$500,000 grant to help new western Sydney parents with healthcare tips

David and Joanna Mak with their daughter Arabella, who took part in the Parenting+ pilot program.

New parents will receive more education and guidance through the healthcare system thanks to a new program produced by Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) and the University of Sydney.

The Parenting+ (Parenting Plus) program will be rolled out across Western Sydney and Sydney LHDs after receiving $495,760 funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council through the Partnership Projects scheme.

Dr Danielle Muscat

It is designed to assist people like Carlingford mum Joanna Mak and her 18-month-old daughter Arabella, who took part in the original pilot program funded in 2019 by WSLHD Research and Education Network and WentWest.

“It was great to meet weekly with other new parents and an early childhood expert close to home. They gave us tips on first aid, medicine, nutrition, and just generally what to expect with your child’s development and changes in your own life,” Joanna said.

“It was definitely helpful. It got me out of the house and made me a lot comfortable being out in public with my baby, doing things like feeding and changing her in public. It was a good stepping stone and really helpful socially.”

Parenting+ was established by Westmead research fellow Dr Danielle Muscat with input from WSLHD staff including Child and Family Health program lead Lyn Tunchon, nurse Anne Harris, and Multicultural Health team leader Dipti Zachariah.

Joanna said the program made her feel more comfortable going out and about as a new parent.

Dr Muscat is a co-founder of the WSLHD Health Literacy Hub – a joint initiative with the University of Sydney, designed to make healthy choices easier for everyone by connecting people to easy-to-understand information and ideas to improve health.

“Parenting Plus fits really well with existing community parenting classes, which cover essential topics such as childhood development, changing relationships and mental health,” Dr Muscat said.

“We’ve embedded health literacy skills into those classes, to empower new parents to access healthcare services, advocate for your child’s healthcare, and think critically about health information you hear or find online.

The Mak family said the program would be great for other new parents

“The feedback from parents was fantastic and the opportunity to co-design the program with end-users was invaluable.

“We are so grateful to now be able to roll this out across two huge health districts; this is going to make a big difference for families in our communities, and ultimately help new parents and their bubs to be healthier and more confident.”

Parenting+ is among ten new medical research projects funded through the latest National Health and Medical Research Council’s Partnership Project schemes, announced today by the Australian Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt.

For more childbirth and parenting information at Westmead Hospital, visit here.