Ireland’s child health programme is similar to international child health programme models - covering child health reviews, vaccinations and screening (the timing of contacts differs from country to country). The service is free to all children in Ireland and is enshrined in law. Its universal nature facilitates greater acceptability for families as there is equal access for all children.
The totality of the programme is provided from antenatal stage to the first year in second level school by a number of health services across a range of settings, from homes to hospitals:
- Hospitals and GPs provide antenatal and post natal care (including two checks for the baby at two and six weeks) as part of the Maternity & Infant Scheme.
- GPs deliver the primary immunisation programme (up to 13 months) and monitor growth at two and five years as part of the GP Under 6 contract.There is free GP care to all children under the age of six years.
- Public Health Nurses and Community Doctors deliver child health screening, developmental surveillance, key health messages and support to parents in addition to vaccinations to children from birth to first year in second level school (school vaccinations).
- The service is currently delivered through the Best Health for Children/Best Health for Children Revisited model.
As the community-based screening and surveillance service is generally the first service to see the baby in the home environment, it plays a critical role in linking with other related child services to ensure the needs of the child and family are met.