Scrapbook project

The logic model that guides the work of the test site  in East Lothian has four short term learning outcomes. One of these is about the physical or built environment in the target communities and how well it supports children and families to lead healthy lives.

To develop a better understanding of this we have started a small project based on work we learnt about from the Equally Well test site in Glasgow city. The idea is to bring communities together with services responsible for the built environment in a dialogue that uses a common language. The planners in Glasgow City understood that the professional language they use about the built environment is not one shared by all, and tried to get round this by getting people to keep scrapbooks of images and thoughts about their communities – what was valued, what could be improved? In this way it was possible for the planners and the community members to have a more equal conversation.

We are asking parent and community groups in the Support from the Start target area to keep a scrapbook of their thoughts and views about their environment from an early years perspective. When the scrapbooks are complete we will hold a dialogue session and ask services and professional to come and view the scrapbooks and hear what the thinking is behind them. So far a preschool nursery, a parents group, a dads group and a community group are keeping scrapbooks if you would like your early years group to take part in this project let me know and I will arrange for you to get the scrapbooks and disposable cameras.

Steven Wray

Civil society or big society – its still parents supporting parents

Most support for parents is provided directly by parents to parents both informally and as part of constituted groups. 

Over the last eighteen months I have talked to many parents involved in baby / toddler groups or groups for parents. The need for this type of support was summed up for me this week when I was at the Patchwork toddler group, which was having its first session back after a few weeks break. I had arrived before the group started and as parents arrived I overheard many of them saying something to the effect ‘This is a God send’ 

How well does society / community  support parents to support each other?  My impression is that funding in this area is a mosaic of overlapping grants which are applied for competitively and therefore time consuming to obtain and account for. Support for community groups can be patchy and it can be difficult to sustain. Yet these groups are clearly part of the fabric of communities – should we be supporting them more strategically?

Patchwork EH32 is one of the community champions for Support from the Start. They have also been a beneficiary of the service development fund with Lorraine Congalton community development officer in Prestonpans and a service champion for Support From sponsoring a bid to help develop the capacity of the parents group to reach more parents.

Here are some of the people involved in Patchwork talking about the group.

Patchwork parent

Patchwork parent2

Healthy & the Built Environment Seminar

Colleagues from the Glasgow City test site came through to East Lothian to give a presentation a ‘Health Bites’ seminar hosted by the East Lothian Public Health team

Here is the report from the  seminar held on 15th June 2010 in Musselburgh East Community Learning Centre. The presentation can be viewed in an earlier post

Healthy environment Seminar Report 15 06 10

Civic Conversation & Homestart

Linden Ross a community champion from the Homestart organisation has been hosting a series of civic conversation events focused on bringing together services to look at early years issues effecting local communities.

Here is the summary document from the Civic Conversation event held in the Early Years Centre a little while ago.  I attended this discussion and found it fascinating – particularly the gap in awareness about what was being being offered by local housing services and the needs that community based staff were identifying in relation to housing.  My impression was that community staff often frustrated over a particular need of a client, weren’t aware of services that could help with that need. It underlined for me the value of services investing a little bit of time in talking to each other face to face about what they are providing, where the overlaps are and where the gaps are.

Housing Summary

Homestart – civic conversation invite



We’d like to welcome you to a networking opportunity to exchange information about issues and processes around Mental Health.

Those of us who work within agencies supporting parents of pre-school children, would benefit greatly from this ‘conversation’, in order to be better informed about issues and challenges within Mental Health resources.

We hope you’ll take this opportunity to meet various agencies, including Mental Health professionals, at the Early Years Centre, Sanderson’s Wynd, Tranent, on Wednesday 31st March 2010 at 12 – 2.30pm with lunch provided.
RSVP 01875 616066



Civic Conversation

Tranent Health Visitors have identified a gap in the provision of support to mothers who are older than most when they have their first child. They are organising an event to engage these mums and find out what they think of services.

Here are the details of an event to be held in the Tranent area in June – and an outline of the proposal to engage this group.

