In this section
The Department of Developmental Medicine is committed to, and
has a strong track record in the care of children with cerebral
palsy and other disabilities.
The Department has been assisting these children and their
families and conducting research on disability for over 20 years.
The Department currently receives approximately 5,000 outpatient
visits each year and over the past 20 years has published in excess
of 90 research papers.
Over this period, the Department has established a reputation
for both highly personalised care of children and their families
and best practice. In its research, the Department collaborates
with other leading groups in Australia and overseas and has a
particularly close partnership with the Murdoch Childrens Research
In 2004, the leadership of the Department of Developmental
Medicine decided that it was time to take its research to the next
level and 'Solve! At the RCH' was developed because of the urgent
need to increase knowledge about both the causes of disability in
childhood and the outcomes of treatment. A competition was held,
for the children that attend our Department, to find a suitable
name. Ariane Garner-Williams and Jonty O'Callagahan independently
came up with the name "Solve' which was subsequently adopted.
On 6th March
2006, Solve! At the RCH was launched by Sir Gustav Nossal AC
(pictured left). Associate Professor Dinah Reddihough,
Director of Developmental Medicine and Mr Bruce Bonyhady, Chair of
Solve! At the RCH, are also pictured at the launch.
An Advisory Panel to Solve! At the RCH was formed in late 2004.
The panel includes committed community leaders of young people with
disabilities, prominent hospital supporters and representatives
from key areas of the Hospital. For a full list of committee
members, click here.
The Panel, who meets regularly, has the following key
Solve! At the RCH and the Department of Developmental Medicine,
as part of the Royal Children's Hospital are governed by the
Hospital's Board and must meet the highest ethical standards. The
support of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, the University
of Melbourne and the Royal Children's Hospital, has been gathered
to bring "Solve! At the RCH" to fruition. The Solve Committee
involves departments from these organisations, but also
collaborates with external groups, including Latrobe, Deakin and
Monash Universities; other hospitals including the Monash Medical
Centre and community organsisations such as Scope and
The Panel has developed a Strategic Plan
Solve!At the RCH
Strategic Plan which can be downloaded (PDF
Here is the Winter 2011
Solve! newsletter (PDF file 321kb).
To improve outcomes for children with disabilities and to better
understand and prevent the causes of disability.
Through our research and our partnerships, we expect to achieve
our Mission of improving outcomes for children with
disabilities and better understand and prevent the causes of
Over the next five years, we are aiming to build the annual
research budget to $1.0 million per annum. For this, we need your
Approximately 7.6% of all Australian children
in the 0-14 age group have a disability, including intellectual
disability, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, severe visual impairment,
hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorders and acquired cerebral
For example, cerebral palsy is the most common
cause of physical disability in childhood, with about 130 new
infants born with cerebral palsy in Victoria each year. There
has been no diminution in rates over the past 30 years, rather
there is some evidence that there has been a slightly increased
frequency of the condition. In stark contrast, over the same
period, the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths have declined
sharply. The incidence of some other types of disabilities, for
example, the autism spectrum disorders, appear to be
The physical, emotional and financial costs
for parents of children with disabilities are ongoing and
immeasurable. Care of children with cerebral palsy is complex and
life long, involving services from a variety of sectors including
health, education and local government. The costs in terms of
additional family breakdowns are also enormous.
Prevention of disability, even in only 1-2
cases each year, would result in substantial financial savings, in
addition to avoiding the grief and disruption to family
life. Today, the Department of Developmental Medicine is in a
very strong position to make further significant advances, if it
can secure additional support and funding.
Maria and Jason were looking forward to
their first baby. News of the pregnancy was greeted with joy and
expectation. However, when Maria was only 6 weeks, she developed
some complications. This resulted in a long stay for Maria in a
maternity hospital and premature delivery at 28 weeks
James was tiny and only weighed just over one
kilogram. After a stay of about 63 days in the Special Care
Nursery, he had relatively few complications. There was great
excitement when he went home to his loving parents.
Maria and Jason noted that James was a little slow
in reaching his motor milestones. At 4 months of age he was rolling
but still was unable to sit but since he had been born prematurely,
obviously extra time was required to learn to do these things. At
13 months, his progress seemed to be at a standstill and his legs
were quite stiff.
His first appointment in Developmental Medicine was
scheduled. The news that he had cerebral palsy was given to his
parents. Imagine their distress and grief. They were not familiar
with the term and had many concerns about the future. Would James
ever be able to learn to walk or talk?
Soon James started on an early childhood
intervention program which involved visits from a physiotherapist.
James was an alert boy, always full of smiles, who won the hearts
of all those who came into contact with him.
By 21 months James was crawling,
pulling to stand and had many clear words. Finally the day
arrived!! James walked independently just before his fourth
birthday. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, gaining
in confidence and skills. Next year he will start at his local
school. His animated and affectionate personality acts like a
magnet!! Other children love him as do his family
friends and the therapists and doctors that come in contact with
him. And top marks must be given to his parents who have worked so
hard to bring these great outcomes.
