Young children in Yarrabah and the Tablelands get a healthy start to life


First Nations families in Yarrabah and the Tablelands region are receiving more timely access to care thanks to a new program providing targeted support for women and children in their first 1,000 days. 

The First 1,000 Days Social and Emotional Wellbeing program is funded by Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) and aligns with the Better Health North Queensland (NQ) Alliance First 1,000 Days Framework.

The program focuses on maternal and child health, and the social and emotional wellbeing of mothers, fathers, carers, and children to help reduce health inequities and ensure all children in the region have a healthy start to life.

NQPHN Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney said the first 1,000 days were a critical time in a child’s life, with early experiences being a predictor of health, development, education, and social outcomes, both in childhood and later in life.

“The first 1,000 days is defined as the period from conception through to a child’s second birthday. During this period, parents and children may receive access to a range of care and supports, including pregnancy care, birthing, post-birth care, and child development,” Mr Rooney said.

“The program aims to improve health outcomes for First Nations families and communities by providing care coordination and improving access to primary health care, including culturally appropriate mainstream services, while keeping them connected to their community.”

Mr Rooney said NQPHN had worked with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), Hospital and Health Services (HHSs), the Department of Education and Early Childhood, Tropical Public Health, the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), and digital health organisations from across Northern Queensland to collaboratively codesign and develop the new models of care so they were relevant to each community.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation is delivering the program in Yarrabah and Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Primary Health Care Services, in Mareeba, is servicing the Tablelands region.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Chief Executive Suzanne Andrews said the partnership between Gurriny and NQPHN would help deliver lasting whole-of-life benefits for all Yarrabah families.

“The First 1,000 Days program in Yarrabah is about strong babies helping to build a strong and healthy future for generations to come,” she said. “The long-term health outcomes will play a tremendous role in our goal to close the gap in Yarrabah.”

Brittany MacDougall, a registered midwife with Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services, said the NQPHN funding would increase the level of care in the community.

“Current research supports higher antenatal engagement towards healthy birth weights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies, and this program and partnership will allow us to work closely with the women of Yarrabah, and promote health messaging that strong babies bring a strong future for the community,” she said.

Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Primary Health Care Services Health Services Manager Tania Yow-Yeh said the First 1,000 Days program was helping families give children a strong and positive start to their life.

“Our program focuses on raising awareness in all areas including pre-conception, pregnancy, and baby’s early years, while also helping families access assistance to create healthy environments for their children,” Ms Yow-Yeh said.

“We are still in the early phases of the program, and are establishing connections, building on existing relationships, and implementing new ways of being able to support women, children, and families.”

Mr Rooney said NQPHN was committed to working with First Nations organisations to develop models of care that best supported the needs of their communities.

The First 1,000 Days program aligns with the NQ First 1,000 Days Framework and the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023.

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