Healthy Happy Bairns Conference 7th Feb

Over 170 people from parents to politicians attended the Healthy Happy Bairns conference on 7th Feb at the Quayside in Musselburgh.

There was a lot of positive energy, and emotion, throughout the day which was very well chaired by local parent and former health minister Susan Deacon.

The day started with Councillor Roger Knox welcoming Aileen Campbell the Scottish Government’s early years minister.

Aileen outlined the government and her personal support for the early years agenda and emphasised the importance of early years in the early intervention and prevention agenda which is so important to modernising public services in Scotland.  healthy happy bairns conference ministers speech

As her speech came to an end children from Wallyford and Whitecraig surprised the participants by standing up to sing – ‘Lean on Me’. By the end of the first verse participants were further surprised when the adult members of the Wallyford and Whitecraig ‘Singstars’ stood to join the children singing. By the end of the song the whole conference was on its feet singing and clapping to the rhythm of the song. The young musicians from Musselburgh Grammar who had been hidden behind the conference screen emerged with music teacher Jo Halliday  – too much applause. The ‘flash mob’ singing was fun, but also hopefully made the point that engaging children and parents is key to the mission of Support from the Start and that means we have to think and act imaginatively.

The words of the song  ‘Lean on me’ were echoed in some of the themes that parents who had agreed to speak at the conference brought to the fore. Inga, Michele and two Tracey’s  gave often very personal and emotionally powerfull statements about what had been important to them when they had needed support. Each story was very differnt but I think some of the common themes included:-

– Any parent can need support no matter their circumstances

– Asking for support is not always an easy thing to do and professionals can make this much easier when they listen

– People who need support want to be treated as individual human beings not as a problem, whether that’s defined by medical  diagnosis or social / psychological assessment

– Support has to be accessible in terms of time and place and flexible people orientated services are most valued by parents

 – If we want healthy, happy bairns we have to have healthy, happy parents

 The parents were followed by Don Ledingham, chair of the Support from the Start planning board and Director of Education and Children’s Services for East Lothian Council on the theme of Creating a space for change. He has posted the contents of his presentation on his learning log

Dr Rosemary Geddes gave a presentation in the early development intrument which is being piloted in East Lothian. EDI_SuppFrStart7Feb2012

John Boyce East Lothian Public Health Practitioner & Ann Hume. Manager of Olivebank Child & Family centre in Musselburgh gave a presentation on the evaluation process and findings for Support from the Start. Healthy Happy Bairns evaluation

Over a lunch there was a market place featuring posters of work taken forward by the service champions in East and Midlothia. Pdfs of the poster can be accessed here

HHB Posters 1-5 Final

HHB Posters 6-10 Final

HHB Posters 11-15 Final

HHB Posters 16-22 Final

In the afternoon after a welcome from Jane Hopton assistant general manager for East Lothian Community Health partnership there were three presentations that aimed to set the scene for the afternoon workshops

Karen Grieve, National Programme manager for Equally Well gave a presentation entitled ‘Transforming services an assets based approach’ which outline the ethos and theoretical framework developed through the Equally Well process in Scotland. healthy happy bairns KG slot

Graham Mackenzie Consultant in Public Health for NHS Lothian looked at information resources on childrens health and well being that are available at a community level. Graham MacKenzie

The final presentation / speech was from Ronnie Hill, Head of Children’s services for East Lothian Council in which he set out the vision for the second phase of Support from the Start Ronnies Powerpoint- 07.02.12   Healthy Happy Bairns Conference- The Vision 7.02.12

The workshops were key to the hoped for outcomes for the day there were nine in total one for each school cluster in East Lothian one for participants from the Midlothian test site, one for people with an East Lothian wide role and one for people with a pan Lothan / national role. A seperate post will cover the output from the workshops.

The day ended with reflections from Susan Deacon

Parenting and health inequality

Attended a 1/2 day conference held by the Growing Up in Scotland team earlier this week. The session was led off by the new early years minister Angela Constance and one phrase in her speech caught my attention in particular.

As parents its what we do, not who we are, that is most important.