Research being undertaken in Developmental Medicine
has provided knowledge that guides James' treatment. Many children
with cerebral palsy develop dislocated hips but from research
undertaken, we know that fortunately for James, this is unlikely to
occur. James had Botulinum toxin in May 2006. Research undertaken
in Developmental Medicine in conjunction with the Orthopaedic and
Physiotherapy Departments have confirmed the effectiveness of this
intervention. James participated in a horse riding program in 2007
that was part of a research study. The aim of the study was to
determine whether therapeutic horse riding had an impact on
physical function, health and quality of life of children with
cerebral palsy. James derived great benefit from this program,
enjoying the activity and the contact with a wonderful horse
supplied by Riding for the Disabled. As a result, his parents have
committed themselves to continuing with horse riding, much to
Research helps children such as James, learning
more about the causes of his condition and the best treatments.
Would you like to help children such as James?
The Researchers at Solve! At the RCH
have a proven track record in attracting research funding.
Unfortunately, these grants do not fully cover the cost of
research. For every successful grant, money needs to be found
elsewhere to provide our researchers with space, support,
equipment acquisition, maintenance and replacement, and
administration. For these vital functions we rely on the support of
the wider community to assist us in meeting our goals.
The funds and donations received so far have
Future donations will also go towards
For a full list of current research
projects, please go to Research Projects A list of
previous research can be accessed by clicking
In September 2006, Katie O'Callaghan (member
of the Solve Panel) organised a Dress Revival to raise funds for
Solve. This wonderful fundraising event was held at the Villa Alba
Museum in Kew. Katie O'Callaghan assembled a committed team that
included members of the Trailblazers and Waverley Auxiliaries,
along with staff from the RCH Foundation. Donated gowns from
celebrities were a highlight but there were also many thousands of
items that were bought at reasonable cost by those who attended on
the day. Thanks to Katie and her team, the Dress Revival raised
The Banks Group Charitable Foundation kindly
donated the proceeds of their Golf Day to Solve. We thank Mr
Robert Dickens for promoting Solve to the organisers of the event.
In addition. Brighton Rotary had a Walkathon and donated their
proceeds to our fundraising efforts. This was much appreciated and
we are grateful to Mrs Anne and Mr Geoff McGeary who have
interested the Brighton Rotary in Solve.
The Ella and Mitchell Brazier Fund, managed
by ANZ Trustees, is also supporting Sove! at the RCH by providing a
capacity building grant to enable some of the tasks of Solve to be
accomplished. This is a practical and helpful gift that is enabling
us to move forward to reach our goals.
The Victorian Medical Insurance Agency
Limited, the name behind PSA Insurance, has also provided extremely
generous support. This company is providing 50% of the funding for
the Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register which costs $70,000 per annum
to run. The Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register is an exceedingly
valuable resource that enables us to study the epidemiology of
cerebral palsy and to undertake studies to determine more about
causes and outcomes of treatment. The Victorian Medical Insurance
Agency Limited, has also agreed to fund the cost of a Medical
Research Fellow for 2008 and 2009. The person appointed will carry
out substantial research study in addition to undertaking some
The Trailblazers, Ultimate Challenge and
Waverley Auxiliaries work tirelessly to raise funds for Solve.
Their smiling faces and ongoing work in the hospital gift shop and
at the various stalls and in the community, is an inspiration and
enables so much more to be done that would be possible otherwise.
For more information on the funding activities of the Royal
Children's Hospital Auxiliaries, please visit RCH Auxiliaries.
The Cerebral Palsy Support Network (CPSN)
organised 'Melbourne's Longest Cake' during the Melbourne
Food and Wine Festival which raised funds for Cerebral Palsy while
increasing awareness of CP in the wider community. CPSN donated a
generous sum of $3,000 in September 2007 to Solve. This
year, 'Melbourne's Longest Cake' is again held on Sunday 2nd
March, 2008. Please visit the website for more information Melbourne's Longest
Mrs. Victoria Garner (pictured in the
middle), Treasurer of the Cerebral Palsy Support Network (CPSN),
presented the Solve Committee with a generous donation of $3,000 in
Mr. Bruce Bonyhady, Chairman of the
Solve Committee, and Associate Professor Dinah Reddihough, thanked
Victoria and the team at CPSN for their contribution and continuous
support to Solve! At the RCH.
If you would like to be involved in
assisting us with fundraising activities, please contact Inge
Timmerman (Administrative Assistant to Solve) on email@example.com
or phone 03 9345 5898.
If you would like to receive the Solve!
At the RCH Newsletter (PDF file), please email Inge
The Solve! At the RCH Newsletter will appear bi-annually.
To find out about recent developments and news on Solve, please
view our latest newsletter Solve_At_the_RCH2
(PDF 1.5 MB).