Healthy Development

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Little boy playing in tree

Good health is one of the most important determinants of a child’s life chances. All professionals working in the foundation years need to be involved in promoting and encouraging children’s healthy development.


The Healthy Child Programme


The Healthy Child Programme is the National Health Service’s framework for provision in the foundation years. It consists of a mixed approach of preventative programmes for all children and families with targeted and additional support to meet identified needs.


Health visitors deliver the programme, which is being made available to all families. It is evidence based and the interventions within it, such as vaccines and immunisations, tests and screening programmes, help drive up public health across the board.


The government is currently introducing a new model for health visiting services which will strengthen the provision of the healthy child programme across England. The model will bring improved access and time with families, providing services where it best suits the family – at home, in health settings including GP surgeries, in Sure Start Children’s Centre as well as other non-traditional settings.


Families need different levels of service and may need different services at different times. This is reflected in the new service model, which has five key areas where health visiting services will have a major role:


  • Interactions at community level: building capacity and using that capacity to improve health outcomes and leading the healthy child programme for a population.
  • Universal services for all families: Building strong relationships in pregnancy and early weeks and planning future contact with families, including being the lead professional for the healthy child programme for individual families.
  • Additional services that any family may need some of the time (i.e. episodic for a specific health problem): for example, care packages for maternal mental health, or a baby/toddler sleep problem where the health visitor may provide support, delegate or refer.
  • Additional services for families requiring ongoing extra support for a range of vulnerabilities or special needs: for example, families at social disadvantage or families who have a child with a disability.
  • Health contribution in high intensity multi-agency services for families where there are safeguarding issues.


The rollout of this new health visiting service will be helped by the addition of 4,200 more health visitors by 2015.


Family Nurse Partnership

In a growing number of areas across the country the Family Nurse Partnership programme is being offered to first time disadvantaged mothers, giving intensive, structured support by specially trained nurses, and improving the outcomes of the most vulnerable families.


Quality provision is typified through partnership working between health and education professionals on identifying and responding to needs as early as possible in order to have an impact on outcomes.


Midwives and health visiting teams


Children’s health development begins in pregnancy and it is the responsibility of midwives to assess the health and social care needs of mums by the twelfth week of pregnancy. The midwife will co-ordinate the support of other professionals as needed to support the mum and family as required.


Midwives and health visitors have a focus on promoting positive parenting and good parent–child attachments and relationships as well as ensuring healthy development.


The ‘National Health Visitor Plan: progress to date and implementation 2013 onwards’ sets out how partner organisations will work with the health profession, families and communities to achieve government’s health visiting commitment.  You can read it here


The Department of Health has developed a fact sheet for parents called ‘Getting to know your health visiting and school nursing service’.  It outlines what parents can expect from their local services and how health visitors can support children from 0-5 and their families.  You can view it here



Professional guidance for health visiting – domestic violence and abuse


In June 2013 the Department of Health published guidance for professionals when working with domestic violence and abuse which can be accessed here



Reflective questions:


How is health information shared and used in your situation?


Where you work – how often do health and education professionals meet to learn from each other?


bowl of dessert Eat Better, Start Better project


This project from the School Food Trust is all about helping young children to eat well by working with families and everyone involved in early years health and education.





Did you know?

Children start learning about food at a very early age. The messages they receive during this time lay the foundations for the choices they make about food as they move up to school and beyond. With more than one in five children overweight or obese as they start their reception year, it’s never been more important to help them get a healthy start in life.

That’s why the School Food Trust is leading work to help early years professionals meet children’s nutritional needs more consistently, and to help families with young children to develop the cooking skills and confidence they need to cook and eat more healthily.


The work is commissioned by the Department for Education with support from its Voluntary and Community Sector Grant.


The Eat Better, Start Better project involves:


  • Development of new voluntary ‘Food and Drink Guidelines for Early Years Settings in England: A Practical Guide’. These guidelines will be available for all early years settings across England, along with practical resources and tools such as menus and recipes, portion size information, checklists and an early years code of practice for food and drink.
  • A comprehensive training package. Two courses will be piloted in five local authority areas between November 2011 and March 2012. One course is for early years and health professionals in local authorities and Primary Care Trusts to help them support settings in using the voluntary guidelines and to help make sure that the guidelines are working well. The second course is for early years practitioners, to help them to understand the guidelines and how to run healthy cooking sessions with families.


Log on to the School Food Trust website for updates on the Eat Better, Start programme and on the local authorities taking part in the School Food Trust pilot.


Physical activity guidelines


In July 2011 the UK Governments published new physical activity guidelines and for the first time these included guidelines specifically for the under 5s. The British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health (BHFNC) has produced two information booklets which are designed to give early years practitioners and health professionals help with using these guidelines effectively and to provide practical tips.

In recognition of the emerging evidence supporting the promotion of physical activity in the early years, the BHFNC has also produced an evidence briefing, which is designed for professionals who require a detailed review of the evidence base available for physical activity and the early years.

Information is included on:

  • Physical and psychological health outcomes of physical activity
  • Factors influencing physical activity
  • Current levels of physical activity
  • Increasing levels of physical activity
  • Measuring physical activity
  • Public health guidelines for physical activity
  • Implications for practice.

Find out more… (click to open)

  1. Healthy Child Programme - the NHS framework for provision in the foundation years is being made available to all families via health visitors
  2. Health Visitor Implementation Plan 2011-15: a call to action – Explains the new health visiting service and sets out the plans to recruit 4,200 extra health visitors
  3. Preview – Evidence based materials to anticipate need and what needs to be done to support the child and family
  4. Family Nurse Partnership – an intensive home-visiting programme to improve the outcomes of vulnerable young first time mothers
  5. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health - RCPCH is responsible for training and examining paediatricians in the UK
  6. Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists - the professional body for speech and language specialists in the UK
  7. Royal College of Midwives - the professional body and trade union led by midwives for midwives



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Comments (2)

  1. Izetta Belman, April 19, 2012
    Whoa, it really is helpful and straightforward to be conscious of!
  2. Emma, June 18, 2012
    This is great information and something we are actively doing at our sites at the moment

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