Preventive healthcare for young children in general practice
Early identification of child health problems could significantly improve the health trajectories of Australian children.
Despite high rates of overweight and developmental delay, apart from immunisations, preventive health services are not routinely offered to young children.
Low uptake of health assessments in Victoria, despite Medicare funding for general practice-delivered child health, overweight rates and development delay, compelled Dr Alexander to discover why.
Dr Alexander’s research found parents are more likely to seek preventive healthcare with first-born children. Increased parenting-confidence, cultural health beliefs, personal health practices, relationships with health providers and cost, all impact the uptake of health assessments. Families also seek information for developmental concerns through social contacts.
Discussions with general practitioners and nurses reveal some practitioners avoid child health assessments, while others are inspired to provide high-quality services.
Further research and testing in three general practices demonstrated teamwork and better practice systems improved delivery of high-quality assessments.
Dr Alexander’s research provides a roadmap to increase preventive healthcare for young children and improve child health trajectories and economic outcomes for society.