The ‘best start for all our children’ is vital for a healthy and thriving future society. All the evidence shows us that what happens in early childhood and the developing years’ impacts on health and well-being and life chances throughout the life course. Supporting parents, children, young people and communities is an investment in both the present and the future for individuals and society as a whole.
PHE plays a leadership role in making sure the needs of our children remain high profile. During this week (17th to 21st) PHE and the Department of Health are running a ‘week of action on the health of children and young people’, supported by a range of NHS local government professional and voluntary sector organisations. There is a range of activity including some great blogs from professionals, parents and young people, journal articles, visits, and social media activity.
PHE has the major system role for evidence to support best practice and services for children and young people’s public health. ‘From Evidence into Action’ sets out our priority for ‘Ensuring every child has the best start in life’ and specifically to achieve outcomes which show an increase in the proportion of children ‘ready to learn at two and ready for school at five’.
The baseline in 2012/13 showed that 52% of children reached a good level of development at the end of their reception year - but only 36% of children eligible for free school meals reached this level.
Working with our partners in local government, health and the voluntary sector, PHE will undertake a range of actions to significantly improve the start of life chances for all children and to reduce inequalities in outcomes. The work will be led by PHE’s Children and Young People Forum (which brings together children’s leads from across our organisation) working with partners nationally and most importantly locally. We remain committed to listening and working with children, young people and parents as part of this work.
We have some key tasks over the next 18 months to make progress on this priority through a range of activities which protect, prevent illness and promote the health of children and young people. These include:
- Supporting local authorities in developing integrated children and young people’s services as they take on commissioning responsibilities for the Healthy Child Programme for 0-5s
- Promoting the importance of high-quality universal services as a foundation for good health for all our children and as a platform for early intervention and targeted support
- Developing and strengthening the evidence, including working with the Early Intervention Foundation as a ‘What Works Centre for Early Intervention’
- Expanding the Start4Life Information Service for Parents from 0-2 years to 0-5 years signing up over 200,000 more parents
- Expanding new born bloodspot screening to include four new inherited metabolic disorders
- Working with NICE on the implementation of the quality standards and pathways for emotional and social wellbeing in early years
- Leading and co-ordinating the Childhood Flu Programme, working with NHS England
- Increasing coverage of measles, mumps and rubella immunisations for all children at five years
As part of developing our priority actions for the Best Start in Life programme, PHE is launching a series of consultation events. The first one is specifically for the voluntary and community sector in recognition of the vital work they do supporting children and families. We will follow this with other events for local government and health leaders, as well as the wider early years’ workforce.
We can all contribute to helping make PHE’s commitment to give every child the best start in life a reality. Start by joining us in #PHPCYPweek – please have a look, leave a comment, make a pledge or join a chat.