By a Newsnet reporter
A pioneering programme which provides support to first-time young parents is to be extended to more areas of Scotland, Health Secretary Alex Neil announced today. The Family Nurse Partnership programme, which aims to give children a healthier start in life, is to be brought in to Lanarkshire and Highland.
The programme is already up and running in Lothian, Tayside, Fife, Glasgow and Ayrshire & Arran.
Family nurses visit expectant mums every one or two weeks during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of their baby’s life, offering guidance and supporting mothers to make positive choices on areas such as child development, preventative health measures, parenting skills, breastfeeding, better diet information and on education and employment.
The programme will be up and running in Highland by early next year, and will see a team of four nurses supporting 100 families. In Lanarkshire, 250 families will be supported by ten nurses when the programme starts later next year.
The average cost of the project is £3,000 per client, per year, with the programme lasting two-and-a-half years. The programme’s main aims are to improve maternal health, child health and development, and family economic self-sufficiency. It addresses elements of the three big key social policy areas – health inequalities, child poverty and early years.
The programme is the brainchild of Dr David Olds, Professor of Paediatrics and Director, Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health, University of Colorado. In certain US states where similar programmes have operated since the late 1970s, studies have shown that this kind of intervention significantly improves the health and well-being of families.
Children in families assisted by the programme are more likely to perform well at school, enjoy better overall health, and are less likely to suffer abuse or neglect.
Mothers helped by the programme are less likely to have subsequent pregnancies, typically wait longer between pregnancies than mothers without such support, and are more likely to find paid employment.
Making his first announcement as Health Secretary, Mr Neil said:
“I am delighted to be able to announce that this groundbreaking programme will be supporting even more families across Scotland. NHS Lanarkshire has been nominated to introduce the programme due to the high levels of need in the area and I am sure this will be welcomed locally. This is also great opportunity to work with Highland, an area of Scotland which is pioneering the integration of health and social care. This will help us to explore the benefits of delivering such an intensive programme in a formally integrated health and social care environment.
“The programme has been running in the US for a number of years and has had some very impressive results for the parents involved and their children.
“The programme has been running in Lothian for two and a half years now and evaluation of the impact of the project so far has similar positive results.
“Intervening at the earliest possible opportunity to support those in our society who are most in need is the key to improving Scotland’s health. That’s why I am delighted that even more children and their parents are going to benefit from this programme.
“I am keen to work with all health boards across Scotland to prepare them for delivering the FNP programme in the future.”