Scotland’s public health minister Shona Robinson chaired a ministerial taskforce to look at how Scotland can challenge the kind of inequality that leads to significantly different health outcomes for different parts of our community. The taskforce published a report called ‘Equally Well’ which amongst a number of recommendations called for the setting up of ‘test sites’ to lead on the learning that is needed to address the issue of health inequality. East Lothian has been selected as one of eight test sites in Scotland with a focus on early years and parenting. We have called the test site in East Lothian ‘Support from the Start’ to reflect the aim of ensuring that communities and services are doing all that is possible to address the health needs of the youngest members of our community in the areas where we know that health outcomes are poorest.
Support from the Start is not a short term project but rather a focus within all mainstream services on health inequality in the early years of life. Governance for the programme will be provided by a steering Board consisting of Councillor Roger Knox (Depute Provost & Health Spokesman); Councillor Ruth Currie (Cabinet Member for Joint Future & Community Care & Youth Champion); Sue Ross (Director of Community Services & Chair of Joint Health Improvement Project Board); Don Ledingham (Acting Director of Education & Children’s Services & Chair of Children’s Services Chief Officers Group); Gerry Power (General Manager East Lothian Community Health Partnership) This group will provide strategic leadership and ensure that all relevant planning groups are involved in developing Support from the Start.
Four broad outcome areas for mainstream services in relation to health inequality have been identified:-
- Community Engagement with key health issues in the early years,
- Improving Support for Parents & Carers,
- Improving Support for Families,
- Creating Child Friendly Environments
We know that there is already lots of good practise in these areas but ‘Support from the Start’ will be asking service providers to review what they are are already doing with the following questions in mind : –
- How do we get our communities, parents and children involved in key health improvement challenges for the early years of life? e.g. increasing the number of breastfeeding mothers, reducing passive smoking in the home environment, increasing physical activity levels of children in the early years, improving diet and dental hygiene
- Do East Lothian services make it easy for parents to be ‘good enough’, and can parents access the right support, early enough when they are finding it hard to cope?
- How do we target support for children and families that are at risk of poor health, and is it effective?
- Does the physical space of our communities contribute to creating good health in the early years and support parents in raising healthy children safely
Key to ensuring success in this endeavour will be engagement, leadership and learning. A process has started to identify individuals from across a range of services who can act as ‘champions’ for ‘Support from the Start’. These champions will be tasked with creating a learning environment in their service areas on the issues of health and social justice related to tackling health inequality in the early years. The champions will be contributors to this blog.
My hope for this web log is that it will be a space in which discussion and reflection on the complex task of reducing health inequalities in East Lothian can be supported and encouraged.
All views and opinions welcome.
Health Improvement Development Officer