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Hawke’s Bay Commended for Child Health Initiative

Media Release

Hawke’s Bay Commended for Child Health Initiative

If the Before School Check and the Well Child programme were implemented nationwide with the same commitment as in Hawke’s Bay, it would improve the lifetime opportunities for all New Zealand children, according to Dr Pat Tuohy, a leading figure in the Government health sector.

The Before School Check (B4SC) is a Ministry of Health initiative started in Hawke’s Bay in 2009 to identify and address health and behaviour concerns which could compromise a child’s ability to get the most benefit from school.

Specially trained nurses set out to assess the general health, vision, hearing, oral health, development and behaviour of all four-year-olds living in the region.

Piloted in Whanganui and Counties Manukau District Health Boards, the programme was fine-tuned before it was rolled out nationally in 2008.

A research team recently assessed the way in which the B4SC was achieving its aims in Hawke’s Bay to find out what interventions made a difference to the success of the programme and what differences the interventions made.

The team, funded by the Hawke’s Bay Children’s Holding Trust, was led by Dr Kay Morris Matthews, Research Professor with EIT’s Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Trades, and Dr Russell Wills, Community and General Paediatrician with the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s Women’s, Children’s and Youth Service.

Dr Tuohy, Chief Advisor – Child & Youth Health for the Ministry of Health’s Population Health Directorate, said the research team’s paper, published in the November 26 issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal, described the journey taken by the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board when implementing a complex and professionally demanding programme for four-year-old children.

“The high degree of professionalism, enthusiasm and innovation by the child health professionals in Hawke’s Bay demonstrated the value they placed on the programme.”

Writing the introduction to the New Zealand Medical Journal article The B4School check – addressing the new morbidity in child health, Dr Tuohy said publishing early results from the Hawke’s Bay implementation of the B4SC marked a milestone for the Well Child/Tamariki Ora programme.

“The publication illustrates both a willingness and opportunity to evaluate our Well Child/Tamariki Ora programme, as part of a commitment to continuously improve quality.”

The results, Dr Tuohy said, indicated that many more children were now better prepared for learning, due to the early identification and referral for problems identified by the nurses undertaking the checks.

The evaluation done by the research team drew on data that included the cumulative totals of checks completed and referrals made, interviews with representatives of the many different groups engaged in the programme and a survey of parents.

Results showed that over 10 months, 84 nurses assessed 1848 four-year-olds – 84 percent of the total cohort. This included 75 percent of children in the poorest fifth of the population.

Over half of all children checked in Hawke’s Bay were referred to specialist services, most commonly dental, hearing and vision. Close to a third of the children required assessment for at least two health issues and the poorer the family the more likely this was to be the case.

“The results indicate that many more children are now better prepared for learning, due to the early identification and referral for problems identified by the nurses undertaking the checks,” Dr Tuohy said.

“There is almost universal parent support for the programme, which provides information and reassurance that in most cases their child is doing well, and allows the parent to talk with a trained health professional about any concerns they might have about their child’s readiness for school.”


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