• By Kevin Mount
  • Posted on Monday 29th October, 2007

Australian voices calling for action

Evidence does not always make comfortable reading for politicians, witness the findings of Richard Eckersley, Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, who is among the presenters at this week's National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Gold Coast Queensland and who writes here on Wednesday.Australian children are healthier than previous generations on many counts, but Eckersley will report on a study of the progress of more than 10,000 students from primary school to leaving school age that indicates that around 40% are displaying lower levels of social and emotional well being. In recent years, Australia has become more widely recognized for its contribution to prevention science, epidemiology and models of early intervention, particularly as a result of the achievements of former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley, whose work, aspirations and frustrations we profile tomorrow.A renowned epidemiologist, she has highlighted the need for good evidence about all Australia's children and succeeded in applying that evidence to advances in children's health and development. One of her contributions has been to begin testing the Early Development Index, or EDI – a checklist method pioneered in Canada which is attracting similar interest among governments in Europe. An overview of the Australian EDI and some its findings will also be published tomorrow.Fiona Stanley’s work also adds to the variable picture to be described by Richard Eckersley of significant differences in health and development across Australian communities. She highlights a mismatch with patterns of service provision and also points to a failure to give equal rights to all Australian children. The last three centuries in Australia's 42,000 years of populated history have been dominated by its colonizers. Over 20 million people now live on a landmass equivalent to four-fifths of the US; about a quarter of them are children. High on the agenda at the Queensland conference will be the convergence of prevention and child protection agendas. Dartington UK’s Michael Little speaks on this topic on Wednesday and will be sending Prevention Action a series of conference blogs. The Queensland Early Intervention and Prevention of Anxiety Project, or QEIPAP, which combines school based and parenting interventions has been mentioned before in these pages. On Thursday we report its progress and initial findings by Mark Dadds and his team from the University of New South Wales in Sydney.Readers will already be familiar with Triple P, a parenting and family support program originating from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. On Friday, Alina Morawska and Matt Sanders consider recent evidence and challenges to the program as it is established more widely in Europe and the US.Prevention Action will barely scratch the surface of prevention science and innovation in Australia. We encourage readers to contribute more to our understanding.

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