A Griffith University research project to help screen children and adolescents at risk of neurodevelopmental disorders has been successful in gaining a $5 million grant from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Led by Professor Dianne Shanley from Griffith University’s School of Applied Psychology, the project builds upon the recent $1.5 million NHMRC grant awarded last year for the Tracking Cube, which her team co-designed.

The Tracking Cube originated when community members from remote Queensland voiced their concern around long waitlists for children.

“They wanted to ensure their children were supported close to home and placed on local treatment pathways as quickly as possible,” Professor Shanley said.

“The Tracking Cube is a culturally responsive, tiered neurodevelopmental screening approach that can be integrated with child well-health checks.”

“Ultimately, it’s about screening at-risk children and young people in primary healthcare so we can start them on early pathways of support and catch those who might otherwise fall through service gaps.”

A pilot implementation was conducted at an Indigenous remote primary health service which found neurodevelopmental concerns were four times more likely to be identified using the Tracking Cube compared to usual care.

The pilot was also able to show children were six times more likely to be supported close to home by local Aboriginal Health Workers.

The MRFF grant will help Professor Shanley and her team commercialise the Tracking Cube products using a lean business model.

“This will help us to sustainably implement our products for years to come, improving access to healthcare for children while giving back to the community who originally co-designed with our team,” the Professor said.

The grant is being seen as ‘a huge coup’ for the university as only nine teams from this grant round were awarded funding nationwide.

Professor Shanley said the project will follow a pragmatic stepped wedge cluster randomised trial to measure the effectiveness of the Tracking Cube at eight diverse Indigenous primary health care partner sites.

“The Tracking Cube aims to increase identification of neurodevelopmental concerns,” she said.

“Once identified, the digital system can recommend what to do next for local health providers, helping them make evidence-based decisions about diagnosis and support.”

“This will enable earlier support for children with neurodevelopmental concerns in primary healthcare.”

Chief Investigators on the Tracking Cube project are Dr Erinn Hawkins, Associate Professor Marjad Page, Professor Doug Shelton, Dr Natasha Reid, Professor Robert Ware, Professor Joshua Byrnes, Professor Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Professor Naila Khan, Associate Professor Aunty Joan Marshall, Professor Ngiare Brown, Kurt Towers, Sandip Kumar, and Professor Sheri Madigan.

Partner Organisations are: Best Practice Software, Cicada Innovation, Cohort Innovation, First People Disability Network Australia, Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, Health Workforce Queensland, ISA Healthcare Solutions, Kambu Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health, Mallee District Aboriginal Services, Ngaoara Child and Adolescent Wellbeing, Northern Adelaide Local Health Network, Palm Island Community Company, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), and Telstra Health.

Learn more about the Tracking Cube here

This article was originally published in The Sector, written by Freya Lucas. To view the original article, click here.