Improving Public Health Services for Children Aged 0-5: Strengthening Prevention and Early Intervention to Give Every Child the Best Start in Life
Time: 9:30 AM — 1:00 PM
According to the British Medical Journal, child health was at crisis point pre-Covid-19, and is at risk of suffering further from the unintended consequences of the pandemic. The experiences of children and their immediate care givers, during pregnancy and the first few years of life, are significant determinants of long-term health and well-being in adulthood. Mitigating risk factors in physical, social and psychological development, including; poor perinatal mental health, malnutrition and obesity, parental drug and alcohol misuse, and speech and language deficits, is therefore essential. Early intervention in an early years context reduces not only health inequalities, but is considered cost effective as it saves on more expensive ‘late interventions’.
Yet, the current Covid-19 pandemic has hindered access to public health services. Even before the pandemic, One in five children were overweight or obese before they started school, whilst Public Health England estimated that failure to adequately deal with perinatal mental health problems and maltreatment had a societal cost of £23bn per annum. Since then, there has been significant diversion and disruption of the usual health and care services available to children, as well as increased risk of children suffering domestic violence and additional pressures on young carers.
National policies champion a prevention approach to early child development. The Healthy Child Programme (HCP) is a universal early intervention and prevention framework for the delivery of public health services to families with children aged 0-5. The HCP is delivered by health visitors, which identifies families that are in need of additional support and children who are at risk of poor outcomes. Originally published in 2009, it has been updated with additional evidence, however many are calling for a modernised approach. The HCP aims to protect children from serious diseases through screening and immunisation, reduce childhood obesity, support parents in keeping children health, and ensures that children are “ready to learn at two and ready for school by five”.
In recent years, responsibility for commissioning children’s public health services has been transferred to local authorities. HCP services though cost around £1.2 billion each year, and with cuts to local government budgets over the last decade, early intervention and access to services is challenged. The ongoing effects fo the pandemic further stretch existing services. Before the pandemic, the proportion of 6-8 week reviews completed for new born children ranged from 56.6% to 91.7% by authority, whilst the percentage of timely 12 month reviews completed ranged from 54.2% to 86.9%. This inequality has been exacerbated subsequently, whilst a growing range of remote services poses particular challenges to access for the most disadvantaged in society. Also of concern for early years intervention, has been the 20% fall in the uptake of immunisations during lockdown.
This symposium will therefore provide local authorities, healthcare practitioners and other key stakeholders with a timely opportunity to identify priorities and challenges in successfully delivering integrated universal public health services for children aged 0-5. Attendees will also share best practice in providing early help and upstream support to families with complex and multiple needs.
- Analyse the commissioning landscape for the health and wellbeing of children aged 0-5 and the challenges associated with delivering timely and effective local services
- Share best practice for overcoming to the challenges to of the Covid-19 pandemic in early years interventions
- Identify methods of embedding a holistic approach to improving women’s mental and physical health before, during and after pregnancy
- Formulate strategies for making the most of all contacts to prevent unintentional injuries in and around the home
- Determine how to maximise parenting confidence and support families to develop essential skills
- Examine how families and various early years settings can engage with the government’s childhood obesity plan and develop healthy eating habits in young children
- Discuss ways to update the Healthy Child Programme (HCP) to ensure it meets its aims in an increasingly modernised society.
- Explore how to promote the adoption of positive health behaviours in parents through increased choice and personalisation of support
- Assess how to combat health inequalities within and across local communities, and the role for various stakeholders
- Discuss how to prevent and respond to significant delays in speech, language and communication and support social-emotional development and resilience
- Share best practice in developing a framework to support teenage mothers and young fathers to give their child the best start in life