THE NURTURE PROGRAMME- INFANT HEALTH & WELLBEING
64,000 babies are born in Ireland each year…. on average a baby is born every 8 minutes!
The Nurture Programme – Infant Health and Wellbeing has been developed with the aim that every parent receives the best possible advice, information and support from conception to the child’s third birthday so that each one of these babies gets the best possible start in life. The Nurture Programme (2016 – 2019) is funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. The grant is managed by the Katharine Howard Foundation, the programme of work is delivered by the Health Service Executive and its related agencies and implementation support is provided by the Centre for Effective Services.
The Programme is being evaluated in order to inform the development of the Programme and to identify the learning for other system-change initiatives within health and public sector services. Within the Health Service Executive (HSE) and within related health, wellbeing and family support services, there is a wealth of expertise and good practice in place in relation to pregnancy and the early years of a child’s life. Much of this work has been developed within HSE Maternity, Primary Care and Health and Wellbeing Services while other significant developments have occurred under a range of programmes funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies and others including the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme, the National Early Years Access Initiative, the Parenting Support Initiative and the Area Based Childhood Programme.
On becoming pregnant, parents can expect to meet health professionals on a minimum of 25 occasions by the time they celebrate their child’s third birthday. This is made up of contacts with Maternity, General Practice and Primary Care services. Under the Nurture Programme, it is intended that parents are given relevant, clear, consistent, timely and evidence-based information and advice on each of these visits. In other words, to make every contact count.
Some of the key developments being advanced under the Nurture Programme include:
- A new parenting and child health website for parents and for healthcare staff (mychild.ie launched December 2018).
- Information and advice to people planning to become pregnant so that they can give their child the best start in life
- Information and supports during pregnancy and early childhood strengthened and standardised. (My Pregnancy, My Child 0-2 Years and My Child 2-5 years books launched December 2018)
- Universal access to the Child Safety Programme to guard against accidental deaths and unintentional injuries.
- Infant Mental Health to inform the key messages to parents, covering topics like bonding with your baby, parent-child communications and supporting your baby’s early learning and emotional development.
- Breastfeeding encouraged and supported.
- Training, coaching, development and resources provided to support frontline staff in their work.
A key aspect of the Nurture Programme is that the HSE has committed to contributing €5 in matched / leveraged funding for every €1 it receives under the Nurture Programme. A further core issue is ensuring the sustainability of the work developed under the Nurture Programme. The key structure for this the HSE’s National Healthy Childhood Programme. For the work to be sustained and further developed, requires investment in a national and local infrastructure to manage and deliver the National Healthy Childhood Programme.
To ensure the long term sustainability of the Nurture Programme, an Infant Development Fund has been established through matched funding from the Community Foundation for Ireland (CFI) which will continue to support innovation in service design and implementation for this age cohort, especially as the findings from new research become available.