It's been a busy couple of months here at Beacon HQ but we thought it might be good to share a tale from our travels.

The Northern Rivers Community Gateway hub in sunny Lismore.

The Northern Rivers Community Gateway hub in sunny Lismore.

Back at the end of March, Mitch and I spent a few days down in Northern NSW with CEO  Jenni Beetson-Mortimer and the good people at the Northern Rivers Community Gateway (NRCG). NRCG are a well-established community presence based in Lismore, providing a range of vital services to those in need of a helping hand in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. 

As those of you that have been following the blog for some time will know, one of the ideas we have been cooking up is a community-based means of giving support to expectant mums to ensure their kids have the best start in life. By throwing the science of epigenetics in with the social determinants of health model, we are confident that this approach can help us tackle some of the community's big issues in the time spent in the womb. This requires a significant shift in where we seem to invest our finite resources currently, post-birth.

We spent a morning with some mums in Grafton, to hear their experiences of the prenatal journey. The aim of this session was to take what the evidence says would work, add it to the local context, and come up with a model that is designed around the end user.

An action shot from our consumer consultation session in Grafton

An action shot from our consumer consultation session in Grafton

What came through loud and clear were the challenges these women faced in pregnancy of navigating through the complexity of clinical services available. They spoke about how disempowering it was to feel like a patient rather than a person. They raised the importance of having an enduring relationship with someone they trust and understand who can support them and coordinate their access to a service mix tailored for their needs, amidst the chaos and everyday battles of being pregnant. And perhaps most importantly, they confirmed that almost all of the focus during pregnancy was placed on preparing for birth - and missing the vital pre-natal period of development that we know is critical for setting a child up for success, well before birth.

We were also lucky enough to spend a few hours on the second day with the staff from NRCG in Lismore. We presented a session that covered our evidence-based approach, did some basic service mapping of the region and identified some key opportunities for turning the ideas in to action.

Not only was it a great chance to sample the air below the border, get a swim at beautiful Lennox Head and meet some good people, it was a really valuable experience for us to help design our approach around the needs of our end users. In short, we need a community-based, person-centred approach that supports and empowers women to get the support they need, whatever it takes, and give their kids the best and earliest chance to thrive!

For those tuning in for the journey, we are hopefully in the process of securing some start-up funding for an initial roll-out and measure the impact to explore the ability to scale up. Excitingly, we are also in discussions with a few other community organisations throughout South-East Qld to design a similar model to meet their needs. We will keep you updated as we go. 

Finally, a big thanks again to Jenni, the team at NRCG and their clients who participated for spending a couple of days with us - see you again soon.


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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