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Aboriginal babies miss out on home visits

Vulnerable families are slipping through the cracks in nursing support for newborns, study suggests.

Aboriginal babies are missing out on nurses' visits under a program designed to support disadvantaged NSW families, a new study has found.

Under the state government's Families NSW strategy, all newborn infants in the state are entitled to one home visit by a nurse within two weeks of birth.

The program aims to engage families who might otherwise not access mainstream services such as early childhood clinics, with nurses providing parenting support and education and determining the family's ongoing support needs.

However, a study by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association has found Aboriginal families are missing out.

A study of more than 500 newborns at Campbelltown Hospital revealed 58 per cent of non-indigenous babies were visited within the designated two-week period, compared with just 42.9 per cent of Aboriginal babies.

"Our findings suggest that disadvantaged families are not being identified and targeted," said lead researcher Associate Professor Elizabeth Comino from the University of NSW.

"There is an understanding within Australian society that all children should have equal opportunity for the best possible growth and development in the formative years of their lives."

Comino said offering an initial home visit to families with newborn infants could improve vulnerable infants' access to services.

"Our particular concern is ... Aboriginal infants who might also require culturally appropriate post-natal services to enhance engagement with health services," she said.

Comino suggested that early identification during antenatal care, sharing of information about mothers, proactive follow-up of 'at-risk' families and culturally appropriate services might help address these issues.



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