Featured News New study to help bush kids

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Fri, 3 Feb 2023

New study to help bush kids

Outback child
Image: Tim Davies

James Cook University researchers who are running a project to treat sick outback kids near where they live, have been given a federal grant to trial the scheme in the bush.

JCU’s Associate Professor Donna Franklin is Chief Investigator for a new study called ‘PARIS on Country’, which is the latest project in a series of Paediatric Acute Respiratory Intervention Studies (PARIS) that have taken place over the past decade.

She said acute respiratory distress is the most common reason for emergency department presentations in children in Australia.

“It’s the most common reason for hospital admissions of children under one year of age and the most common reason for paediatric aeromedical transfers in remote Australia,” said Dr Franklin.

She said based on the evidence from two world-first clinical trials — PARIS 1 and 2 — researchers now understand when it is best to place an infant or child on nasal high-flow (NHF) oxygen therapy and when to use standard oxygen therapy.

Working with Sally West, a clinical nurse, researcher and PhD student at JCU, Dr Franklin said she has now received $1.7 million from the Federal Medical Research Future Fund to trial the ‘PARIS on Country’ study, which she says is the next big step.

Ms West said NHF is rarely available in remote areas and up to 50 per cent of all patients are transferred to city hospitals for a higher level of care than they may actually need.

“By introducing a ‘respiratory care bundle/pathway’ outlining the care of children with breathing difficulties in rural settings, we aim to remove the need for many children to require aeromedical retrieval to main centres or spend extended times in emergency departments,” said Ms West.

She said the project aims to halve aeromedical evacuations of children with breathing difficulties.

“We want to ease the pressure on stressed rural and remote EDs and we estimate savings at more than $6 million a year. Perhaps most importantly, it keeps children near their families and homes,” said Ms West.

She said keeping Indigenous community members in their country/community environment has positive psychological and social-emotional impacts, as well as significant financial savings.

“This is a service parents in remote communities are desperate to see introduced. Having a child with breathing difficulties is stressful, but needing to transfer them unnecessarily away from country can be devastating, particularly for Indigenous families,” said Ms West.

Eighteen hospitals in Queensland’s North, Northwest and Far North will take part in the new study which will run for five years.


Dr Donna Franklin
E: donna.franklin@health.qld.gov.au

Ms Sally West
E: sally.west@jcu.edu.au