University of Canberra wins MRFF Grant to fund four-year child vulnerability project
Researchers from the University of Canberra have been successful in securing a Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant for a four-year project that will address developmental vulnerability and health inequity among young children in the Australian Capital Territory.
To be led by Professor Rachel Davey, the project will guide public health policy efforts in promoting health and wellbeing for early childhood (birth to five years of age) and inform local intervention efforts focused on the community.
One of the core components of the work will be to test whether a local integrated system that includes identification, referral and targeted service delivery, will improve child development outcomes in intervention suburbs where there are the highest levels of childhood developmental vulnerability.
Professor Davey outlined the significance of the first 1,000 days of life in determining a child’s lifetime health and wellbeing, noting that those from disadvantaged environments, particularly those exposed to a range of early childhood adversities, are at increased risk for poor health, including developmental delay, mental health problems, school failure and increased adult mortality and morbidity.
Collaboration will be essential to the success of the work, she added, outlining the involvement of academics from a variety of disciplines, as well as policy makers, social and community services, and health services. to support positive behaviour change in order to maximise children’s development.
“For family and children’s services to be effective – especially for at-risk children – systems and the programs associated with them must be connected in a collaborative and integrated approach,” she added.
Several studies which demonstrate the effectiveness of high-quality, focused preschool programs in reducing the effects of social disadvantage, developing social and emotional health and preparing children for formal schooling will be considered in the project.
If successful, the project could not only improve overall physical health and wellbeing but enhance social competence and improve attendance at early childhood education.
The benefits, Professor Davey said, would extend beyond the current cohort of young children.
“We are seeking to change the life trajectory of vulnerable children during early childhood, in order to improve health for the next generation.”
To learn more about Professor Davey’s work please see here.