Since we started, we have been working on an ambitious transformation programme to support better outcomes for Southend’s youngest children and we have implemented many of the planned services in our first two years.

Following discussions with the Big Lottery Fund, our grant funder, we can confirm our new focus until 2019 of improving outcomes in Diet and Nutrition for both pregnant women and children under 4 in the A Better Start Southend wards.

We commissioned a key research project[1] last year looking into maternal and infant healthy eating strategy. This found that Southend is above the national average on a number of key measures, including obesity rates and fast food outlets per person, than almost any area in the UK. We also know that infant and maternal health play a central role in supporting all other aspects of child development and that there is a need to address diet, nutrition and levels of maternal and childhood obesity in Southend.

This helped the Better Start Southend Partnership Board decide on the focus for us over the next couple of years to improve these outcomes for our children.

Although we are focusing on diet and nutrition over the next couple of years, we will continue to deliver our existing services in the areas of Social and Emotional Development and Communications and Language. These include our Let’s Talk programme for example. Our new focus fits into our wider ambitions to address social and emotional development and communications and language skills and we will be able to take full advantage of the existing strengths of Southend’s public health infrastructure.

The Diet and Nutrition focus allows us to emphasise our parent-focused approach to programme development and delivery. This will ensure we have a solid platform to deliver effectively over the course of the programme for the benefit of children living in the ABSS wards. We will be looking at the design of services and evaluating their effectiveness in collaboration with parents and the community, with the programme being shaped by evidence of what actually works. And we will continue to contribute to the wider learning and development of the national A Better Start programme.

Our short-term emphasis will also be on delivering a refined range of services and using the learning from these to inform how we put in place the wider programme.

We will be measuring key outcomes, for example ensuring more children will be healthier as more mothers will initiate and sustain breastfeeding, reducing the risk of illnesses such as diarrhoea and vomiting and respiratory infections.

We will reach the people who will benefit most in a variety of settings including early years and community venues, as well as peoples’ homes. Offering practical support for families where the need for intervention is clear, we will help to build the evidence base around interventions.

“By focusing on diet and nutrition we will be able to take full advantage of the existing strengths of Southend’s public health infrastructure and the strong appetite to deliver change. Our programme of work will allow us to support the efforts of our partners, develop new projects and approaches, learn from our shared experiences, and build something that will benefit Southend, both now and in the future.” Neil Leitch, Chair, Better Start Southend Partnership Board


[1] The ABSS PACEC Childhood Obesity Study (Sept 2016)



Article published May 2017

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