Most parents, at some time or another, would have encountered various questions from friends and whānau (family): “Can your baby walk yet? Is your child talking yet?” and so on. Concerned parents often wonder these things about their children’s development.  

Even though every child is unique and develops at their own pace, observing and keeping a record of their developmental milestones is crucial to their health and development.  

What are developmental milestones?

Developmental milestones are functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children exhibit within a certain age range. They offer important clues about a child’s developmental health. Reaching milestones at the typical ages can indicate a healthy development, as expected. 

Not reaching milestones or reaching them much later than children at the same age, can be a developmental warning sign and can indicate that the child might need extra support and services to reach their full potential. 

What is considered healthy development in a child?

Healthy development means that children of all abilities, including those with special healthcare needs can grow up where their social, emotional and educational needs are met. Having a safe and loving home, with proper nutrition, sleep and exercise can also make a big difference to the development of children. 

Children aged zero to six years old are entitled to many universal health checks, which monitor healthy development. 

In New Zealand, we track development achievements using 30 milestones.  

The 30 milestones fall into four basic categories, such as physical, cognitive, social and emotional and communication milestones. The milestones are measured and tracked by many different organisations that cannot easily share information.  

Ensuring every child receives universal healthcare services 

Unfortunately, some children miss out on these routine health checks, particularly those administered in the first 1000 days.  

Failure to track milestones, can sometimes lead to episodes of ill health, leading to increased utilisation of emergency services and hospital admissions, and, for some, lifelong harm and disability.  For instance, children who start their schooling years with an undetected hearing disability can quickly fall behind their peers in their education. 

What can be done at a national level to ensure that all children receive care, and no child is lost in the system? 

One national information platform for children  

Orion Health’s National Child Health Information Platform (NCHIP) is a national child health platform that tracks the development of children aged between 0-6 years old. The platform tracks and progresses through health milestones and collates siloed health information into a single integrated dataset. The platform has around 150,000 children currently enrolled in the Northern Region with 4.5 million milestones being monitored. 

Comprehensive view of a child 

Child healthcare coordinators now have access to a comprehensive view of a child’s care providers and any gaps in care, allowing coordinators to prioritise follow-up for those most in need. NCHIP is a cloud-first platform, allowing child health coordinators the ability to use a consistent tool with inter-regional collaboration to track movement of children back and forth between regions.  

Interested in learning more?

This blog is the first in our series on child milestone tracking. Our next blog explores why tracking child health milestones is so important.