National Guidelines for inclusion of wellbeing in early childhood checks

Mental health concerns often begin during childhood and an estimated 50% of adult mental illness begins before 14 years of age.

The National Mental Health Commission is leading a project to develop National Guidelines to support states and territories to include mental health and wellbeing in early childhood health checks (National Guidelines project). 

This project is due to be completed in 2024. 

The National Guidelines project complements the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and aligns with the Strategy’s principles:

Child-centred
Giving priority to the interests and needs of children.

Strengths-based
All services have a perspective that builds on child and family strengths, to inform a holistic and family-centred approach.

Prevention-focused
Both universal and targeted prevention of mental illness by promoting mental wellbeing.

Equity and access
Ensuring that all children and families have access to health, education and social services.

Universal system
Programs and services are developmentally appropriate, culturally responsive and treat children in the context of families and communities.

Evidence-informed best practice and continuous quality evaluation
The use of data and indicators to create a continuous feedback loop between research and clinical practice.

Early intervention
Early intervention for those in need, while addressing the impacts of trauma and social determinants.

Needs based, not diagnosis driven
Service delivery based on individual needs and reduced focus on requiring a diagnosis to access services.

Evidence indicates the first 2,000 days of life are a critical period, and interventions during this time can result in significant improvements to children’s early life experiences, health and development.

All states and territories include wellbeing milestones in their early childhood health checks. However, there is no nationally consistent approach. The introduction of National Guidelines would support consistency, assist in picking up emerging challenges children are experiencing, and help families access timely support and advice.

two yong infantProject timeline

There are three phases to the project: 

  1. Environmental scan: August to June 2023
  2. National Consultation: July to September 2023
  3. Consultation on the draft National Guidelines: January to March 2024
  4. Public submissions on the draft National Guidelines: May 2024 
  5. Anticipated delivery of the National Guidelines to the Department of Health and Aged Care: Mid 2024 

Advisory Group

A project Advisory Group has been established to provide expertise, insights and advice on the development of National Guidelines. Members of the Advisory Group are:

NameOrganisation
Professor Ngiare Brown, co-chair  General Practitioner and Chair of the National Mental Health Commission Advisory Board
Anne Hollonds, co-chair  National Children’s Commissioner
Kate ArmstrongNational Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
RepresentativeSecretariat of the National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)
Professor Valsamma EapenUNSW, Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry Southwest Sydney (AUCS), BestSTART  
Bronwyn FieldDepartment of Health and Aged Care
Emily HumphreysParent/carer representative
Associate Professor Nitin KapurPaediatrician, Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)
Brad MorganEmerging Minds
Professor Frank OberklaidPaediatrician, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Sharon O’MaraChildren and Young People with Disability Australia
Dr Marshall WatsonPsychiatrist, Telethon Kids Institute 
Dr Nicole WhiteGeneral Practitioner, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)
Louise WightmanMaternal Child and Family Health Nurses Australia

Previous consultation

The Commission engaged The Australian Centre for Social Innovation to undertake a national consultation process, including an online survey and a series of workshops with key stakeholders to inform the development of the National Guidelines. The survey ran from July to August and is now closed. National workshops were held throughout August and September 2023. 

The Commission, also consulted with state and territory government agencies on the draft National Guidelines in March-April 2024.  

Watch our brief video to understand more:

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On behalf of the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, 

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the National Mental Health Commission has been leading the development of a set of   

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National Guidelines to include mental health and wellbeing in early childhood health checks.

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Research shows that around half of all mental health conditions start before the age of 14,  

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so identifying where support may be needed early is vital.

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The Guidelines we are developing are aimed at health practitioners, services and State and  

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Territory governments. They intend to improve the experience of the early childhood health check  

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for children and their families, taking into account the unique context of their situation.

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The Guidelines seek to provide the framework for a nationally consistent way to help identify when  

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children may be struggling or are overwhelmed, and link their family with the right support.

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To develop the Guidelines, we’ve been working with a wide range of people  

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and organisations over 18 months, using three phases of consultation.

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Talking to parents, carers and kin,  

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health and primary care practitioners, and organisations that support families.

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We’ve engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and health workers. 

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Refugee organisations and peak bodies.

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We’ve engaged with early childhood organisations and workers. 

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Commonwealth, State and Territory government departments have also been involved.

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So far, we’ve engaged with nearly 600 people around Australia.

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We’ve been guided by an Advisory Group.

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The Advisory board has ensured we have people with  

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deep expertise and experience leading the development of the guidelines.

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We’re now inviting you to review what has been proposed and provide feedback.

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Your feedback will help us to refine the final version of the National Guidelines.

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We invite you to go to our website, read about the draft guidelines and submit your views.

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Thank you for your time and consideration.

Get involved

The draft National Guidelines have now been released for public consultation via open submissions until 2 June 2024. You can read the draft and make a brief submission at our Have Your Say page.

Enquiries relating to the National Guidelines project can be directed to engagement@mentalhealthcommission.gov.au

You can stay up to date on this work and other work by the Commission by subscribing to our newsletter here.
 

 

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