By which I think she meant that parents who are facing adversity in the form of poverty or poor health can do as good a job as parents who aren’t facing the same adversity. I think we all know that to be true, or at least we want it to be true.

However, it is also true that many parents do become overwhelmed by the adversity they face in bringing up children. Talking to some head teachers in the last week or so has highlighted this for me. In the run up to the summer holidays many parents and children face the summer holidays not with a sense of joy and opportunity, but with with a sense of foreboding -‘how am I going to cope without the structure that school and nursery provides’. For many children this fear is expressed in terms of their behaviour in school, and for the child protection system I suspect it is reflected in the number of Initial Referral Discussions that take place in the run up to the summer holidays. ( I would guess that the economic climate is making the summer holiday period even harder for some parents this year?)

Services are responding with partnership approaches to supporting families over the summer period. In Midlothian Equally well champions are using their development fund to support a project called ‘Play in the Park’ which has been developed in the Woodburn community over a number of years, and will extend it to the neighbouring community in Mayfield, they are also exploring ways of further supporting transition from nursery to P1.  In East Lothian champions are currently discussing whether to support for  a second year a Summer transition programme supporting parents of children who are moving from nursery to P1 who need some additional support

Talking about parenting skills always makes me a bit twitchy, partly because even if nobody is else is making judgements about me as a parent I cant’ help making judgement about myself. For the same reason I have never felt completely comfortable with parenting courses / programmes which are the focus of many parenting strategies. More fundamentally than doubts about my own performance I also wonder whether parenting programmes over emphasise the individual parent behaviours rather than the wider family and community support that is fundamental to good parenting. It is easier to be consistent with rules, be positive and affirmative and to have a good attachment or connection with your child / children if you feel supported as a parent and can access a network of practical and emotional resources. Angela Constance also spoke about the development of a national parenting strategy for Scotland which was a manifesto commitment for the SNP. I for one hope that it is as strategy for family support as much as a strategy for developing parenting skills.

The GUS team have made a particular study of parenting skills and their relationship with health and a presentation on the findings is linked here There is also an audio file of the presentation from Dr Alison Parkes on the GUS website. The slides are quite complex so the audio file is well worth listening to.


Interventions for Promoting Early Child Development for Health- an Environmental Scan

Dr Rosemary Geddes from the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and policy has completed an ‘Environmental Scan’ of interventions aimed at promoting cognitive and social development in early years children.  Rosemary has previously given presentations to the planning board for Support from the Start and was one of the speakers at a 1/2 day session on readiness for learning (see earlier posts).

I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with the term ‘environmental scan’.  It turns out that it is management speak for getting a very smart person like Dr Geddes to rapidly but systematically review evidence for what works in a policy area at the same time as making an assessment of what is actually being delivered. 

The definition given in the report  is

Environmental scan – In management terms, an environmental scan is the internal communication of external information about issues that may potentially influence an organisation’s decision-making process. Our environmental scan refers to the process of rapidly scoping the literature for evidence of what works, reviewing the current policy landscape and interviewing key informants to determine which programmes are currently being delivered.

The document is a weighty read at 169 pages, but gives a very clear review of the research in this area, including brief overviews of different programmes that met the criteria to be included in the scan, and the range of Government policy and strategy that has bearing on children’s early development .

Interventions for Promoting Early Child Development for Health

Readiness for Learning

On the 6th may a seminar was held at the McSesne conference centre in Mayfield, Dalkeith – looking at the concept of readiness for learning. The seminar was attended largely by Support from the Start service champions for Mid and East Lothian, but also by a number of headteachers and other interested professionals.

Dr Rosemary Geddes is a part of the Scottish Collaboration on Public Health led by Professor John Frank

The remit of the Collaboration is: to identify key areas of opportunity for developing novel public health interventions that equitably address major Scottish health problems; to foster collaboration between government, researchers and the public health community to develop a national programme of intervention development, large-scale implementation and robust evaluation; and to build capacity within the public health community for collaborative research of the highest quality which will have maximum impact on policies, programmes and practice.

Dr Geddes opened the session with a presentation on the health implications of  ‘readiness for learning.

A further two posts will follow with the other presentations from the seminar

Rosemary Geddes’ Presentation