About the The Nurture Programme - Infant Health and Wellbeing

What is The Nurture Programme?

It's a new programme of work designed to improve the information and professional supports that we provide to parents during pregnancy and the first three years of their baby's life.  It's a partnership between the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Katharine Howard Foundation (KHF) and the Centre for Effective Services.

The aim of The Nurture Programme is to support parents and healthcare professionals in their respective caring and service provision roles.

Why are these early years so important?

National and international research shows time and again that what happens to a child during pregnancy and the first three years of life will influence the child’s health and wellbeing for their lifetime.  By providing high-quality care and information at an early stage, we can support parents in their caring role and, in turn, help to ensure children attain lifelong improved health and wellbeing.

Why invest in the first three years of a child’s life?

Early intervention and prevention create the best possible outcomes for children. It helps children meet their developmental goals and offers them the best chance of living a happy and fulfilled life.  Prevention and early intervention is also the most economical way to help children and families, reducing long-term dependency on a range of state services. 

What services will be involved in The Nurture Programme?

Ireland’s national child health programme is delivered by hospital-based maternity services, and primary care teams in every community in the State.  It includes maternity and infant care, the first visit from the Public Health Nurse after baby comes home, and a supportive schedule of child health reviews, vaccinations and screening provided by GPs, PHNs and Community Medical Doctors.  This service is free to all children and aspects of these services will be involved in the improvements associated with The Nurture Programme.  Our healthcare professionals will be involved and supported with training, development and enhanced information for themselves and for parents.

What difference will the Nurture Programme make?

The Nurture Programme will build on the best practice already in place in our services, and ensure that best practice is delivered consistently across all our services.  It will take an evidence-based approach to develop and improve services on an ongoing basis.  We will build a universal, consistent, national approach to the delivery of quality services for all infants and their families.

We also commit to ensuring that parents are at the heart of our work, and are involved in the development of the Programme and all its resources.  We will identify the information, advice and support that parents need around pregnancy and early years, and how and where they want to get that support. This will be done by taking into account what we learn from consulting parents and reviewing local and international research evidence.  We will help parents to understand the journey they will take through the health services – parents will know what they can expect at each stage and will receive clear and consistent messages, advice and support at each step of their journey.

What sort of practical things will we see over the next two to three years as part of The Nurture Programme?

  • Development of a new parenting and child health website, for parents and for healthcare staff. This will be the trusted source for all health and wellbeing information that parents, and health care professionals, need.
  • Provision of information and advice to people planning to get pregnant so that they can give their child the best start in life.
  • Additions to the existing suite of Caring for your Baby and Child books and website, creating a new Healthy Pregnancy book and online content.
  • Development of standards for antenatal classes and resources to support their delivery.
  • Provision of universal access to the Child Safety Awareness Programme to guard against accidental deaths and unintentional injuries to babies and infants.
  • Training for practitioners to identify when a parent needs additional support, advice or information and access to effective referral pathways to specialist services when needed.
  • Promotion of Infant Mental Health, covering topics like bonding with baby, parent-child communications and supporting baby’s early learning and development.
  • Provide additional supports to mothers to breastfeed whenever possible.
  • Supporting the roll-out of a parent-held child health record.

The Nurture Programme - Infant Health and Wellbeing is being led, co-ordinated and delivered by the National Primary Care and National Health and Wellbeing Divisions, supported by the Katharine Howard Foundation (KHF), Community Foundation for Ireland (CFI) and the Centre for Effective Services (CES).  The Katharine Howard Foundation (KHF) is the managing agent for the AP grant. 

The Nurture Programme - Infant Health and Wellbeing Brochure (PDF)