•$58.5million over four years for early childhood health care
•Approximately 100 additional child health nurses to bolster services in WA Health
•Target to increase number of children having all six health checks prior to the start of school
More children will undergo free child health checks and school-based health services will be boosted in Western Australia as part of the Liberal-National Government’s $58.5million over four years investment in early childhood health care.
Health Minister Kim Hames said the funding was the centrepiece of the State’s health budget, which would result in a major expansion of community child health services across WA.
“This is a critical area to address. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of births increased by 28 per cent, from 24,493 to 31,424,” Dr Hames said.
The funding will result in:
•A higher percentage of children who receive the universal health checks
•An increase in number of children who are fully immunised
•All children in the care of the State receiving a health assessment and those new to care receiving one within 30 days
•Growth in the delivery of intensive services to children and families living in disadvantaged communities
•An increasing number of primary school children who are assessed in response to a parent/teacher identified concern regarding their health and development
•A significant improvement in the delivery of school health services, in partnership with the Department of Education
•A higher proportion of women who are at risk of anxiety and postnatal depression being identified early and receiving appropriate support
“This new funding will break the back of the shortage created by successive years of Government neglect in this important area. It is also not the last investment we will make in child health services,” he said.
Dr Hames said the additional nurses would help ensure more newborn children had an initial assessment within 10 days of birth, with an additional five assessment contacts with child health services prior to school entry.
“Only 30 per cent of 18 month-olds and 10 per cent of three year-olds received their recommended health checks in 2010 in WA, with even fewer Aboriginal children receiving these vital services. Our goal is to boost the number of child health checks undertaken to help prevent chronic disease,” he said.
Community Services Minister Robyn McSweeney said this initiative complemented the very high standard of care already offered in Western Australia’s child care centres and demonstrated the importance the Government places on the early years of a child’s life.
“If we want to build strong, vibrant communities then WA families need quality child care. That is why we are investing $4million over four years to upgrade family and child care centres owned by the State Government,” Mrs McSweeney said.
The State Government also supports children up to eight years of age through its early years program as well as offering support to parents through Parenting WA.
•The latest $58.5m State Govt investment in community child health adds to $49.7m invested in 2010-11 for child health specialists and the current $1.2b New Children’s Hospital which is under construction, all aimed at bolstering WA child health services
•The funding aims to improve WA’s vaccination and child health check rates
•$4m over four years will be invested in to upgrade 70 family and child care centres owned by the State Government