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Thursday, February 19, 2009

E-Health to Assist Ill and Disabled Young Australians Communicate and Interact.

The following was released today – and I felt it was worth a post. Sounds like a great idea to me!

New Livewire Online Community Connects Young Australians Living With A Serious Illness, Chronic Health Condition Or Disability

The Hon. Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, today launched Livewire, a new online community which is the first of its kind in Australia, to help improve the emotional and social wellbeing of children and young people aged over 10 and under 21, living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability.

A wholly owned subsidiary of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, and co-funded by the Australian Government’s Clever Networks program, Livewire is designed to provide a free, safe and supportive online community for children and young people to hang out, connect, share experiences, creatively express themselves and know that they are not alone in their situation.

An estimated 450,000¹ young Australians aged between 10 and 21 are currently living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability. These conditions can profoundly impact their everyday lives, leading to frequent absences from school, sport and other social activities. The internet provides an innovative way to reach and connect these young people through a supportive online community.

“Connecting and supporting young people with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability through a safe online community has been a vision of the Starlight team for many years,” said Jill Weekes, CEO of the Starlight Children’s Foundation. “Livewire helps to distract that young person from their pain, helps them better understand their illness and connects young people facing similar challenges so that no one feels alone.”

Unlike other social networks, Livewire is a secure, moderated community tailored to the needs of its private members.

“By combining the latest in online and mobile technologies with a safe and secure approach, we are developing a great online community for young people who are also dealing with a disability, chronic condition or serious illness,” said Omar Khalifa, Managing Director of Livewire. “With video, music and games, Livewire is a fun place to check out. However, it’s the young people who create blogs, chat and interact that will shape Livewire, keep it relevant and a make it a really great place to hang out.”

The Hon. Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, said “The Livewire online community is a great example of broadband and digital technology assisting the support and well-being of people whose lives have been disrupted by chronic illness or disability. Livewire helps young people to stay in touch with those they love and to connect to gain support from others who may be sharing a similar situation.”

Livewire aims to have a significant impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of its members, to help relieve stress and anxiety, alleviate boredom and to help empower them to develop new life skills and make new friends.

Prominent child and adolescent psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg commented, “Too often, it goes unrecognised that young people with chronic illness or disability can be affected by anxiety disorders, mood disorders, self harm and even suicidal tendencies, and that these go hand in hand with their situation.

“Livewire is wonderful because you have 24 hour a day, immediate connection with a community of people feeling exactly the same way. This can instantly reduce their sense of isolation and put them in touch with someone who understands,” he concluded.

Livewire complies with strict safety measures to ensure the safety and security of its members. Each member’s parent or guardian is contacted personally to verify their identity before joining the community. What’s more, chat hosts trained by the Australian Federal Police are present seven days a week to moderate discussions.

The program is made possible by an investment of $7.2 million from the Australian Government’s Clever Networks program, and support from its launch partners. This funding has enabled Livewire to develop a long lasting, sustainable program that will support, inspire and encourage its members.

Livewire aims to connect 20,000 young people, siblings and parents by the end of 2009, and will work with and through other Not For Profit organisations, such as The Spastic Centre and Diabetes Australia to provide access to Livewire to its eligible members.

The next phase of Livewire will be the launch of Livewire Mobile which will enable young Australians to access the site and its community via their mobile phone. Livewire on Wheels, a bedside access program, has already rolled out at Canberra Hospital and The Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick. Throughout 2009, the program will aim to target an additional seven hospitals right throughout Australia, including The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth, Mater Hospital in Brisbane, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

This will be followed by the creation of dedicated Livewire sites for both parents and siblings of young people with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability, enabling them to share experiences with others who understand what they are going through, and a research program which examines the therapeutic benefits of Livewire services and the impacts of Internet use on members’ social and emotional well-being.

Any young Australian aged over 10 and under 21, who is currently living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability who wishes to join Livewire or find out more information should visit http://www.livewire.org.au or contact member.services@livewire.org.au.

----- End Release.

Great idea – I hope it really helps!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this heads up, David. I've forwarded to a friend with a daughter who has diabetes, aged 11. She's already connected with in person kids, but sometimes that sets up its own issues. This may be just the thing for her as she's soon to be a teenager.

Others reading may consider passing along the URL to people they know.