AWCH WA is a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for the right of every child to health education, including preparation for medical treatment, hospitalisation, recovery, drug education, keeping healthy, and taking care of yourself and others.
AWCHWA continually advocates for the rights of children and their parents in the provision of health care. Indeed, many of the rights now taken for granted in the hospitalisation of young children have come about largely due to campaigning on the part of AWCH WA. Some of these changes include:
- flexibility of hospital visiting hours;
- the provision for parents to stay by their children’s bedsides;
- the provision of child-friendly play environments and;
- culturally appropriate practices and menus in hospital.
The Hospital Familiarisation Program (HFP), which is approved by the Education Department and supported by Princess Margaret Hospital for Children (PMH), commenced in 1983 with hospital equipment donated by PMH. Initially the HFP was conducted by an AWCH volunteer team of qualified nurses and as the demand for the HFP grew, the need to formalise the program was recognised. Funding was sought from the Health Department and a program coordinator was employed.
In 1997, Personnel Employed by Alcoa Charity Help (PEACH) sponsored the production of Joel goes to hospital which is a picture/poster book designed to assist presenters and teachers to familiarise young children with hospitalisation. With the generous support in 1998 of the Lotteries Commission of WA, AWCH WA was able to produce an educational video titled Let’s Play Hospitals. Furthermore, equipment was upgraded to include new items such as tympanic thermometers, dolls and wheelchairs.
In 1998, the AWCH WA Committee, carried out an evaluation of the HFP and demonstrated an increase in knowledge of medical equipment of preschool children following an HFP presentation. In 1999, the HFP was taken on a road trip from Perth to Kununurra where it was enthusiastically received at local schools, as well as remote community schools. A pamphlet entitled Medical Play at Home was produced in order to assist parents to prepare their young children for hospitalisation and to reduce parental anxiety which has been shown to have a deleterious effect on the child.
In 2002 AWCH was awarded an ECU-Industry collaborative research grant to carry out a research study of the effectiveness of the HFP. The results revealed that there was a significant increase in the children’s understanding of medical equipment and procedures, as well as an increase in positive feelings towards medical intervention as a result of the Hospital Familiarisation Program.
With another generous grant from the Lotteries Commission of WA, AWCH was able to develop a comprehensive website. We are proudly supported by Lotterywest.