The Caring for Country Kids conference in Alice Springs has highlighted five themes for strengthening Australia's approach to health and wellbeing for rural and remote children.
Delegates at the Conference agreed with Megan Mitchell, National Children's Commissioner, that Australia needs a national plan for child health and a strategic approach to implementation in rural and remote areas.
Many of the papers delivered at the Conference highlighted the health and economic benefits of focusing on the early years of a child's life. If the period from preconception to school is healthy, including good nutrition, good relationship and good learning, the trajectory is set for good health and wellbeing for a lifetime.
The Conference focused on many successful programs being run for the care of children in rural and remote areas. One of the key factors in so many of these success stories is that services and related activities are coordinated at the local level.
This raises the important issue of how genuine collaboration with children can be achieved. The Conference has many approaches to this critical issue and was itself a model for this through having children participate actively in the event.
Another element of successful programs on the ground for child health is that they focus on the prevention of illness and early intervention. Much is lost for an infant if they miss out on the sort of health care which identifies early developmental issues or other conditions.
Caring for Country Kids had a strong focus on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, with a number of inspiring keynote and concurrent session presentations on the matter highlighting that programs are most successful and effective if designed and led by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Conference delegates agreed that everything must be done, by whatever means possible, to reduce the impact of institutional and interpersonal racism which is directly harmful to health.
Caring for Country Kids has set a renewed agenda for those organisations concerned to improve and protect the health and wellbeing of the children who live in Australia's rural and remote communities.
Note: a full list of Conference recommendations can be found on the Conference website: www.countrykids.org.au.
All Keynote presentations at the Conference can also be viewed from that site.
Jenny Freeman - 0408 633 309