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Health professional perceptions regarding screening tools for developmental surveillance for children in a multicultural part of Sydney, Australia

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posted on 2022-03-29, 22:36 authored by Pankaj Garg, My Trinh Ha, John Eastwood, Susan Harvey, Sue Woolfenden, Elisabeth Murphy, Cheryl DissanayakeCheryl Dissanayake, Katrina Williams, Bin Jalaludin, Anne McKenzie, Stewart Einfeld, Natalie Silove, Kate Short, Valsamma Eapen
Background: Encouraging early child development and the early identification of developmental difficulties is a priority. The Ministry of Health in the Australian State of New South Wales (NSW), has recommended a program of developmental surveillance using validated screening questionnaires, namely, the Parents' Evaluation of Development Status (PEDS) and Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQs), however, the use of these tools has remained sub-optimal. A longitudinal prospective birth cohort "Watch Me grow" study was carried out in the South Western Sydney (SW) region of NSW to ascertain the uptake as well as the strategies and the resources required to maximise engagement in the surveillance program. This paper reports on a qualitative component of the study examining the attitudes, enablers and barriers to the current developmental surveillance practices, with reference to screening tools, amongst health professionals. Methods: Qualitative data from 37 primary health care providers in a region of relative disadvantage in Sydney was analysed. Results: The major themes that emerged from the data were the "difficulties/problems" and "positives/benefits" of surveillance in general, and "specificity" of the tools which were employed. Barriers of time, tool awareness, knowledge and access of referral pathways, and services were important for the physician providers, while the choice of screening tools and access to these tools in other languages were raised as important issues by Child and Family Health Nurses (CFHN). The use of these tools by health professionals was also influenced by what the professionals perceived as the parents' understanding of their child's development. While the PEDS and ASQs was utilised by CFHNs, both General Practitioners (GPs) and paediatricians commented that they lacked awareness of developmental screening tools and highlighted further training needs. Conclusions: The results highlight the practical challenges to, and limited knowledge and uptake of, the use of recommended screening tools as part of developmental surveillance. There is a need for further research regarding the most effective integrated models of care which will allow for a better collaboration between parents and service providers and improve information sharing between different professionals such as CFHNs GPs, Practices nurses and Paediatricians involved in screening and surveillance programs.


Publication Date



BMC Family Practice





Article Number



12p. (p. 1-12)


Springer Nature



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© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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