PHE has an important leadership role on the prevention and promotion of health and well-being for children and young people. We know from research that a good start in the early years through to adolescent years is important for children and young people’s health and well-being and that adverse experiences in childhood affect outcomes in later life. Many of the studies on adverse childhood experiences are from the USA, but last year research in Blackburn and Darwen showed a similar pattern in the UK. So the importance of ‘getting it right’ for children matters, not only for their present and future health and well-being, but also for the future prosperity of the country.
In the children, young people and family team during this first year of PHE we have taken a life course approach. Our work programme has included pregnancy, early years, school age and adolescents with cross cutting themes of health inequalities and ensuring that children and young people’s views inform our work. We work closely with the Child and Maternal Health Intelligence Network and have established a vibrant network of PHE staff with an interest in this area – both in the specialist national teams as well as with PHE Centres. I wanted to highlight some of this year’s activities, and look forward to sharing the outcome of all of our work in 2013/14 in April.
An update of the evidence base for the Healthy Child Programme (0-5) years was commissioned, and will be reported on by the Social Research Unit at Dartington, in collaboration with Warwick and Coventry University, by mid-April. This will help inform local authorities as they take on the commissioning of this programme in 2015. We are working closely with the Early Intervention Foundation, which has 20 pilot sites on early intervention for children and young people across England. This collaboration gives us the opportunity to test out the best approaches to implementing evidence based practice in a cost effective way.
Childhood obesity has been a key priority and the six regional events we held across England highlighted some great practice across the country, and have helped inform our forward work plan for 2014/15. One issue that came up frequently, both from researchers presenting their work and public health staff with experience of sharing children’s results with parents as part of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) was that parents often find it difficult to spot if their children are overweight. This was also noted in the Health Survey for England 2012. We have talked about this previously on the blog and intend to explore it more with PHE’s social marketing team in 2014 so that we are able to provide more help to parents.
The National Child Measurement Programme data from the 2012/13 school year, published in December 2013, showed some signs of a stabilisation of the rise in obesity and overweight in year 6 and a slight reduction in reception year. But we can’t be complacent: the levels remain high, and differences in affluent and deprived communities are extremely wide, with the most deprived areas having double the prevalence of child obesity than the least deprived, and the gap is still increasing. The NCMP data by local authority can be viewed in the fingertips tool and are used for the Public Health Outcomes Framework indicator on excess weight in children. There is so much more to do! We need a system-wide approach to promoting healthy weight for all children, and with the Local Government Association we are piloting the inclusion of childhood obesity as a specialist topic in the local authority health and wellbeing peer challenge. Bath and North East Somerset Council will be the first local authority to test this approach, with Peterborough and Blackpool to follow in March. A number of local authorities have expressed an interest in participating later in 2014.
In December we hosted an 'evidence into practice' seminar with researchers to help us identify key messages for schools and Further Education colleges based on evidence linking pupil health and wellbeing and education outcomes. We are using this to publish a briefing for head teachers and to inform our wider work with the education sector.
We are working with experts in the field of adolescent health and wellbeing to develop a framework for local authorities which will help them locally use the evidence base more effectively. We intend to publish this in the spring.
This year we have also been concerned about addressing unintentional injuries and deaths of children and young people. Working with leading national injury prevention agencies, we intend to publish new analysis and information in early April 2014 for local areas to gain a greater understanding of the issue and what they can do locally.
Listening to the views of children and young people is an essential component of how we develop our priorities. We have worked with a small group of school pupils on what matters to them about health and wellbeing, and we will shortly be building on this with another group of young people as they test out our thinking on next year’s priorities.
The table above shows our approach for work in 2013/14 and beyond.
PHE has a vital role in highlighting the importance of prevention, starting with pregnant women, children and young people. I hope that you will join us in developing our work programme – please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.