Caring for kids in rural Australia

Find out how the Royal Far West and Bupa have joined forces to help connect children in Australia to the care they need, regardless of where they live.

Many childhood developmental issues can be corrected if they receive early intervention and the required attention from a qualified health professional.

Left untreated issues such as speech and behavioral difficulties, Autism, and mental health issues can impact not only childhood, but greatly hinder potential as our young people reach adulthood.

Research has shown that 20 per cent of children in the whole of New South Wales have developmental needs, but of those children 21 per cent have trouble accessing appropriate health care.
Royal Far West is a 92-year-old charity organisation whose sole aim is to support the health, education and wellbeing needs of children outside metropolitan areas in Australia. They have teamed up with Bupa to trial a new, innovative, community telecare initiative in order to increase access to paediatric and allied health services. 
The possibilities of this service go far beyond the two trial communities of Nambucca and Narrabri Shires because if successful, it will provide a telecare model that can be rolled out to other regional areas. 
Royal Far West business director, Richard Colbran, is excited about what the trial will bring to these regions.
“There are about 30,000 children under 12 years old in rural Australia who are at a very high risk of developmental delay and subsequent issues that come with that. One of the critical issues in rural health are the rural health workforce shortages,” he says. 
“We hear stories of children who, if they can get any access at all to say speech pathology, it might be up to a three year waiting list or they have to drive four hours each way for treatment.”
Royal Far West has a team of specialists across many fields in their Manly headquarters who will now be able to provide a level of care to these children, plus their families and siblings across Australia by using this telecare system.
“We work very closely with the host community, such as the local health services, GPs, local allied health providers and local schools to make sure they’re upskilled and trained to participate and contributing in a consistent way for the child’s needs,” says Richard.
“We chose not to set up “shop fronts” as we felt investing in technology was a more effective means of overcoming rural workforce shortages, so we chose to invest in the technology solution,” tells Richard. “If the technology health service proves to be working we can escalate and scale and potentially help many thousands more children across rural Australia.”
In the last two years RFW have serviced, via technology, about 1000 children in speech pathology, mental health and anxiety support, occupational therapy, diabetes management and healthy eating. Provided the initiative continues to work, and funding is there, forecasts are now suggesting that by 2020 Royal Far West will be able to service 15,000 children per annum, who would not normally be able to get access to the help that they need.
The technology solution is available and the power of many is bringing this initiative to fruition. The communities are fundraising for their kids, and Bupa and Royal Far West is committed to matching dollar-for- dollar their fundraising to deliver $50,000 worth of telecare services.
Communities are taking ownership for their children, and Royal Far West and Bupa will join hands to help every child in Australia receive the care they need. 
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