Solve At the RCH


    • Why was Solve! At the RCH created
    • About Solve!At the RCH
    • Our Mission
    • Our Aims
    • Why more research is needed
    • How you can help
    • How funds and donations are used
    • Fundraising
    • How to contact us
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    Why was Solve! At the RCH created?

    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 Institute.

    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.

    Nossal and Reddihough

    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.

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    About Solve! At the RCH

    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 functions: 

    • To advise the management of the Centre on the initiation, promotion and development of research in any area of development disability, to be conducted by or under the auspices of the Department of Developmental Medicine of the Royal Children's Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute;
    • To review all research applications and advise on research priorities within the proposed research budget for the Centre;
    • To review and consider reports on the research activities and results;
    • To assist the Centre in its fund raising activities;
    • To assist the management of the Centre in any other areas that the Advisory Panel can reasonably be expected to contribute to the Centre. 

    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 Yooralla.   

    The Panel has developed a Strategic Plan  Solve!At the RCH  Strategic Plan  which can be downloaded (PDF file).

    Here is the Winter 2011  Solve! newsletter (PDF file 321kb).

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    Our Mission

    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 disability.

    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 help. 

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    Our Aims

    • To be a centre of excellence conducting high quality research involving different professional groups that will improve knowledge of the causes and outcomes of childhood disability.
    • To improve the quality of life for children with disabilities and their families.
    • To work with other organisations involved in the care of children with disabilities, and to translate research findings into practice.
    • To communicate the results of our research and practice to all professionals working with people disabilities to help promote best practice and a deeper understanding.
    • To raise the profile of research in developmental disabilities.
    • To encourage students to undertake research in this field.
    • To secure funds for research to achieve these goals. 

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    Why more research is needed

    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 insults.

    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 increasing.

    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.

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    Story of James

    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 gestation.

    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 , his 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 James' delight.

    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?

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    How you can help

    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.

    Every dollar raised will make a difference to the work that we do for children with disabilities and their families. A donation form is available in the Solve!At the RCH brochure (PDF file).


    • Someone's hope will be restored
    • Someone's life will be changed
    • We will be closer to preventing disability
    • And ensuring the best outcomes for children with disabilities everywhere

    Donate now

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    How funds and donations are used

    The funds and donations received so far have contributed to:

    1. Ongoing support of the Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register. The Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register cost $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.
    2. Part time support of the research to improve outcomes for children with saliva control problems. An article is now in press reporting a randomised study of botulinum toxin for saliva control problems. 
    3. Supporting a Fellowship position in the Department of Developmental Medicine. This position will commence in February 2008.

    Future donations will also go towards funding:

    • Research Assistants who will undertake further research, at a cost of $56,000 to $77,000 per annum;
    • Small research projects, at a cost of $20,000-$50,000 per annum. 
    • Research Fellowships in Developmental Medicine, at $100,000 per annum.
    • Through our commitment to research, we also invest in the future by providing opportunities at undergraduate and graduate levels for students to undertake research and deepen their understanding of disability and improve service delivery.

    For a full list of current research projects, please go to Research Projects A list of previous research can be accessed by clicking  Previous Research.

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    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 $28,000.

    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 clinical work.

    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 Cake.


    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 September 2007.

    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.

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    How to contact us

    If you would like to be involved in assisting us with fundraising activities, please contact Inge Timmerman (Administrative Assistant to Solve) on or phone 03 9345 5898.

    If you would like to receive the Solve! At the RCH Newsletter (PDF file), please email Inge Timmerman 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).

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