Revitalising child development outreach services for children in rural North Queensland

Melissa Smith1, Carly Hislop2,

1Child Development Service Townsville, Townsville Hospital and Health Service, 138 Thuringowa Drive, Kirwan. Qld, 4817,
2Child Development Service Townsville, Townsville Hospital and Health Service, 138 Thuringowa Drive, Kirwan. Qld, 4817,

Child Development Service (CDS) Townsville has long provided developmental services to children and families in Townsville and across the Hospital and Health Service (HHS) more broadly.

While the CDS model of care delivered to children and families in Townsville is contemporary and aligns with evidence informed best practice, the outreach model of care is inefficient, ineffective and dislocated from local service providers.

Population measures of children’s development at school entry indicate that geographic isolation and socio-economic disadvantage are associated with higher rates of developmental vulnerability. CDS Townsville outreach locations demonstrate levels of developmental vulnerability significantly higher than state and national averages, yet referral numbers to the outreach service are low.

CDS Townsville has developed a new, sustainable, evidence based model of care to improve HHS-wide access to high quality, integrated, and contemporary specialist child development services, and to improve outcomes for children and families living in outer regional, rural and remote locations in North Queensland. The model is transdisciplinary in nature, family-centred, partners with local community service providers and paediatric medical services, and utilises telehealth to support care provision. It is anticipated that the principles of the new model of care will have applicability to outreach services in other Hospital and Health Services.

The new outreach model of care, informed by the literature review, consumer and community stakeholder feedback and the success of an interim model of care, will be implemented across the Townsville HHS in 2016, and evaluated after 6 months.


Melissa Smith has worked as a physiotherapist with paediatric populations across multiple health settings and has been based at Child Development Service (CDS) Townsville since 2013. Melissa’s substantive role at CDS also involves the provision of outreach services to families living within the Townsville Hospital and Health Service rural and remote communities.

Carly Hislop is a physiotherapist who has worked in both clinical and management roles at Child Development Service (CDS) Townsville since 2007.  CDS Townsville is a community based early intervention service that provides family centred transdisciplinary care to children with chronic and complex developmental delays.

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