Annual Report 2021

16 December 2021

We are excited to present the Health and Social Care Unit (HSCU) 2021 Annual Report! The team and our outputs have grown from strength to strength since our establishment 12 months ago – what a year! We look forward to many more valued and productive collaborations in 2022 and beyond!

View the HSCU Annual Report 2021 here (PDF)

Dr Claire Blewitt honoured for her research in public health program delivery in early childhood

8 December 2021

Dr Claire Blewitt, a postdoctoral research fellow in the HSCU, has been awarded the prestigious 2021 Sax Institute Research Action Award for her research in developing the SEED (Social-Emotional Engagement and Development) Program.

The SEED Program is a digital Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) intervention that supports early childhood educators to address social and emotional health needs of children with both low and high-risk profiles. SEED is delivered through a responsive remote delivery platform, providing tailored content that is relevant and meaningful across the complexity of each early childhood education and care room.

It includes 10 interactive modules:
1) Introduction
2) Social and emotional skills
3) Preschool environment
4) SEL strategies
5) Ongoing learning
6) Making play therapeutic
7) Working with caregivers
8) Supporting children with additional needs
9) Supporting young children with anxiety
10) Supporting young children with Autism

SEED has been commercialised and trademarked as a service offered by bestchance Child Family Care, in partnership with the Health and Social Care Unit, Monash University, and is being delivered in early learning settings through the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training (DET) School Readiness Funding Initiative. DET awarded SEED the highest ‘strength of evidence’ ratings of all programs included in the scheme. SEED is reaching a diverse, disperse and time-poor workforce through the DET scale-up across Victoria.

Watch the Award video here.

What is the benefit of taking a public health approach in the education and early childhood sectors?

Dr Claire Blewitt:

“I’m incredibly grateful for this award and feel very privileged to receive it in recognition of Professor Sonia Wutzke. I’d like to sincerely thank the Sax Institute for supporting researchers in this way. I’d also like to thank bestchance, my supervisor and mentor Professor Helen Skouteris, and my wonderful colleagues in the Health and Social Care Unit at Monash University, who have all contributed so much to this work.

I think drawing on a public health approach in education – and particularly early education – can play an important role in preventing and tackling some of the pervasive and complex challenges that impact children and their families.

We know that high quality early education and care can strengthen the social and emotional competencies that promote wellbeing and prevent chronic health problems. It also offers a pathway to reach children at a critical stage in their development.

And in several ways, the sector already draws on public health principles. For example, educators deliver pedagogy and programs that aim to benefit all children, but also tune into the experiences and needs of each child, so are in a good position to support early intervention when needed.

However, it’s a complex environment and there are barriers to implementing system-wide, multi-tiered approaches. There is a terrific opportunity to work in partnership with the early childhood field through more cross-disciplinary collaboration and research, that potentially can help to break down some of the silos that can exist between disciplines such as health and education.

But I think it’s also important to recognise what other sectors can learn from early education. They are really leading the way in areas such as child-centred practice, inclusivity, and holistic support of children and families within complex systems. So, I think the learning and benefits could potentially go both ways.

Thank you so much again for this award.”

Hackathon 2021: Inclusive access to public health services for migrant and refugee community members

16 November 2021

The Health and Social Care Unit (HSCU) has partnered with the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre (MMIC) to host an online Hackathon event during the week of 15–19 November 2021. Under the leadership of Professor Helen Skouteris, the Hackathon will focus on inclusive access to public health services for migrant and refugee community members in Victoria. The MMIC Director Professor Rebecca Wickes has supported MMIC’s Research and Centre Manager, Rebecca Powell and Dr Charishma Ratnam, MMIC Postdoctoral Fellow and NGN Director, to organise the event.

Each year, MMIC partners with other Centres and Faculties across Monash University to host a Hackathon event to provide the opportunity for postgraduate candidates and early career researchers (ECRs) to work with industry partners to address real world problems related to inclusion for migrant communities in Victoria.

Hackathon participants work together towards the development of innovative solutions from an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and cross- sector approach. This year we are pleased to welcome a number of postgraduate and ECR participants who bring academic and practitioner expertise from a range of disciplines across the Arts, Public Health and Health Sciences.

For this Hackathon, we have engaged with public health industry stakeholders as mentors to our groups. We are pleased to have mentors and critical friends from VicHealth, the Queen Elizabeth Centre, Dream Harmony, HSCU, Jewish Care and The Water Well Project. Some of these partners have provided key problems facing their organisations and/or the sector, and the participants will work together to create a solution that is innovative, adaptable and scalable. The industry partners also have an opportunity to strengthen their engagement with Monash University and connect them to the next generation of thought leaders.

