Some background

So it has been a little while since we have thrown up a blog post and thought it was a good time to update you all on one of our passion projects. Midway through this year we were engaged by Acacia Ridge Community Support Inc. to help design a service model that is community-based (rather than clinically based) and that focuses on the prenatal period as a key time to influence the trajectory of one's lifelong health and prosperity. The work involves a few components, which we have outlined below along with a few of the key questions we have set out to explore: 

Population level data analysis: What is the data telling us? How does Acacia Ridge compare to other localities around the state in terms of disadvantage? Can we say with some confidence that birth outcomes help predict the rest of a person's life-course?
Literature review: What causes poor birth outcomes? How can poor birth outcomes be prevented? Can poor birth outcomes be mitigated through low-cost community interventions?
Service mapping: Who can provide evidence based support services to soon-to-be mothers in the local community? How can these services be accessed in a timely manner?

And, most importantly:

Community conversations: What do mothers in the local community feel are the biggest issues and barriers to having happy and healthy pregnancies? What are the key services and supports that local women need to feel supported?

Phase 1

First cab off the rank is the population health profile

Check it out, the front cover of our population health profile - credit to graphic design extraordinaire and part-time public health professional, Mitchell Stalker.

What have we found? The Acacia Ridge community consistently experienced poorer rates across almost all of the indicators analysed in the population health profile when compared to Queensland, Australia and other localities. This trend was seen across indicators including:

  • early childhood development
  • families
  • disadvantage (e.g. SEIFA)
  • employment
  • housing
  • mental health and suicide
  • risky behaviour
  • educational achievement
  • chronic disease.

For each indicator, we have made it as easy as possible for the reader to visualise how Rocklea - Acacia Ridge compares to the broader population through a simple bar graph.  As you can see below, the graph at the top of page shows that Acacia Ridge has substantially higher rates of developmental vulnerability when compared to the wider population.  You can also see on the two gauge's below the bar graph that Acacia Ridge experiences developmental vulnerability at rates that are the highest in Queensland and the highest in Metro South Brisbane. These two gauges effectively give you an indication of how Acacia Ridge performs against all population health areas in Queensland but also locally in Brisbane South.

An example of one of the indicators we have analysed in the population profile. Each of the 21 indicators is analysed in an identical fashion.

To summarise our findings, Acacia Ridge experiences significant disadvantage across a few key indicators. Lets rattle off a few of the big ticket items. Out of all population health areas, Acacia Ridge is ranked (in terms of high vulnerability):

  1. 3rd for childhood vulnerability over 1 domain
  2. 1st for childhood vulnerability over 2 domains
  3. 2nd for unemployment 
  4. 3rd for premature deaths from suicide or self-inflicted injuries
  5. 4th for estimated population with diabetes

Why does this matter?

Here at Beacon Strategies we are hell bent on not hitting people over the head with data and statistics for no reason.  We have spent considerable time on exploring the association between each of the indicators we have examined and adverse birth outcomes (low birth weight, premature birth). As you can see in the two boxes at the bottom of the data excerpt presented above, we have clearly articulated that birth outcomes are linked to early childhood development. Through each of the 21 indicators we have explored, there is at least some association between 1) the time spent in the womb and lifelong health and prosperity, or 2) a particular condition or situation causing adverse birth outcomes.

Long story short, this has confirmed our thinking that the origins of ill-health begin in the womb and significant investment and focus should be given to this period of the life-course as an urgent priority.

What is our vision in taking on this piece of work? We're genuinely interested in exploring the association between birth outcomes and lifelong social and economic participation of at-risk communities. By the conclusion of this project (November-December, 2016) we will have documented why a targeted effort is needed in the prenatal period in Acacia Ridge and how this can become a reality.

Next steps - talking to the local community and local service providers to further develop and target our approach. We then look forward to being able to brief a range of key stakeholders on the findings and our proposed service model.

Lastly, we would like to acknowledge the support from the The Department of Education and Training (Queensland) for resourcing this project and also ARCSI for being a progressive organisation that is looking to serve their local community in innovative ways that truely make a difference.

If you are a sucker for punishment, check out the full report here

Until next time!

Mitch & Elliot

About Beacon Strategies - we are a mission-based health and social services consultancy committed to supporting organisations to effectively plan, design, implement and evaluate their projects and services.

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