There has been a flood of material discussing maternal and child health in the last few days. The public health white paper, with sections on maternity and children, was followed today by Frank Field’s report on child poverty, and a study from the BMJ looking at neonatal deaths.
The overall conclusion is that we need to do much more to support parents to be healthy, both during pregnancy as factors such as smoking and obesity can affect prenatal development, but also in child care after birth and in the early years.
Recommendations from the Field report include the transfer of child benefits moneys to support for ‘Foundation Years’ facilities and interventions, access to affordable good quality childcare to all disadvantaged children from the age of 2, and a review of legislation over the use of data by local authorities, to make it easier to identify those families most in need of support.
As is often the case, one of the major issues is engagement; those most in need of support and advice, are often those least likely to access it, either because they are not aware of help available, or through a reluctance to change.
We need to identify those most in need of help early, and make sure that information on health, nutrition and parenting is available at all points of contact. Once more joining-up of healthcare provision is necessary for the provision of a cohesive system of support.