Professor Frank Oberklaid OAM
DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR COMMUNITY CHILD HEALTH
Professor Frank Oberklaid, OAM, MD, FRACP, DCH, is the Foundation Director of the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children’s Hospital – Melbourne, Co-Group Leader of Child Health Policy, Equity and Translation at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and an Honorary Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne.
Professor Oberklaid is an internationally recognised researcher, author, lecturer and consultant, and has written two books and over 200 scientific publications on various aspects of paediatrics. For many years he was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health; and remains on the editorial boards of a number of international journals. Professor Oberklaid has been the recipient of numerous research grants and his work has been acknowledged in the form of a number of prestigious awards, including; the Nils Rosen von Rosenstein Medal in 2013 awarded by the Swedish Pediatric Association and Swedish Society of Medicine, a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1998, a Centenary Medal from the Commonwealth of Australia in 2003, the John Sands Medal from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 2003, the Chairman’s Medal from The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne in 2003, and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Howard Williams Medal in 2009. He is a consultant for UNICEF and WHO, and has had numerous invited international lectureships and visiting professorships.
Professor Oberklaid is Chair of the Victorian Children’s Council, which provides expert advice to the Premier and Ministers on child health policies and services for children, and has chaired or been a member of many national health committees, expert working groups and advisory boards.
Professor Oberklaid is especially interested in prevention and early intervention, and the use of research findings to inform public policy and service delivery. His clinical and research training is in child development and behaviour, and his work as a specialist paediatrician is with children who have developmental and behavioural problems.
Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), Doctor of Medicine (MD), Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP), Diploma in Children’s Health (DCH).
Achieving sustained, integrated policy focus on children’s health and development: New approaches needed.
Professor Frank Oberklaid , Director, Centre for Community Child Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute/Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
The research regarding the critical importance of the early years of a child’s life is robust and uncontested. The early environments experienced by young children can have a significant impact on health, development and wellbeing right throughout the life course. Many conditions in adult life – mental health problems, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, poor literacy, chronic unemployment and welfare dependency, family violence, and criminality – have their origins in pathways that often begin in early childhood. Patterns that are established in the early years are increasingly difficult to change later in life.
This research has major implications in many areas of policy and practice for children and families – health and wellbeing, education and early learning, child protection, family support, social services – as well as for adult health and wellbeing. The moral and ethical case for increased investment in the early years is reinforced by the economic considerations. If the science of early childhood is so persuasive, how can we deny young children the best chance of optimal life-long outcomes? If many problems in adult life begin in childhood, why do we persist with a predominant focus on treatment while largely neglecting more cost effective prevention approaches?
Despite the commendable efforts of many stakeholders over the past decade, we have had only modest success in our advocacy, and what we have achieved remains vulnerable. There are many reasons we can offer – the diversity of interested stakeholder groups, the complexity of interventions, the gaps in evidence, and our difficulty in addressing the communication gap between the science and public perception.
This presentation will argue that we need a national conversation about a new collective approach to policy and service delivery; the stakes are too high for us to continue with our present fragmented and uncoordinated efforts.