Outcome 5: Health and wellbeing are supported

What success looks like

“Health professionals understand my needs, and I get the care I need.”

“As a health professional, I understand the needs of patients with disability, and have the tools, knowledge and resources to meet those needs appropriately.”

– Consultation participants

Why this is important

Health is a fundamental human right, and access to health services is imperative to the livelihood of all people including people with disability.

People with disability experience poorer health than people without disability, and often face challenges getting the care they need.25

People with disability in the Northern Territory (NT) face several barriers to quality health outcomes.

Many are a result of communication issues due to language barriers, a failure to:

  • use the appropriate tools with someone who may need communication assistance, or
  • communicate with a patient directly.

Often, poor outcomes arise from a failure to identify disability early.

A significant proportion of disability occurs through a lack of early intervention.

Throughout the community consultation process, the families and carers of people with disability stressed the importance of early intervention in schools and other settings.

Failure to provide an early individualised response creates more complicated needs later.

Many of these challenges are compounded by broader issues in the Territory health system, such as:

  • generalised challenges of delivering effective health services to remote communities
  • the high turnover of health staff and
  • transient nature of patients in regional centres interrupting continuity of care.26

At the interface of health and the NDIS, people with disability often report frustration accessing help due to the way in which someone’s condition may be attributed either to their disability or to a general health condition, forcing them to navigate the health system without their NDIS supports.27

Health services and professionals should:

  • recognise the important role they play in the lives of people with disability and
  • ensure that their practices are inclusive, accessible, and contribute to the best possible health outcomes for their patients with disability.

Our priorities and the action plan

Each outcome has a set of priorities for the life of the strategy.

Under each priority is an action plan.

Read more about the action plan.

Health services understand the health needs and challenges of people with disability and adopt practices which ensure these are addressed.

5.1.1 Align to national standards on disability confidence, inclusion and accessibility

In partnership with consumers, implement a program to support NTG, Aboriginal Controlled, Primary Care and private health services to progressively achieve national standards with regard to disability confidence, inclusivity and accessibility.

This includes culturally safe and responsive health services for Aboriginal Territorians with a disability and health services delivered by NDIS funded allied health and nursing providers.

Lead: Department of Health; Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities

Timing: From 2022

People in the community, with or without disability, recognise disability and can support people with disability and their families or carers.

5.2.1 Identify priority areas for health education and prevention supports

In partnership with consumers, and linked with the above aim:

  • identify priority areas for health education and prevention supports for Territorians with a disability
  • work collaboratively with NTG, Aboriginal controlled and primary care health services to progressively deliver these supports.

This includes culturally safe and responsive health services for Aboriginal Territorians with a disability and health services delivered by NDIS funded allied health and nursing providers.

Lead: Department of Health; Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities

Timing: From 2022

5.2.2 Deliver nurse home visiting programs1

Deliver sustained nurse home visiting programs in most remote and urban regions of the NT for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Nurse home visiting programs include the:

  • Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home visiting program supported by the Northern Territory Government
  • Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program supported by the Australian Government.

Support provision of sustained nurse home visiting in most remote and urban regions of the NT for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The programs are primarily delivered by Aboriginal community controlled health organisation with some provision directly from the NT Government.

Lead: Department of Health

Timing: Ongoing

Health and education professionals have the:

  • training and resources to identify disability at the earliest opportunity in a person’s life
  • tools and resources to support people with disability, carers and families to improve understanding and quality of life.

5.3.1 Early identification of neurodevelopmental conditions

In partnership with consumers, strengthen strategies for screening, identifying, diagnosing neurodevelopmental conditions in children up to age 5.

Lead: Department of Health

Timing: Ongoing

5.3.2 Early support of children with developmental delay

In partnership with consumers, strengthen early supports for children identified with developmental delay and their families.

Lead: Department of Health

Timing: Ongoing

5.3.3 Support children and young people in the child protection or youth justice systems presenting with developmental delays or suspected disabilities

Develop thorough care plans, which are implemented and regularly reviewed, with collaboration from all relevant stakeholders.

Provide diagnostic assessments and therapeutic interventions, as appropriate, utilising funded services and supports.

Lead: Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities

Timing: Ongoing

Develop practice resources and provide ongoing training for child protection practitioners and youth justice staff around early intervention and processes for obtaining services and supports.

Continue to provide access to a panel of suitably qualified medical and allied health service, with an increased focus on early intervention and service provision in regional areas.

Lead: Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities

Timing: From 2022

5.3.4 Deliver the Healthy Under 5 Kids Partnering with Families (HU5K-PF) Program1

The Program provides a universal standardised well child health program for all children in the NT aged 0-5 years.

The program includes anthropometric assessment, developmental screening, anticipatory guidance and health promotion education for parents.

Lead: Department of Health

Timing: Ongoing

5.3.5 Provide hearing screening1

Provide the newborn hearing screening in the birthing hospitals within the NT.

Lead: Department of Health

Timing: Ongoing

5.3.6 Deliver and expand Families as First Teachers (FaFT) program and associated screening1

Continue implementation of an early learning and family support program for young children and their families in NT remote, regional and town settings, in order to support parents and families to improve:

  • their knowledge and understanding of child development and
  • how they can support their children’s growth and development.

Lead: Department of Education

Timing: Ongoing

Develop and implement a targeted campaign to encourage preschools and FaFT early learning and family support programs to more actively reflect on their children’s needs and engage in early intervention.

Lead: Department of Education

Timing: By 2022

Implement the Ages and Stages Questionnaire – Talking about Raising Aboriginal Kids (ASQ-TRAK) developmental screening tool for children aged 2 months to 4 years across FaFT sites in the NT to inform program delivery according to the needs of individual children.

Lead: Department of Education

Timing: Ongoing

5.3.7 Deliver wrap around support1

Provide wrap around support to ensure all children with additional needs have the opportunity to engage, grow and achieve in their first years of education.

Lead: Department of Education

Timing: Ongoing

Health services understand that the health needs of someone with disability are best supported holistically, and these services have the tools and resources they need to manage those needs holistically.

5.4.1 Improve the health-disability service interface

In partnership with consumers, expand the range of current pathways to improve the interface between the health and disability sectors in the NT, including reviewing roles that connect Territorians with a disability with health services in both urban and remote regions.

Lead: Department of Health

Timing: Ongoing

5.4.2 Support more accurate reporting to enable targeted service development for Territorians with disability

Strengthen current patient information system classification of disability conditions to enable needs based planning and service development.

Lead: Department of Health; Department of Attorney-General and Justice

Timing: From 2022

5.4.3 Training and development across the region

Continue to support of all employees and health services in the region to have access to the necessary training and development, to support and improve the health of individuals and their respective community.

Lead: Victoria Daly Regional Council

Timing: Ongoing

“A major issue in the education system is the lack of access to diagnostic services for children who may be autistic, ADHD, or otherwise neuro-divergent.”

“A disability invokes mental health issues through segregation, ostracism and discrimination.”

“There is a lack of allied health available to support my disability.”

– Consultation participants

References and notes

1 The NT Government’s actions under the Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021 – 2031, Targeted Action Plans

25 Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, Interim Report, page 26 (October 2020)

26 Northern Territory Office of the Public Guardian, Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability: Health Care for People with Cognitive Disability Issues Paper (March 2020)

27 Northern Territory Office of the Public Guardian, Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability: Health Care for People with Cognitive Disability Issues Paper (March 2020)


Last updated: 29 September 2022

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