Improving health in WA

Early childhood development – Southern Inland Health Initiative

Two young children playing with mother

“If we have a dollar to invest, where do we place it for best return? All evidence points to early intervention as having the highest success rate and therefore the best return for society.”
James Heckman, Care for Kids

The Southern Inland Health Initiative is the largest investment into rural health care in Western Australia’s history, with more than half a billion dollars being invested through the Royalties for Regions program.

Primary health care is a significant investment under the Initiative, which aims to strengthen:

  • individuals
  • organisations
  • communities.

Early childhood development is a key part in making sure all children have the best start in life.

The primary health care approach adopted by the initiative aims to promote the development of children from birth by linking health and family services with other providers at the earliest possible stages of child development.

Barriers to this can include:

  • lack of access to early childhood information through adequate and equitable family and health care services
  • parental unemployment
  • language barriers
  • transport issues.

What will the initiative’s role be in early childhood development?

Primary health care under the Southern Inland Health Initiative is helping early childhood services become a part of a collaborative and integrated network.

There are 4 primary care integration coordinators, based in:

  • Northam
  • Merredin
  • Katanning
  • Narrogin.

The coordinators work in partnership with other health services and families across these towns to strengthen:

  • individuals through identifying children and families who may be at increased risk of poorer health and development outcomes as early as possible
  • organisations through policy, workforce development, partnerships and governance
  • communities through improved service collaboration and integration and through linking community networks.

The Southern Inland Health Initiative is helping to put the spotlight on early childhood development reform, supporting initiatives for parents and children that are:

  • delivered close to home
  • available from pre-birth – or as early as possible
  • focussing on parents and caregivers as the first and primary nurturers and educators of their children.

The above initiatives are:

  • emphasising key early childhood development learning such as baby and parent quality attachment and parenting skills, creative play and social engagement for families, and assessment to aid early identification of developmental problems
  • making the importance of early childhood development common knowledge to be shared between parents, carers, communities and service providers
  • supporting parents to become active participants in the planning and design of health and other family services
  • helping families connect with their community through social and physical networks as close as possible to where they live and work
  • building partnerships across the early childhood sector between private providers, government, community services and parents to plan health and family services that support early identification, early intervention and flexible, simplified access to services
  • increasing opportunities for parents to identify and recognise early developmental problems through co-located services such as childcare, schools, GP clinics, first aid courses and playgroups
  • increasing opportunities for parents and caregivers to receive positively framed and inspirational early childhood development messages through a strengths-based, rather than problem-based, approach.

Telehealth technology is providing further support through:

  • individuals linking with health service providers to access early childhood development information and education
  • organisations networking and sharing strategies for better early childhood development outcomes
  • networking and launching partnership projects in communities.

More information

Southern Inland Health Initiative

Email: southerninland@health.wa.gov.au

Produced by

WA Country Health Service