Positive and strong parenting is important in creating the right environment for children to grow up in and in preparing them for life. NCPHWR research and interventions have looked to support and help families with an aim to stop problems developing in the first place.
NCPHWR Researchers Verity Bennett, Professor Sinead Brophy, Professor Shantini Paranjothy and Charlotte Todd talk about their research around prevention and explain why supporting families is so important in healthy development.
Verity Bennett, NCPHWR Researcher, based in Cardiff University
30 babies and toddlers go to hospital with a hot drink burn every day. These almost always occur at home and take parents by surprise. A child is most at risk as they start to become mobile and explore the world for themselves. Pulling a hot cup of tea from a surface within in reach is the number one way that these children are burned. A burn in childhood is extremely traumatic for the child and their family, and the physical and psychological effects can last a lifetime.
To tackle and help prevent this substantial public health challenge, I worked with the Children’s Burns Research Centre at Cardiff University to design, develop and test the feasibility of a community-based intervention in collaboration with Cardiff Flying Start. A suite of multi-media materials, including fridge magnets, posters, reach-charts, flyers, short videos and activities were trialled by Health Visitors, Community Nursery Nurses and playgroup staff in Cardiff. Staff were trained in hot drink scalds epidemiology, prevention and first aid and then delivered the intervention over 6 months in 2016-17.
Based on all of the findings and feedback from parents and health professionals, new artwork and improved materials have been developed and videos for social media have now been professionally produced. We are currently planning to launch ‘SafeTea’ via a social media campaign, and the materials will be supported in downloadable format on a web-hub. Going live on October 16th 2019 SafeTea aims to reduce the incidence and severity of hot drink scalds for small children across the UK and improve parents’ knowledge of burns first aid.
Developing new low-cost methods for delivering injury prevention interventions is vital for public health in our current economic climate. By hosting our materials online we hope to increase accessibility and reach of our materials and methods to prevent the trauma of childhood burns and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
Professor Sinead Brophy, NCPHWR researcher, based at Swansea University
Childhood obesity is a major challenge to public health. In Wales the first National Child Measurement Programme, published in 2013, found that 22% of reception class pupils (4–5 year olds) were found to be overweight or obese.
To help tackle and understand this health challenge we undertook a study which explored the main barriers to dietary choices faced by parents with infants, and the types of interventions and policy recommendations parents themselves would like to see put in place, to promote a healthier food environment.
Family and parents have considerable influence on a child’s healthy weight. Parents identified triggers which led to unhealthy dietary choices such as reliance on fast food outlets due to; shift work, lack of access to personal transport, inability to cook, their own childhood dietary experiences, peer pressure and family relationships.
Parents recommended that ‘fast food’ outlets to be restricted, there should be a reduction in supermarket promotion of unhealthy food and improved access to affordable and high-quality fresh produce in the local area and in supermarkets, there should also be more emphasis in schools to promote healthy eating and more direct engagement between parents and schools. The study revealed the need for the provision of targeted advice to fathers, minority ethnic parents, and tailored and practical advice and information on how to purchase, prepare, store and cook food was requested, along with community cookery classes and improved school cookery lessons.
The recommendations from this study provide health professionals, local and national policy makers, the media and the food industry – with a valuable insight into the various barriers to health eating that parents encounter. The findings can be used in prevention by engaging with the public, to challenge causes of inequality in dietary consumption, and to tailor information towards those most in need.
Professor Shantini Paranjothy, NCPHWR researcher, based at Cardiff University
It is estimated that up to 30% of children live with an adult who has an alcohol related health problem or a mental disorder.
Previous research has indicated that exposure to adverse childhood experiences, including mental illness and alcohol misuse in the family, is associated in adulthood with substance misuse, mental ill-health, obesity, heart disease, cancer, unemployment, and involvement in violence.
However, little was known about the effects of exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as mental health conditions and alcohol misuse in the family on a child’s physical health.
Our study showed that children living in families affected by mental health conditions and alcohol misuse are more likely to have emergency admissions during childhood. This highlights the importance of providing support for these families. In addition, continued efforts should be made to address socio-economic inequalities – which our study shows are a major contributing factor to emergency hospital admissions for children.
We have shown that alcohol misuse and mental disorders are prevalent in young families. New interventions are needed to support affected young families to ensure a healthy childhood for their children.
Charlotte Todd, NCPHWR Researcher, based at Swansea University
Depression in young people can lead to poor health and social outcomes. As a result, the World Health Organisation has highlighted the need to identify what puts people at the greatest risk of developing depression – so that services can be designed in response.
Having a parent with depression is known to be a major risk factor in the development of depression in a young person. However, how much of that risk comes from the child living with a parent who is depressed? And is there still a risk for children whose mum or dad had a previous history of depression before they were born? Is this risk different depending on whether your mum or dad had depression? As a team, we are exploring these questions in more detail.
Our research involves studying data from 500,000 children, over 250,000 mums and 100,000 dads.
Early results show that risks of developing depression and failing school exams are highest in children of parents who had depression both before and after the birth of their child, showing the length of time the parent had depression to be important. Whilst the risk is slightly more in mums, living with a depressed dad also made children much more likely to go on to develop depression and fail school exams.
We believe that early intervention is key to improving child outcomes. Some of our key recommendations include:
- Investing in early family intervention, where depression is present in either parent may contribute largely to the prevention agenda, improving an array of child outcomes.
- Traditionally, health visiting and other interventions in this field have placed a large focus on depression screening and intervention in mums. Greater awareness of depression in dads is required.
- A more holistic approach, which considers the whole person (body, emotions and mind), to addressing mental health among families is needed.
Helping parents with depression could have lasting benefits for the child. Importantly, our results can be used now to inform interventions and services to help prevent and ultimately improve outcomes for both families and children.
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