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Impact of First Thousand Days being felt in Townsville

1 March 2018

Australia’s first trial site of the First Thousand Days Australia (F1000DA) initiative in Townsville is already accruing benefits as health outcomes of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies improve.

The first 1,000 days of life - the time spanning between conception and a child’s second birthday - is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.

Midwife and manager of the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service’s (TAIHS) Mums and Bubs program, Heather Lee, said there had been improvements in the birthweight of babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, local 0-5 years immunization rates are now meeting national benchmarks and mothers are presenting earlier for prenatal care and more regularly attending postnatal checks.

TAIHs is the agency leading the implementation of F1000DA in Townsville.

Heather Lee said the F1000DA approach was also seeing a much greater emphasis on supporting families with infants and this in turn was leading to identifying gaps in the way this support has been delivered.

“The first 1,000 days has been a period of life too often neglected by health and other organisations in Australia,” said Heather Lee. “Since TAIHS started implementing the F1000DA philosophy we have had to fix some gaps and ensure greater accessibility to hearing, speech therapists and behavioural specialists for example.”

“We’ve also better integrated our Mums and Bubs program with our Family Wellbeing program, which supports families to provide the best opportunities in life for their children, thereby better coordinating our services and providing families with one-stop-shop.”

Heather Lee said the research evidence developed by F1000DA and delivered to staff at TAIHS and other agencies through a series of short courses, has been key to a better understanding of what are the obstacles to families raising healthy, engaged kids and what some of the solutions might look like.

“We come from this community, we live in it; we understand the problems and we are best placed to develop solutions. The F1000DA research evidence backs this up,” said Ms Lee.

First 1000 Days Australia’s Townsville Regional Implementation Manager, Anne Taylor, said F1000DA was not a “program” but an innovative way of giving power and responsibilities back to young parents and their extended families. “These families tell us what they need to achieve the best outcomes for their kids and we ensure greater coordination of services and opportunities so they can meet their own aspirations.

“The continued concentration on the perceived “deficits’ in our families, and the view that these deficits need to be remedied, act to undermine the confidence and agency of these families, further disempowering them and leading, ultimately to ongoing health gaps and soaring number of child removals,” said Anne Taylor. “Every family and every individual have inherent strengths and it is on these strengths that we must concentrate to build success.

“The failure of the Close the Gap strategy to meet its targets, and the record numbers of our children being removed proves that the current way of doing business isn’t working,” said Ms Taylor. “F1000DA gives greater strength and confidence to Aboriginal and Islander families, communities and workers in the sector; it builds on the inherent strengths of our people; it recognizes the importance of our cultures and it starts the essential process of moving away from a passive “service delivery” model and into a more positive, entrepreneurial model.

“Unlike many programs and services designed and rolled out by Governments, F1000DA will be evaluated and its successes measured throughout its life to make sure it has a positive impact on building the strength of our families to meet the aspirations they hold for their children.

“People in our community continually tell me that they are sick of Government funds going into programs and services that we know don’t work and often cause greater damage to our children, our families and our communities,” said Anne Taylor.

The Townsville Regional Implementation workshop, attended by staff from TAIHS and other stakeholders will be held in the Burdekin Room on Friday morning at 9 am at the Mercure Townsville to further develop plans for the future of F1000DA in Townsville.

For more information:

Al Harris MagpieMedia 0409658177

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