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“CMO endorsement important to A Better Start”

24 October 2013

The Chief Medical Officer’s report has today been published with a recommendation that Directors of Public Health support the work of Big Lottery Fund programmes and share learning from them.

Kate Billingham CBE is Senior Advisor for Family Nurse Partnership International and consultant in prevention in early life. She is also a member of the A Better Start steering group and her expertise in nursing and health, alongside our other experts, has been invaluable to the development of Big Lottery Fund’s investment in 0-3 year olds.

In this guest blog, Kate explains why the Chief Medical Officer’s endorsement is so important.

Kate Billingham

Kate Billingham

I’ve become a broken record, speaking at great length about how important it is to involve health services in the Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start programme. Time to move on I hear you say and I agree. A Better Start is first and foremost about the children and those who nurture and care for them.

Over the next ten years we need to show that we have made a noticeable difference to the outcomes of our most disadvantaged children, by changing what they eat, how they communicate and their emotional and social development.

At the same time we need to know what it was that worked, why and how, as well as having systems in place and methods for sustaining, replicating and scaling the learning across the country. This is a tall order and not for the feint-hearted.

Thankfully we are not starting from scratch. There are great families out there, skilful practitioners and experienced leaders amongst you, and in this country we have a fine tradition of serving pregnant women, babies and new parents.

Recent history has given a strong legacy of statutory services and initiatives to build on such as the Healthy Child Programme, the Family Nurse Partnership, Sure Start Children’s Centres, Health Visitor expansion and the Two Year Old Child Care offer. All of these have given A Better Start valuable foundational learning and evidence and some have only just got going. All will need cross-sectoral collaboration and change to become sustainable and effective.

A Better Start will be about new and different interventions and I look forward to hearing about these. However, local areas would do well to look at building quality into these core statutory services so that they fulfill their own potential as well as those of the children they serve.

Much of this work comes under the purview of health because of our public health history and the fragile nature of human development in early life. This is why Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies’  endorsement of A Better Start is so important and why we welcome her call for local Directors of Public Health to support the programme.

There I go again batting on about health…

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