Smith, R., & Gallego, G. (2020). Parents' ability to access community health occupational therapy services in a disadvantaged area: A proof of concept study. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, Early View Online First.
Introduction: In New South Wales children from disadvantaged backgrounds have poorer health outcomes and reduced access to health services than their more advantaged counterparts. This study aimed to identify barriers and enablers to accessing child and family occupational therapy services in a disadvantaged area.
Methods: This was a mixed methods study that included: 1) a retrospective analysis of de-identified routinely collected Community Health service utilisation data from 2016-2017, and a 2) face to face interview guided survey with parents and carers.
Results: The retrospective data analysis showed outreach at the targeted suburbs’ Early Childhood Health Centres (ECHC) improved attendance for families living in these suburbs. Overall parents’ reports indicated that they were able to access the Community Health Centre (CHC) however, certain barriers to accessing the service remain, including difficulty parking and not having a license or car to attend appointments. Low health literacy was also a barrier to accessing health appointments as parents were unaware of the range of services provided at CHC, did not know how to make appointments, or that these services did not generate out-of-pocket expenses to clients. Conversely, enablers that would make it easier for parents to attend appointments include the provision of home visits, after hours and weekend appointments, and outreach such as delivering services in community spaces such as the ECHCs, library, or mosque.
Conclusion: This research suggests that outreach occupational therapy services are valued by families in this disadvantaged area and contribute towards improving access to allied health services for disadvantaged families with young children. However, additional work is required to increase awareness among disadvantaged families on the role of allied health in improving child development outcomes and to reduce some of the transport and logistical issues that can reduce access to health care.
access, Australia, culture, equity, paediatric