To encourage a co-design approach to the innovative solutions, the Hackathon groups include not only postgraduate students, ECRs and industry mentors, but a number of students from the Monash Humanitarian Scholarship Achieving cohort. These undergraduate students are from a range of disciplines and are participating in our Hackathon as Expert Community Consultants to help inform and contribute to the development of the innovations.

There are four Hackathon groups participating in 2021, and this year each group will work on a different industry challenge, including:

  • Healthy eating and active living for socio-economically disadvantaged community members
  • Equitable and timely access to accurate COVID-19 information for hardly reached CALD communities in rural Victoria
  • Safe sleeping practices for new parents, which is a common (and positive) experience in many CALD communities but not recommended by current Australian guidelines
  • Challenges facing refugees as they attempt to access health care in Victoria

The groups will develop their innovative solutions to these industry identified issues over one week, with support and guidance from an expert Hackathon facilitator, Isaac Jefferies, and their mentors. All participants will come together on the final day of the Hackathon to deliver a pitch that outlines their innovative solution. We have a panel of critical friends lined up to assess the pitches, including Sandro Demaio , CEO, VicHealth, Charmaine Hunzwi, President, Incubate Foundation, Sue White, CEO Queen Elizabeth Centre and Cindy Joffe, General Manager, Innovation and Quality.

Stay tuned!

First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing AoD Outreach
Service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

4 October 2021

Professor Helen Skouteris, Jacynta Krakouer, Melissa Savaglio, and Mitchell Bowden from HSCU have partnered with First Peoples' Health and Wellbeing to develop and deliver an assertive AoD outreach service using a culturally safe multidisciplinary model of care. The specific project goals are:

  1. To support First Peoples' Health and Wellbeing to deliver their assertive, trauma-informed, culturally safe, and multidisciplinary model of AoD outreach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
  2. To evaluate the implementation of the outreach service, by identifying key barriers and facilitators to delivery.
  3. To evaluate the feasibility and impact of the AoD outreach service in improving AoD-related outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and their families/friends.

We are very proud and honoured to be working with CEO Karinda Taylor and all at First Peoples' Health and Wellbeing to reduce problematic AoD use, including a reduction in injecting drug use and increased safer drug use practice; increased client engagement with AoD and other health and wellbeing services; improved wellbeing for families, friends and carers of people with AoD use; and an increase in clients experiencing support as culturally safe.

2021 Victorian Protecting Children Awards

7 September 2021

Our HEALing Matters program has received a Highly Commended award (runner up) of the prestigious Robin Clark Making a Difference Award at the 2021 Protecting Vulnerable Children Awards Ceremony hosted on Monday 6 September 2021.

This prestigious Victorian Government award recognises an individual, team, or group within the child and family service sector, who has made an exceptional contribution to directly improve the lives of children, young people and families in Victoria (in partnership or collaboration with government and non-government agencies), who strive to achieve excellent practice among those who work with children and families, and their work shows insight, practicality and wisdom.

HEALing Matters is a Victorian Government–funded online training package and knowledge exchange platform for residential out-of-home care workers. It uses a trauma-informed philosophy to guide carers’ understanding of the link between healthy lifestyle behaviours and improved physical, cognitive, social and emotional outcomes. providing a one-stop shop for health and wellbeing information. More than 1,200 staff at 18 community service organisations have registered to complete the training. The HEALing Matters team’s commitment to embedding the program across the out-of-home care sector has made a difference to the health and wellbeing of young people in care at a scale never before seen in Victoria, and is now being scaled up across Victoria, South Australia and in parts of NSW. HEALing Matters recognises that food and physical activity can be powerful ways of demonstrating trust, predictability, a sense of belonging and value and the provision of support and care that is attuned to the needs of the young people living in out of home care. There is no program like it in Australia and internationally.

HEALing Matters has been pioneered by Professor Helen Skouteris and Dr Rachael Green. The success of HEALing Matters is due to the unconditional and tireless management and leadership of Helen and Rachael, along with the support team - Kostas Hatzikiriakidis, Maddie Smales, Anna Crawford, Ruby Tate, Lauren Bruce, Alex Hu, Jacob Thomas, and Sarah Carmody. Their dedication to HEALing Matters is inspirational.