Children’s early years impact on their health and wellbeing for the rest of their life. The HSE’s Nurture Programme gives Irish parents practical, accessible and evidence-based information to empower them to take up their role as experts in their children, giving them the best start in life.
From pregnancy through to the child’s third birthday, parents, on average, will meet a healthcare professional at least 25 times. The Nurture Programme focuses on the relationship between healthcare professionals and parents.
Improving Our Children’s Health award
The programme, which earned the Improving Our Children’s Health award at the HSE Health Service Excellence Awards this year, is a quality improvement initiative designed to improve information and professional supports provided to parents during pregnancy and the first three years of life.
The judges at the Excellence Awards noted that the project used that evidence-based practice that engages all the relevant stakeholders ‘in order to make things better’ for the community.
The Nurture Programme uses antenatal education standards and information, online and print resources for parents and professionals, a standardised national record, and a blended-learning training programme
Evidence-based best practice
A unique feature is the application of current evidence-based best practice to child health across a number of channels and platforms, and the extensive engagement with parents and professionals to ensure consistency of message and promote positive health behaviours.
Two of the key achievements of the programme have been the website, MyChild.ie, which has had over 3.1 million page views since 2019 and more than one million users, and the child health information books. Over 154,000 of the books were distributed to parents throughout 2019. There are three books in total - My Pregnancy; My Child: 0 to 2 years; and My Child: 2 to 5 years.
The website and books provide invaluable and practical information on pregnancy, labour and birth, everyday care for babies and toddlers, as well as parenting advice, supports and entitlements. The information was all compiled through the completion of 16 focus groups and online surveys. Over 4000 parents responded to surveys.
Staff consultation and user testing involved over 500 staff working in child health services.
The programme is led by Programme Manager Anne Pardy, and is a partnership between the HSE, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Katherine Howard Foundation, and the Centre for Effective Services.