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Making progress on children and young people's health

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Giving children and young people the best start in life

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.

life course approach

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.

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  1. Comment by Elaine Church posted on

    This is very much welcomed however what is PHE doing about increasing self harm (now in peer groups) depression and eating disorders in young people? Access to the internet 24hrs a day, issues with self esteem, cyber bullying and the push on academic achievement at the expense of focussing on emotional health and well being and developing resilience appears to be fuelling an ever increasing toxic mix. Issues with the quality of CAMHS and delays in accessing appropriate psychotherapeutic support in a timely and flexible way are also a problem.

    • Replies to Elaine Church>

      Comment by Ann Hoskins posted on

      Thank you for your comments, Elaine. We recognise the importance that technology and youth cultures have on the wellbeing of children and young people. This offers both risks, such as bullying, as well as opportunities to provide advice and support. These are issues we in PHE are looking at as part of our priority work on emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people, and also how carers are supported.

      In August 2013 we published a briefing on How healthy behaviour supports children's wellbeing

      PHE will be publishing a framework tested with schools to help them to understand more fully the tangible actions that make up a universal whole-school approach to emotional health and wellbeing.

      We are also developing an evidence review on Valuing Wellbeing from the Start, which will be published on our website later this year.

      Finally, we will be publishing in the Spring and adolescent health and wellbeing framework, which will include issues on emotional health and wellbeing and the youth context.

  2. Comment by Brian Dobson posted on

    Does PHE support the movement towards a statutory requirement on schools to provide comprehensive Personal, Social and Health Education? What contribution are you making to the debate? Do you work with PSHE specialists to identify the potential contribution of schools to public health?

    • Replies to Brian Dobson>

      Comment by Ann Hoskins posted on

      PHE recognises and values the significant contribution that education settings can potentially make to improving outcomes for children, young people and their families. The effective delivery of PSHE has a contribution to make as an integral and important part of a whole school approach.

      PHE noted the finding of the Ofsted PSHE inspection report that there was a close correlation between the grades the schools in the survey were awarded for overall effectiveness in their last Section 5 inspection, and their grade for PSHE education. All but
      two of the schools graded outstanding at their last section 5 inspection were also graded outstanding for PSHE education, and none were less than good.

      PHE is working collaboratively with partners, including the PSHE
      Association, Sex Education Forum, Local Authority teams, colleagues
      across the Education Sector and others to develop a framework to
      support schools and FE to implement evidence based practice to improve
      outcomes for children, young people and families.

  3. Comment by Francine Bates posted on

    We note that one of your priorities for this year is reducing infant deaths. Can we meet with you and your team to discuss this please as The Lullaby Trust (formerly Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths) would very much like to be part of this work.
    Thank You
    Francine Bates
    Chief Executive
    0208 802 3203