Investing in Parenthood to Achieve Best Health for Children Strategy Document

27 Feb 2002

Ministers Dermot Ahern and Mary Hanafin addressed an international conference on supporting parents on Wednesday, 27th February at Dublin Castle. The conference launched a major new initiative to develop more effective supports for parents in rearing their children.The following is the Executive Summary of the strategy document launched at the conference, for further details please visit the Best Health for Children's website www.besthealthforchildren.comInvesting in Parenthood to Achieve Best Health for Children Strategy DocumentExecutive SummaryThis is the third strategy document produced by Best Health for Children at the behest of the CEOs of the Health Boards, the first focusing on children aged 0 -12, and the second on adolescents aged 12-18. The purpose of the strategy is to identify a strategic approach to supporting parents in order to achieve best health for children. It also proposes to support, reinforce, and act as a vehicle for the implementation of relevant aspects of existing national strategies that pertain to supporting parents.The strategy is based on the deliberations of the Supporting Parents Sub- committee of the National Conjoint Child Health Committee, two academic reviews commissioned for the project, consultations with parents themselves.The strategy vision is a society in which children have the right to be cared for by people who are supported in the role of parenthood. The principles of investing in parenthood are:Make the rights and well being of children a priorityView parents as key to the child's health and well beingView parents as expertsSupport parents as individualsFacilitate access to supportsBuild on what is thereDevelop a partnership approachWork on an interagency and interdepartmental basisPlan in a locally responsive wayThe first chapter of Investing in Parenthood outlines the current status of children in the country examining issues of mortality, breastfeeding, immunisation, mental health, injuries, lifestyle and the more macro issues of poverty, educational disadvantage, housing and play and leisure. The policy context of children's health is explored. The second chapter introduces the development of the strategy from its commissioning by the CEOs to consultations with parents.Chapter three is an important chapter in the document in that it presents the evidence base for supporting parents, drawing on a literature review and the two academic reviews commissioned from Queens University Belfast and University College Dublin on this topic. Some key points include the evidence for early intervention, for supporting parents as individuals in their own right and as key to their children's health, the importance of prevention and thereby the need for universal as well as targeted supports. Key areas for intervention in children's health identified are, smoking prevention or cessation, antenatal education, parenting programmes, immunisation, breastfeeding, health promoting schools, home visiting and community capacity building. The fourth chapter reviews key areas of current parent support activities in Ireland. The services are examined through the life cycle and examples of support identified.Chapter Five outlines the recommendations of the strategy. Overall the following is called for:Universal and targeted support for parentsMulti-agency and cross-departmental workingPeople centered and community development approachesPromotion of children's rightsSpecific service developments are detailed under the following headings:There should be lifelong learning and preparation for parenthood.Parents should have access to appropriate and accessible information.Parents should have access to locally available and affordable childcare and pre-school education services.All parents and children should have access to quality care and support services.Parents and children should have representation and opportunities for involvement in service planning, development, delivery and evaluation.Parents and children should have access to a society and environment that is family friendly.In relation to structural developments, recommendations are made at both National and County/City level. It is suggested that the Minister for Children should refer the document to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Children and a multi-agency Task Force be set up which would report within a 12 month period. Specific recommendations are made in relation to the development of structures and the timeframes for implementation of this strategy. It is suggested that the Task Force should assign responsibility for tasks and functions identified and decide how best they fit in with other national and county level developments.