Mums in the Middle poster 

Mums in the Middle

Wallyford Support from the Start


Wallyford consultation took place on the 18th May 9am-11.30am at Wallyford Community Centre.  The invitation to participate in the consultation was extended to members of the wider community.  The consultation aimed to engage members of the local community in identifying health inequalities within their area and to get them to identify key health improvements. 


An assortment of health information and information on Support from the Start was also available through information stands and leaflets which participants took the time to read and many took information away.   As an incentive to take part, money off vouchers, for East Lothian Roots and Fruits was given out.


The consultation was very informal being based on discussion and participatory appraisal methods.  This seemed to work really well generating in-depth discussion whilst highlighting community issues and concerns.


Wallyford Support from the Start

Acceptance Feedback

Acceptance – written and performed by Lisa Nichol is a play about the pressures on young women that can lead to alcohol misuse and the issues that this can raise for young women..

 “This is a play that touches upon many of the issues that affect women like Scarlet today and conveys in a genuine and meaningful way the emotional and social dilemmas and the pressure people in today’s society face to fit in.” David Shaw – Glasgow Council on Alcohol

Support from the Start worked with Queen Margaret Univeristy to bring this performance to East Lothian as part of a ‘civic conversation’ on health and tackling health inequality. The performnces helped to raise awareness of alcohol as a health and well being issue, and each one was followed by discussion the ouput from which is given below.

The play is not a health education message against alcohol abuse, rather an honest portrayl of the issues alcohol can create in a young womans life. From the comment below I think it touched a cord for many people presnt. The Tranent performance was attend between 50 and 60 people – all women bar myself. The Musselburgh performance had a much smaller audience of 15, but was followed by a lively discussion and some good contacts were made.

Here is the feedback provided after the performances of the Acceptance play in Tranent Town Hall on Thursday 14th May and in the Brunton Hall, Musselburgh on Wednesday 20th May


For more information on Lisa Nichol folow this link

acceptance poster

Conference feedback

Almost 180 people attended a one day conference which launched East Lothian’s Equally Well test site – Support from the Start.

The day was started off with Dr Sue Ross Executive Director of Community Services for East Lothian Council welcoming participants and setting the scene for the day with a description what the test site hopes to achieve. 

The keynote speaker for the morning was Dr Harry Burns – Chief Medical Officer for Scotland – who spoke about the ‘Need for action’ to tackle inequality in health. He explained the latest research on the causes of health inequality and emphasised the importance of intervention in the early years of life if Scotland is to redress inequality in health outcomes. Dr Burns presentation made it very clear that the environment that children are brought up in has a clear and direct influence on physical and mental development in a way that can continue to influence responses to social and environmental stimuli in later life. His central thesis, from a variety of research sources, was that environmental, social and psychological influences that produce an inconsistent parenting environment creates a physically evident stress response in children. In turn this stress response prompts maladaptive responses in the way that children respond to the physical, social and psychological environment they inhabit and this produces health and social problems both in childhood and later life. 

Participants in the conference were invited to discuss what they had heard from Dr Ross & Dr Burns in the light of their own concerns for health and well being in their service areas. Having identified their concerns for trends in health they looked at the consequences of these concerns / trends if nothing was done to address them. Finally they were asked to think what could be done to address the consequences they had identified and in particular to complete the statement  – We will tackle inequality in health by……  A summary of the output from the discussion can be found here. These statements will contribute towards an action plan for Support from the Start

The morning session was closed by Don Ledingham Acting Executive Director for Education and Children’s Services for East Lothian Council with a presentation on the theme of – ‘A call to Action’. Don Ledingham’s presentation focused on the need for a sense of ‘belonging’ in children and communities as an essential part of what is required to create the circumstances for god health. He emphasised that services had a responsibility to generate that sense of belonging in all children, and that unconditional positive regard (or in old money – love)  was essential to achieve this. He also pointed to free school entitlement as a marker for many of poor social, educational and health outcomes that Support from the Start seeks to address and suggested that this would be one way of making sure that the right suppport is reaching the right people.

