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Maternal Child Health Centenary

Tue 25 July, 2017

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Banyule Council is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Maternal and Child Health in Victoria by launching a commemorative video highlighting the benefits of the free service for all families.

Acting Mayor Cr Mark Di Pasquale said the seven minute video portrayed the significant role that maternal and child health nurses have played since June 1917 when the first centre opened in Richmond to counter high rates of infant mortality, largely from preventable causes associated with poverty and poor nutrition.

He said that diaries by nurses working in Banyule in the 1920s, which were in Council’s archives, contributed remarkable insights about the hardships of life in Banyule for infants and their families. “In 1929, babies were still suffering from a range of life threatening illnesses, including whooping cough and chicken pox. In Sister Annetta Forrest’s meticulously kept diary, she wrote that she regretted reporting the death of a five-month old baby at Watsonia from whooping cough followed by bronchial pneumonia,” Cr Pasquale said.

“While mortality rates are no longer so high, Banyule Council’s 11 Maternal and Child Health centres and 25 nurses continue with the same philosophy as those that came before them; supporting healthy children and families who can lead productive lives and engage in their local community.”

Last financial year, 1,640 babies were born in Banyule and 11,400 children, from birth to school age, were enrolled in Banyule’s Maternal and Child Health Service.

Maternal and Child Health Nurse Kim Beers said that while services were more directive in the past, today’s model was much more flexible, with nurses working alongside parents in a partnership. “Our aim continues to be health promotion, detecting physical or developmental concerns as early as possible, and referring families to specialty services as needed. We also facilitate new parent and even grandparent groups to build social connections and reduce isolation,” she said.

Vicki Dimo, who features in the video, has a seven-week-old son, Marshall, and a two-year-old Harvey. She said the tips she received from Banyule’s Maternal and Child Health service helped her manage Marshall’s excema and saved her a trip to the Royal Children’s Hospital. “He’s never had an issue since and his skin is just gorgeous.”

Kim said that last year, Banyule’s Maternal and Child Health nurses conducted 14,785 consultations with children and their families, focusing on 10  key age stages from birth to 3½ years of age. “We also reach out to families who need extra support, especially families experiencing other life challenges including issues with mental health, family violence, drugs and alcohol, homelessness and social isolation, which can impact on parenting,” Kim said.