Children's Health, For Life

As a mum to two young boys I have experienced first-hand the confusing child health world parents are expected to navigate. For anyone who has had to put up with conflicting advice or changing recommendations, and with more and more families not having extended family for support, the first year in an infant’s life can be a difficult and challenging time. My background is in children’s emergency nursing and health visiting, and I am always keen to explore with parents how we can support them along the bumpy road that is parenthood, to understand the concerns they have and to empower them to manage their child’s health and well-being proactively. This is why I was so excited to be involved as an Integrated Care Fellow in the Children’s Health, For Life pilot programme alongside Dr Scott-Lang.

The programme grew in response to parent feedback from the Patient Academy event and Baby Resus (Basic Life Support) sessions run by the Connecting Care for Children team. Parents expressed a desire to be able to engage with specialist child health professionals to get consistent evidence-based information about child health topics. Three clear themes emerged: childhood illness, infant nutrition and infant development.

A four-session programme was designed on these three topics plus Baby Resus. A draft programme of workshops was designed with child health professionals, including paediatricians, pharmacists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and dieticians. Once the venue for the session was agreed a member of the team met with local families at the centre to gather their personal concerns and questions, to aid the co-design of the sessions and enable each workshop to be tailored to the local need.

The sessions were attended by local parents and community/maternity champions. The main concerns across the three topics were ‘what is normal?’ and ‘when should we worry?’ The sessions were a fantastic success and it was fabulous to see members of the community and child health professionals engaged in discussions, learning from each other. It was wonderful to see community capacity being built within the sessions, with community champions developing the skills and knowledge to advise parents on certain topics – as well as encouraging friendships and a peer support network amongst those who attended. The feedback from everyone present – parent, champion and professional – was overwhelmingly positive.

The key word in feedback from all groups, parents and professionals, was ‘learning’. Parents felt they had gained new knowledge and skills that they could use to enhance their child’s health and development, while professionals had the opportunity to learn from specialised colleagues as well as from the community members. For example, as part of the infant nutrition workshop we discussed vitamin supplementation and the Healthy Start voucher scheme. One of the champions present was able to advise the group that you can buy more fruit and veg from a local stallholder with the vouchers than at a supermarket. This local knowledge is not always readily available to professionals who may not live or access certain services within the community they are working with, but which makes a huge difference to families.

Co-design and delivery of workshops provides an excellent opportunity for child health professionals and the community to learn from each other to further enhance the wellbeing of local children. In order to build on the existing skills and knowledge within individuals and communities, we must first engage with them about what matters to them most and learn from them about what works and what doesn’t in healthcare delivery. I hope we can continue to work collaboratively with our local communities across a range of services to meet their needs.

Click here for more information about Baby Resus and future dates