Flinders Medical Centre Early Links Evaluation Report: Final Report March 2007
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There is international evidence to support early intervention strategies with families and children, that improve longer term outcomes for health. There is also evidence that supports the provision of appropriate services to women in the antenatal period as one of a range of factors for successful interventions that target families and infants. The context for antenatal interventions involves a brief period in a family’s life and such interventions need to be a component of community based interventions that link women and their babies into the community in a continuity of care framework. The Early Links Program which has been implemented at Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) is a program intending to address issues regarding the identifi cation and response to women who require extra supports during the antenatal period and of infants assessed to be at risk during the postnatal period. The Flinders Early Links Program commenced in September 2004, arising from the recognition of a need for a consistent identifi cation and response for high risk women and infants. FMC’s Early Links Program was modifi ed and adapted from the Strengthening Links Program that is in operation at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital. An Antenatal Assessment Tool was developed by FMC’s Social Work Service and the Women’s and Children’s Division, with the goal of providing a consistent screen for identifying women at risk. The universal administration of this Antenatal Assessment Tool to all women, at the earliest opportunity in their pregnancies, commenced in October 2005. The Southern Adelaide Health Service (SAHS) has commissioned this evaluation to determine the impact of the Early Links Program from the perspective of the staff and key stakeholders involved, including women who have participated in the Program. The Southern Adelaide Health Service Interim Strategic Plan for 2005-2010 includes an aim of “improving the level of support for young children and their families to assist these children having a good start in life” (p. 11). A key objective of the Strategic Plan is to “Reduce the risk and improve the health outcomes for infants and children vulnerable to harm” (p. 12). A key performance indicator included “A coordinated and systematic demonstration model is developed to improve health outcomes for vulnerable infants and children” (p. 13). The Flinders Early Links Program fi ts this objective as one model to “improve health outcomes for vulnerable infants and children” (Social Work and Counselling Services, 2006). The Southern Adelaide Health Service have proposed an evaluation to determine the impact of the Early Links Program, and in particular the impact of the Antenatal Assessment Questionnaire.