A briefing to help commissioners improve the health and wellbeing of babies, children and young people through effective health visiting has been launched by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The briefing summarises some of its existing recommendations relevant to health visiting from a number of guidance topics. The recommendations included focus on those linking to the Department of Health’s six early years high impact areas to support the transition of health visiting services commissioning to local authorities.
Following the recommendations will assist local authorities in commissioning high quality health visiting services, which make best use of resources and provide good value for money. For example, breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood illnesses and supporting more women to breastfeed could save an estimated £17 million in treatment costs in the UK each year.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: “Health visitors play a vital role from the earliest days of a child’s life in helping create an environment that promotes healthy development. Giving babies and children the best start in life can have long-term benefits for their health and wellbeing as they grow up.
The health visiting team’s expertise means that families and carers receive valuable advice and support, and that action is taken when needed to ensure that children receive any extra help required. For example health visitors skilled at assessing child development are well placed to identify problems and help families and carers in supporting all children aged five to be ready for starting school.
“From October 2015, local authorities will take full responsibility for commissioning public health services for children up to the age of five. Putting the recommendations highlighted in this briefing into practice will help local authorities and their partner organisations to support members of the health visiting team, and commission effective public health services.”
The recommendations signposted in the health visiting briefing include:
• Preparing people for parenthood and supporting families in the early weeks after birth.
• Promoting and supporting breastfeeding, and advising on dietary supplements for breastfeeding at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
• Maintaining a healthy weight among families: improving diet and increasing physical activity.
• Supporting maternal mental wellbeing.
NICE has also published a briefing to help local authorities understand how to to use evidence to inform decisions about public health issues. ‘Using evidence in practice’ is a step-by-step guide on how different types of information – for example formal research, community surveys or clinical results – can be used to inform decisions about commissioning and practice. It advises what to do when the ‘formal’ evidence is poor or missing, how to take account of equality issues and the context of the evidence available. It also includes useful case studies of councils which have used different sources of evidence to support their decision-making processes.