Children’s special needs focus of latest grants

Seven new research projects have been funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation at Flinders University.

They include support for special studies to help homeless, at-risk, migrant and autistic children, Indigenous health, and more.

Nurse practitioners working with social service agencies is one way to help the estimated 22% of Australian children living in temporary or precarious conditions, with families hit hard by unemployment and other problems created by the pandemic.

These children – some skipping health checks, vaccinations and even nutritional meals – may not have regular doctor appointments and poorer access to health services, leading to more physical and mental health issues and even emergency department presentations.

A pilot part-time nurse practitioner program, led by Flinders University child health experts in partnership with UnitingCare Wesley Bowden (UCWB), will expand across Adelaide with support from the latest Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation grant round.

Project leader, Flinders University senior lecturer Dr Yvonne Parry, says the grant will provide more early intervention and health support for marginalised families in a setting on the ‘coalface’ where nurses can “operate in their full scope of practice”.

The program, currently available at UCWB’s Marion office, will extend to two other sites, and give Flinders researchers insights into areas of demand and health needs in other metropolitan areas.

“In the past year, 74 children have been seen by a specialist paediatric nurse at Marion, where children and their families who engage with UCWB’s homelessness services have access to professional and free health services,” Dr Parry says.

UCWB’s homelessness services support about 700 people each year of which around 150 are children aged under nine.

UCWB chief executive Ms Fiona Kelly says extending the nurse practitioner service to additional locations will make it easier for families to access free healthcare while going through extremely difficult times.

“Having a nurse practitioner working along side our social workers will enable us to intervene early to disrupt patterns of ill health for these families,” says Ms Kelly.

“These structured, community embedded interventions by a nurse partitioner with the skills to provide advanced paediatric full health assessments of children aged 0-18 living in housing instability provides important health pathways to ensure their development and long-term wellbeing,” says Dr Parry, from Flinders’ College of Nursing and Health Sciences Caring Futures Institute which provided funding for the pilot.

The Children’s Research Foundation 2020 Grant Round provided assistance for 18 projects with $1.5 million in funding channelled into SA research into children’s health, education and welfare. The latest round focused on priority areas of children’s mental health, protection, obesity and the effects of social determinants.

The latest Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation projects funded at Flinders University are:

Linking homeless children and their families to community health and wellbeing services: Using a Nurse Practitioner model of care to improve child health outcomes (led by Dr Yvonne Parry – College of Nursing and Health Sciences).

Defining endotypes in infant bronchiolitis: the first step toward personalised treatment (led by Associate Professor Dani Dixon – College of Medicine and Public Health)

Creating positive educational futures for young people who are at risk of, or are already in, out-of-home care (Dr Priscilla Dunk-West – College of Education, Psychology and Social Work)

Does maternal obesity drive childhood obesity through interactions between the gut microbiome and gut endocrine cells? (Professor Damien Keating – College of Medicine and Public Health)

A randomised controlled trial of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia in children on the autism spectrum (Dr Michelle Short – College of Education, Psychology and Social Work)

Optimising the early detection of ear disease and hearing impairment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged under 8-years (led by Dr Jacqueline Stephens – College of Medicine and Public Health)

Supporting mental health and wellbeing for children from migrant and refugee backgrounds with disability (Associate Professor Anna Ziersch – Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, College of Medicine and Public Health)

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