New project to better connect children with mental health services receives federal support

Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) Professor Sharon Goldfeld has secured federal funding to help create a digital hub to better connect children and families with mental health support.

Paediatrician and Director of the Centre for Community Child Health, Professor Goldfeld has received a National Health and Medical Research Partnerships (NHMRC) Partnership Projects grant, announced by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt

Professor Goldfeld's project aims to develop an online Child and Family eHub to improve access and engagement with social and mental health services. This will better address problems early on, especially for disadvantaged families.

"In Australia 14 per cent of children have a mental health disorder. Mental health services are available, however, only between 9-27 per cent of families can access them, and these rates are even lower in disadvantaged families," she said.

"Most Australian children with mental health concerns don't get the right care at the right time. With COVID-19 this will only get worse.

"We urgently need effective prevention and early intervention strategies to mitigate the huge rise in child and family mental health issues."

Professor Goldfeld said her team would co-develop and test the eHub in three communities experiencing significant vulnerability. This would overlay existing systems with an easily accessible digital entry point that meets local needs to seek information and connect with the health and social care systems in a way that can offer tiered navigation support.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with Sydney Local Health District, University of New South Wales, Royal Children's Hospital, University of Sydney, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Raising Children Network, Curve Tomorrow, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network, IPC Health, Infoxchange and the University of Melbourne.

Additional funding for the project was contributed by the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, Karitane Mothercraft Society and Sameview.

The study was supported by a 2021 Partnership Projects PRC1 project grant (2010493) from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).