Integrated care for children, young people and families

Setting the leadership agenda

Health services globally are under pressure from rising demand and associated fiscal pressures. It has been clear for some time that simply investing in our current hospital focused model of care is not the answer. To realise true value for investment and improve health outcomes we need to work differently.
If we view the health, education and social care system through an integrated care lens we learn the benefits to the patient and wider system of giving greater priority to the prevention of ill health by working across existing silos and organisational boundaries to tackle the wider determinants of health and wellbeing. This includes taking a population health perspective and addressing risk factors such as obesity while at the same time increasing our efforts to reduce health inequalities. The Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economics, Professor James Heckman, highlights the dramatic long-term health effects of integrated early interventions for children that incorporate early education, nutrition and health which over time sees significantly lower risk for serious cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, such as stroke and diabetes in adulthood. Investing in the earliest years leads to some of the highest rates of return to families, societies and countries (1).

It is recognised there is a lack of a standardised local, national and/or global definition of integrated care as it applies to children, young people and their families. While there is increasing recognition of the importance of integrated care for this population there remains a paucity of suitable policies, strategies and frameworks to support the development and translation to practice of sustainable integrated care solutions.

To help address this gap a special interest group for children, young people and families (CYF SIG) was launched by the author and my colleague Dr John Eastwood (Sydney, Local Health District) at the 18th International Conference on Integrated Care, Utrecht, Netherlands in May 2018.

The core aims of the CYF SIG is to bring together interested parties globally to promote an integrated approach to care as it applies to children, young people and their families. There is an overt agenda to collaborate and partner to evolve thinking and advocacy for an integrated approach to care, provide collegial leadership in this area locally, nationally and globally and to create enabling environments to deliver integrated care by aligning policy, information and services.

Through collaborative working we seek to strengthen evidence that integrated care for children, young people and their families improves outcomes. Ultimately we want to build the capacity necessary to translate such evidence into practice.

With your involvement we may well succeed.

For information about the Children, Young People and their Families Special interest Group (CYF SIG) and to learn how you can join the conversation please contact;
Lisa Altman, Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, Sydney, New South Wales;  
Hannah Johnson, Children’s Health Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland;

(1) Heckman, J. (2017). Four Big Benefits of Investing in Early Childhood Development

Associate Professor, Frank Tracey is the Executive Director Clinical Services for Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CHQ HHS)