The them of the afternoon session was creating a ‘conversation’ about health and inequality that actively engages communities and families. The session was opended by East Lothian’s Depute Provost, Councillor Roger Knox who spoke about the importance of making connections, and reaching different parts of the community with support and information.

The keynote speaker for the afternoon session was Andrew Lyon of the Intrnational Futures Forum. Andrew’s presentation focused on how we think about the future, and critically that our individual and collective futures are created by what we do in the present. He talked about the role a ‘civic conversation’ can have in shaping our understanding of the present and future, by bringing together the many different perspectives that exist about the same issues to create a shared understanding of what is needed and what is possible.

Th table discsussions in the aftenoon focused on what communities could do to create a conversation about health and inequality. Folowing the same process as the morning the participants genrated – We will ….. ‘ statements and these will aslo be usedto form the action plan for Support from the Start.

The conference was closed by Alan Blackie, Chief Executive of East Lothian Council. His presentation was on the theme of ‘Keeping the conversaton going’. he emphasised that Support from the Start was not a short life project but a focus within mainstream services on tackling the kind of inequality in health that can be passed from generaton to generation if action wasnt taken to break the cycle. He made it clear that this could not be achieved without the active engageent of families and communites and that a consistent and creative dialogue had to be  developed with communities on this issue. This dialogue or conversation was not the purpose but a means to ensuring that services were doing all that could be done to redress inequality in health and improve life chances for children in East Lothian.

Copies of the presentation and a summary of the ‘We will statement will be posted here shortly.

Dr Harry Burns presentation slides dr-harry-burns-part-1 dr-harry-burns-part-2 

 Andrew Lyons International futures forum Andrew Lyons presntation equally-well-east-lothian-march-09


Steven Wray

Bugs, Boats and Obesity

Busy BugsThe East Lothian Physical Activity & Health Partnership hosted a meeting on promoting physical activity in the early years on 2nd March. The positive effects of moderate physical activity on all aspects of health and well being in all age groups are clear from research.

The meeting was led off with an informal presentation by Caroline from the Active School team who spoke about her work rolling out the Busy Bugs programme in East Lothian, as well as other programmes such as Basic Moves and Kickstart.

“Busy Bugs/Top Tots helps to introduce and sustain play and physical activity as part of a daily routine for children aged two to three-and-a-half years. The programme provides new ways to keep children active at nursery and at home, through play, movement to music, basic moves and games, with a focus on enjoyment and fun! The course covers programme planning, content and management, lesson plans, resources and the evaluation and review process. It is ideal for parents, nursery, playgroup workers and anyone else working with this pre-five age group.”

The Active School Teams approach is to train people – staff and community members – to deliver these programmes, and then to provide backup and support for these staff. They have found that support is needed especially until the trainees get some experience of delivering the programmes for children under their belts. Busy Bugs has been particularly popular with nursery staff, both local authority and private sector. A gap, discussed at the meeting, has been links to communities. A positive outcome from the meeting was a connection being made with the community development service that may help with this. There is also a need to develop a train the trainers package to help disseminate Busy Bugs and other programmes further than is possible within the resources of the Active Schools team. The teams vision is that this programme becomes a part of mainstream early years provision with back up and quality assurance provided by themselves. Hence, the Active schools team would train the trainers for school, nurseries and community settings who would then train staff to deliver the programmes in the different settings.

The meeting also heard about dance initiatives for this age group, and the provision of outdoor play in the form of play parks and outdoor areas of nurseries and infant schools.  It was clear that a lot of high quality work is going on in East Lothian to promote physical activity for this age group.

The issue of obesogenic environments was also touched upon as an explanation of why children (and adults) seem to be becoming more overweight despite such excellent work taking place in schools and nurseries. Basically an obesogenic environment is one in which it is easy to access lots of calorie dense food, and difficult to burn off those calories in physical activity. Such an environment makes it very easy to  gain weight particularly if you are genetically disposed.  In terms of weight gain it can be said that ‘Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger’.

Are East Lothian communities obesogenic – and if so are we asking all the dedicated staff who provide programmes like Busy Bugs to bail out a leaky boat?