Place based approaches – applying international lessons

guest blog post

In this guest blog post, Sue West, Group Leader (Policy, Equity and Translation)  Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Associate Director, Centre for Community Child Health, The Royal Children’s Hospital, updates us on recent international insights into place based approaches as a strategy for improving population outcomes for children and families.

Literature on place based approaches in Australia is somewhat scarce and yet a focus on place based approaches is core to the work at the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH), at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Royal Children’s Hospital.

To further advance the maturity of place based policy thinking in Australia, the CCCH partnered with Opportunity Child and the Victorian Government to co-host a policy roundtable on place based approaches to improving outcomes for children.

Place-based approaches aim to address…complex problems by focusing on the social and physical environment of a community and on better integrated and more accessible service systems, rather than focusing principally on the problems faced by individuals” (The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne)

Although CCCH had hosted roundtables twice in the last five years, this was the first to be developed and co-hosted with other partners – partners who share our goal of improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children and families in our society.

The roundtable was designed to facilitate a discussion between policy leaders from across Australia about the emerging patterns in place based approaches. Discussions were informed by international experts from the United States and United Kingdom and policy experts from Australia.

With funding contributions from the Creswick Foundation CCCH brought three distinguished experts to Australia for this event:

Opportunity Child, through Dr Michelle Lucas and Prof David Hogan, brought a number of things to the table: a grounded understanding of where communities rub up against policy challenges and an understanding of the national policy environment, relationships with key policy leaders in the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, and funding support from ten20 Foundation.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) contributed their understanding of state level policy issues, helped shape the agenda in order to attract policy makers, promoted the event within the Victorian Government and contributed funding.

The forty people who attended the July roundtable  took part in rich conversations around approaches and issues in the UK and US and their meaning for us in Australia. We heard from senior public servants about where we are up to with place based approaches in Australia and we discussed how funders (governments and philanthropy), in partnership with communities, can foster innovation, learning and evidence based practice in place initiatives.

Partnering with others who share our goal of improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children and families in Australia is the only way we are ever going to make a difference.

I hope the roundtable not only contributed to a maturing of place based policy thinking in Australia but also resulted in new relationships between senior public servants in differing jurisdictions, researchers funders and practice leaders.

A report from the roundtable will be available in September.

About the writer

 Sue West is Associate Director, Centre for Community Child Health, The Royal Children’s Hospital and Senior Manager (Policy and Service Development) and Group Leader (Policy, Equity and Translation)  Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

The partnership between Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Royal Children’s Hospital and Opportunity Child (OC) enables CCCH to work closely with Opportunity Child to build and execute the OC Impact strategy. CCCH contributes specialist knowledge and unique understanding around data and measurement in place-based, human-centred contexts.

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