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Preparing for 'ready for school' checks.

Public health nurses (PHNs) are in the ideal position to deliver the new "ready for school" check, being developed by the Ministry of Health.

Chair of the PHNs' section national committee, Shennan Brown, has been part of a focus group helping develop the programme, along with representatives from a range of other primary health providers.

"Historically, PHNs undertook assessments on all five-year-olds and many continue to provide this service," Brown explained. "These assessments have been shown to be effective, as they provide a window of opportunity to engage with families. Picking up on any health problems at this age (eg hearing difficulties and incomplete immunisations) can only enhance learning opportunities for children.

"PHNs offer an holistic family-centred approach in their assessments of children--in the home, at early childhood centres and in primary schools. We already have sound collaborative relationships with a range of health professionals, including vision and hearing technicians, ear nurse specialists, GPs, practice nurses and dental therapists. We work in the community and can identify children who may be falling through the net."

In a presentation to primary health nurses earlier this year, Ministry chief adviser child and youth health, Pat Tuohy, said the ready for school check meant adequately preparing the child and family for school, and the school for the child. The check would be the eighth and final core well child check.

A pilot of the new programme is due to begin later next month, with 1000 children from two or three district health board areas. National implementation is expected to be phased in from next February. The Ministry expects the service to be delivered in homes, preschools, kohanga reo, schools, well child clinics and general practices by practice nurses, PHNs, school nurses and well child providers. The Ministry anticipates that a set of specific standards and competencies will need to be developed to ensure consistency and quality of service provision. A range of providers may share the service delivery to reach the whole population.

An options paper on implementing the "ready for school" check is expected to be released shortly. For updates see wellchild.
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Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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