Priority Populations programs given multi-million dollar boost

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network has secured close to $3 million in funding to strengthen paediatric health outcomes across Priority Populations in NSW.

The funding will support two key projects across the Network; the RuralKidsGPS project and the PEACH project, with an aim to improve equity and access to healthcare services for children and their families living in rural NSW as well as in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

Led by Chief Investigators Emma Dickins and Professor Raghu Lingam, the RuralKidsGPS project was awarded $1.8 million through the Translational Grants Scheme (TRGS) and Paediatric Priority Fund grant to assist in implementing and evaluating paediatric care coordination services to four rural local health districts; Northern NSW LHD, Murrumbidgee LHD, Southern NSW LHD and Western NSW LHD.

The innovative project will trial an integrated model of care where care coordinators will work closely with local care teams and families to create shared care plans, support technology-enabled healthcare, and connect families with local services to meet the child’s needs.

Stephanie Hodgson, Project Manager for RuralKidsGPS, said the grants will help enhance paediatric healthcare for rural patients living with a medically complex conditions.

“It means we can further expand and evaluate a model that can help children and families feel supported, and as though their care team (across multiple specialties and multiple sites) operates as that – a team,” she said.

Paediatric care co-ordination has already shown promising results in metropolitan Sydney. Over a two year period, it demonstrated a 40 per cent reduction in emergency department presentations and a 42 per cent decrease in day-only admissions – saving more than 50,000km of travel for families.

So far, the project has been rolled out in Murrimbidgee and will be established across the other local health districts in the coming months.

“Our hope is that RuralKidsGPS will eventually be able to be delivered to the almost 100,000 children across rural NSW living with a chronic medical condition,” Stephanie said.

Improving access for priority patients will also be a focus of the PEACH (Providing Enhanced Access to Health Services) project, which has received more than $1 million in funding from NSW Health.

Led by SCHN Chief Investigator Professor Karen Zwi and Diversity Health Manager Daniela Feuerlicht, in partnership with South Eastern Sydney and Western Sydney LHDs, the project will enable earlier, supported and integrated access to healthcare services for vulnerable children and families who are referred to SCHN.

The overarching aim of the PEACH initiative is to reduce health inequities experienced by children and young people from priority populations. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, refugees and patients from non-English speaking backgrounds, patients affected by drugs and alcohol as well as those living with mental illness and disabilities.

The project has recently employed Priority Population Care Navigators who will establish technological solutions and sustainable systems (such as automated referrals to Aboriginal Health Workers or disability support workers, clinician alerts and prioritised service access) to aid priority population groups with complex needs.

“Our program will deliver enhanced and prioritised access to health services to meet the health care needs of children and young people from priority populations. We anticipate this will result in long term reduction in health inequities and optimise their health outcomes,” Professor Zwi said.

The success of the RuralKidsGPS and PEACH will be evaluated in the next few years with the intention to roll out both programs more widely across the state.