a trained health professional. This new program is different – it provides structured, sustained home visiting by skilled health professionals, starting during pregnancy and continuing through to the child’s second birthday.
In Australia, home visits will be provided up to the age of eight.
Professor Olds is currently in Australia for talks with the Government and Indigenous stakeholders about the scheme’s introduction in this country. He will meet key academics and health practitioners in the child and maternal health field and visit Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
The Government will initially establish up to 10 sites across Australia to support the program, to be funded under the Rudd Government’s initiative New Directions: an equal start in life for Indigenous children.
Around 1,900 families will, over five years, receive support through both the New Directions and Health@Home Plus initiatives.
Consultations will be commencing soon on a wider roll out of Indigenous mums and bubs programs to enhance this intensive home visiting service.
Media contact: Sean Kelly 0417 108 362
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