To infinity and beyond: Partnerships utilising hearing screening program infrastructure

Dr Zeffie Poulakis1, Dr Melinda Barker1

1Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Since 2005 the Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program (VIHSP) has been providing newborn hearing screening, reaching statewide coverage in 2012. The program is supported by a statewide information system and Australia’s first paediatric hospital electronic medical record.

VIHSP operates the only Victorian statewide database that, in addition to hearing screening information;

contains virtually all birth notifications,  close to real-time
matches newborn data with parent data; and
records family demographic information and birth location information.

In the last three years, VIHSP has explored partnerships with multiple agencies on many initiatives that promote a healthier future for Australia’s children:

°Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance Hearing Loss Flagship: a population-based program to diagnose genetic deafness, building on the existing screening program.

°Murdoch Children’s Research Institute PeRL study: perinatal record data linkage of pre and postnatal, mother and infant data to evaluate trends in prenatal aneuploidy screening and diagnosis.

°Melbourne Children’s: Generation Victoria (Gen V), a cradle-to-grave cohort that aims to reduce the burden of modern epidemics for children through better treatments, services, preventive care and predictive tools.

°Victorian Genetics Victorian Clinical Genetics Services: °Newborn Bloodspot Screening to facilitate early diagnosis of conditions that are present from birth and can be detected via chemicals and metabolites in blood.

°Department of Health and Human Services: Statewide family violence screening initiative.

°Department of Health and Human Services: Development of s statewide digital patient identification.

The role and experiences of the Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program in making each of the above projects a reality will be described.


Zeffie Poulakis is a clinical psychologist who, following completion of her undergraduate studies in psychology, commenced a research career by joining the Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program (VIHSP) at its inception in 1992.Since that time Zeffie has engaged in child health research, health service management, and clinical work with paediatric populations.

Zeffie is currently the Director of the Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program at the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health, a senior clinical psychologist with the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Department of Adolescent Medicine, and a research officer with the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.