A significant number of our region's children have developmental problems.
A significant number of our region's children have developmental problems. SerrNovik

One third of Gympie kids have health, learning problems

ALMOST a third of Gympie's prep students have developmental problems.

But experts say town planners may be the key to reversing a worrying trend that is impacting the future health, development and learning outcomes of our children.

The Australian Early Development Census tested 584 local children in 2015, finding 30.4 per cent had physical, social, emotional, cognitive or learning difficulties.

This is well above the national average of 22 per cent.

About 16 per cent of local kids had problems in two or more developmental areas.

Researchers have found poorly designed neighbourhoods had higher levels of children who were not developmentally on track with their peers.

They want town planners to roll out more open spaces, parks with interactive play areas and local early childhood services as well as pedestrian and cycle friendly street infrastructure to help reverse the trend.

Housing density, street design, traffic exposure and access to parks and social, education and health services all had an impact on childhood development, said University of WA Public Health senior research fellow Dr Hayley Christian.

"If we get the built form of neighbourhoods wrong - because it is permanent and it is expensive - it can have a negative impact for a long time," she said.

"Kids who have more outdoor space in their neighbourhood, are exposed to less traffic and have access to key destinations like playgroups, child health services and high quality childcare are less likely to be developmentally vulnerable and will stay on track."

The Planning Institute of Australia's John Brockhoff said the institute was "very strong" on the need for child-friendly healthy communities.

"We have a plethora of guidance for councils on things like walkable communities and good open space that is fun and interesting," he said.

A Gympie Regional Council spokeswoman said the needs of children informed the council's planning decisions.

"The council considers the health and wellbeing of all members of our community in our planning policy development by facilitating childcare and early childhood centres in our central zones," she said.

"Council has also developed a Walk and Cycle Strategy, Tracks and Trails plan and Open Space and Recreation plan to encourage outdoor activities and purpose-built spaces for families and young children."

The Queensland Government said it considered a wide range of community needs when looking at planning for communities "in all stages of life". - NewsRegional


Region, % with at least one problem

Bundaberg, 28.8%

Cairns, 24.8%

Fraser Coast, 31%

Gladstone, 23.4%

Gold Coast, 22.9%

Gympie, 30.4%

Ipswich, 32.1%

Mackay, 23.7%

Rockhampton, 31.6%

Sunshine Coast, 21.8%

Toowoomba, 27.1%

Townsville, 29.5%

Warwick, 27.9%

Brisbane, 22.6%

Queensland, 26.1%

Australia, 22%

SOURCE: Australian Early Development Census

News Corp Australia

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