12 December 2022

Professor Harriet Hiscock is a paediatrician researcher at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. Her work focuses on keeping children out of hospital, reducing low value care, and improving access to and quality of care – especially mental health care.

Professor Hiscock has always been passionate about helping children to ensure they have the best start to life. One in 5 children are affected by behavioural and developmental problems, yet many of these problems go undetected and untreated.

This story is part of our 10 of the Best - thirteenth edition. 10 of the Best is an annual NHMRC publication, showcasing 10 NHMRC-funded health and medical research projects. See more 10 of the Best.

Recent statistics show that only nine to 27% of children with mental health problems access Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)-rebated care. Girls, younger children and those from more disadvantaged families or families speaking a language other than English are even less likely to receive care.1

Professor Hiscock's NHMRC Career Development Fellowship grant focused on developing and trialling brief and tailored interventions to improve sleep in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Sleeping Sound with ADHD) and autism (Sleeping Sound with Autism). The trials involved two face-to-face consultations with a paediatrician or psychologist and a follow-up phone call.  

Professor Hiscock explained how sleep is essential for all of us, but in children with ADHD or autism, missing out on a good night’s sleep can worsen their behaviour and their emotional symptoms. For children with ADHD, their focus, concentration and learning in the school setting can suffer due to a lack of sleep.

'A lack of sleep will impact their social and emotional regulation, their behaviour, and their quality of life,' Professor Hiscock said.

'After two sessions and a phone call they were seeing improvements in their child’s sleep, which had flow-on benefits to the parents’ mental health. The parents would say how the whole family is functioning better, that they were a happier household, and their child is happier to get up and go to school'.

Both the trials were hugely successful, the children loved being a part of it and the parents really liked it too because it did not involve any medication.

Professor Hiscock said that seeing her fellow colleagues being able to grasp this intervention and incorporate it into their day-to-day clinical work was a huge success.

'As a practitioner you can help one person at a time, one child, one family. But when you do trials, you are helping hundreds of kids at a time.

'Health services research is where you can hopefully change a system, so you are helping thousands at a time.'

Professor Hiscock is now driven to make changes at a system level by directing her focus to health services research, with a particular interest in mental health.

Photo of Professor Hiscock wearing a green top with a blurred background
Professor Harriet Hiscock

Next steps

Professor Hiscock and her team have commenced several research programs including developing integrated health and social care hubs that offer social, medical and allied health services. These hubs will help to support children and their families by earlier detection and response to social determinants of mental health.

Another program is placing paediatricians in general practices to improve GP confidence and competence in the care of children. This trial aims to keep children out of hospital and improve parental preference for GP care. Paediatricians are supporting the GPs to be proactive and provide timely solutions in an area of medicine where waiting lists to see a specialist can be 6 to 12 months.

Chief Investigator (CIA)

Professor Harriet Hiscock


Murdoch Children's Research Institute


Improving child health outcomes in common, high burden conditions

Team members

Associate Professor Emma Sciberras

Dr Melissa Mulraney

Associate Professor Daryl Efron

Ms Kate Paton

Associate Professor Kim Dalziel

Ms Rachel Neely

Ms Rachel Pelly

Dr Shaoke Lei

Grant information



Career Development Fellowship

1 Hiscock et al. (2020) 'Use and predictors of health services among Australian children with mental health problems: A national prospective study', Australian Journal of Psychology, 72(3): 1 – 10.

Featured image Credit
Photo supplied by Professor Harriet Hiscock