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Improving the health of country kids 

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For some Australians accessing health care readily available to others can be difficult. One organisation that has for decades worked to overcome this challenge for children in regional and remote areas of New South Wales (NSW) is Royal Far West.

With a grant from the Bupa Health Foundation, more than 150 children with speech and language issues, including 43 per cent who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, recently participated in Royal Far West’s ‘Come N’ See’ pilot. Over 12 weeks, the children were offered fortnightly speech therapy sessions via video conferencing as an alternative to travelling many hundreds of kilometres to access support.

"Country children with speech and language difficulties often struggle to access speech pathology services due to shortages of clinicians, higher costs and the distance to services," explains Royal Far West’s Richard Colbran.

"Thanks to the Bupa Health Foundation we were able to run and evaluate a pilot study of ‘Come N’ See’, which demonstrated that progress was made on 75 per cent of the children’s speech and language goals. Importantly, many of these children wouldn’t have received this support otherwise,” says Mr Colbran.

Following on from the success of the pilot, Royal Far West is now exploring the potential for this programme and other telehealth services to be rolled out to schools in isolated communities throughout NSW and beyond.

View interview with Richard Colbran