Aboriginal children and family connections to primary health care whilst homeless and in high housing mobility: observations from a Nurse Practitioner-led service

Nina Sivertsen, Yvonne Parry, Eileen Willis, Sally Kendall, Rhonda Marriott, Alicia Bell

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AIM: This article documents the impact of a Nurse Practitioner-led primary health service for disadvantaged children living in housing instability or homelessness. It identifies that First Nations children miss out on essential primary care, particularly immunisation, but have less severe health conditions than non-First Nations children living in housing insecurity. BACKGROUND: Health services for homeless populations focus on the 11% of rough sleepers, little is done for the 22% of children in Australia living in housing instability; many of whom are from First Nations families. Little is known of the health status of these children or their connections to appropriate primary health care. METHODS: This research implemented an innovative model of extended health care delivery, embedding a Nurse Practitioner in a homeless service to work with families providing health assessments and referrals, using clinically validated assessment tools. This article reports on proof of concept findings on the service that measured immunisation rates, developmental, medical, dental and mental health needs of children, particularly First Nations children, using a three-point severity level scale with Level 3 being the most severe and in need of immediate referral to a specialist medical service. FINDINGS: Forty-three children were referred by the service to the Nurse Practitioner over a 6-month period, with nine identifying as First Nations children. Differences in severity levels between First Nations/non-First Nations children were Level 1, First Nations/non-First Nations 0/15%; Level 2, 10/17%; and Level 3, 45/29%. Forty-five percent of First Nations children had no health problems, as compared to 29% on non-First Nations children. Immunisation rates were low for both cohorts. No First Nations child was immunised and only 9% of the non-First Nations children. While numbers for both cohorts are too low for valid statistical analysis, the lower levels of severity for First Nations children suggest stronger extended family support and the positive impact of cultural norms of reciprocity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPrimary Health Care Research and Development
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2022


  • aboriginal children
  • child focused care
  • children’s health access
  • family homelessness
  • Nurse Practitioner practice
  • vulnerable children


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