NSW Celebrates 100 Years of Early Childhood Health Centres

NSW Celebrates 100 Years of Early Childhood Health Centres
NSW is marking the 100th anniversary of the start of public health services to promote infant, child and family health in NSW. To celebrate, Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) Child and Family Health Nurses held a Forum at Ballina Hospital on Wednesday 29th October 2014.

Over the past 100 years, almost 7.4 million babies have been born in NSW, most of who have been seen and cared for by NSW Health’s Child and Family Health Nurses, or baby health sisters as they were known in the past.

When a Child and Family Health Nurse meet with a family, they are not just thinking about health as an absence of disease but as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being

These nurses work from Early Childhood Health Centres, to provide a free service for all new parents in NSW and offer health, development and wellbeing checks for children from birth to age five.

They offer universal health home visiting or clinic services for the almost 100,000 children born in NSW each year, as well as support, education and information on all aspects of parenting.

Ann Schefe, NNSW LHD Acting Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery said, “Child and Family Health Nurses are recognised as having specialist clinical skills and have a key role in providing community child and family health services as well as other services, including day stay services, residential and outreach programs.

“When a Child and Family Health Nurse meet with a family, they are not just thinking about health as an absence of disease but as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. They are striving to work with each family not only to avoid distress but also, to be as healthy as they can possibly be for now and for life,” Ms Schefe said.

In 1914, the key aspects of the work of a Child and Family Health Nurse were antenatal care, supporting breastfeeding, teaching ‘the hygiene of infancy’ and monitoring growth, development and infant nutrition.

The focus was primarily on reducing infant mortality. A century ago, more than 100 of every 1000 children born alive died before they turned one. Today, less than 5 children per 1000 die before their first birthday.

“Child and Family Health Nurses have been recognised as being vital in providing early intervention to improve children’s health and development. They provide enormous support for new parents and have been achieving spectacular outcomes for 100 years in nurturing for the next generation – that’s a fantastic reason to celebrate,” Ms Schefe ended.

About NSW Child and Family Health Services

On 20 July 1914, the NSW Baby Clinics, Pre-Maternity and Home Nursing Board were established by a Ministerial Minute. The Centre in Alexandria opened first on 24 August 1914, followed by Newtown, and Bourke Street in Darlinghurst. In 1914, the Government also funded 20 NSW Districts under the Bush Nursing Scheme. By the early 1980s, there were about 500 Early Childhood Health Centres in NSW, staffed by qualified Child and Family Health Nurses.


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