Welcome to the twentieth edition of our A Better Start Southend Research Bulletin, bringing you the latest on ‘what works’ in early years around our outcomes: Social and Emotional Development, Diet and Nutrition, Communications and Language, Community Resilience and Systems Change.

Your regular update, edited by Rachel Wood, also shows how we are using these findings to influence our work in Southend. In addition, we invite you to help shape our ‘test and learn’ projects and innovations in prevention and early intervention.

If you would like to contribute an article, want to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please e-mail: abssresearch@pre-school.org.uk

 Contents:
England Health of Children in the Early Years (Systems Change)
Language Tasks in the Early Years (Communications and Language)
Anxiety in Pregnancy (Social and Emotional)
Breastfeeding and Cognitive Ability (Diet and Nutrition)


England Health of Children in the Early Years (Systems Change)

Title: Health Profile for England: 2018 – Chapter 4: Health of Children in the Early Years, Public Health England

Research source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-profile-for-england-2018

Publication date: 11th September 2018

Our Summary: The profile argues that overall child health in England has continued to improve, with many recent improvements being sustained.

The main messages are:

  • Women who smoke during pregnancy has fallen over time to 8% (2017-2018);
  • 21% of women were classified as obese during the early stages of pregnancy in December 2017 (new Maternity Dataset);
  • Among babies born at full term, 8% had a low birthweight in 2016;
  • 5% of all babies received breast milk for their first feed in 2016-2017;
  • Breastfeeding sustainment fell to 4% at 6-8 weeks;
  • By age 5 years, 22.6% of children were overweight, and 23.3% had tooth decay (2016-2017).

Health inequalities were argued to be found across all the indicators presented.

School readiness is also seen as an important social determinant of health “in that better development at this early age improves a child’s ability to make the most of his or her learning opportunities, achieving higher grades and better employment prospects.” (p17)

It is also reported that there is “published evidence of a social gradient in early child development at age 2 to 2 ½ years which is especially noticeable in the development of communication skills” (p3).

Editor’s note: You can access the latest public health data for Southend-on-Sea here.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • We regularly evaluate our progress against our ABSS outcomes framework in terms of outcomes in the early years.

Help us help Southend

  • What other projects do you think could make a positive impact on health equality?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@pre-school.org.uk


Language Tasks in the Early Years (Communications and Language)

Title: Mator, J. Mensah, F. Cook, F. and Reilly, S. (2018), Investigation of the language tasks to include in a short-language measure for children in the early years, International Journal of Language and Communication Disorder, vol. 53, no 4, pp735-747

Research source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29457324

Publication date: July 2018

Our Summary: The report argues that there is potential for the development of a short-language measure. However, there is a lack of evidence about which combination of language tasks, should be included in terms of the early years.

The analysis looked at eight language tasks including direction-following, morphological-completion, sentence-recall, sentence-formation, syntactic-understanding and word association, non-word repetition and a receptive vocabulary task.

The most effective combination was found to be direction following and a sentence-recall task.

The authors note that this was a small-scale study, however on this basis there is potential for an accurate short-language measure.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • We are running a wide range of projects and free activities to support children’s communications and language. The latest offer is available on our website.
  • We are currently ‘testing and learning’ a universal screening tool and validating it against the standardised Pre-School Language Scale-5.

Help us help Southend

  • In what further ways do you think that we could contribute to such studies in going forward?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@pre-school.org.uk


Anxiety in Pregnancy (Social and Emotional)

Title: Nath, S. Ryan, EG. Trevillion. K. Bick, D. Demilew, J. Milgrom, J. Pickles, A. and Howard, LM. (2018), Prevalence and identification of anxiety disorders in pregnancy: the diagnostic accuracy of the two-item Generalised Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-2), BMJ Open 2018, 8:e023766

Research source: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/9/e023766

Publication date: July 2018

Our Summary: The study aims to look at the prevalence of anxiety disorder using the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-2). This was undertaken in a single maternity unit in London.

545 pregnant women were interviewed at their first antenatal appointment. The results found that there was:

  • 17% anxiety disorders;
  • 5% Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD);
  • 4% social phobia;
  • 2% Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD);
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was unclear or difficult to predict.

The study concluded that there were many false positives, in early pregnancy and that further research maybe needed into the accuracy and acceptability of Whooley (evidence based), GAD-7 and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Score (EPDS).

How we’re applying this in Southend

* We use a wide range of measures to evaluate our progress against outcomes including the GAD-2 where it has been routinely collected;

* This will help us assess our progress against our ABSS outcomes.

Help us help Southend

  • In what ways can we use this sort of information to help shape our services and activities?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@pre-school.org.uk


Breastfeeding and Cognitive Ability (Diet and Nutrition)

Title: Boutwell, BB. Young, JTN. and Meldrum, RC. (2018), On the positive relationship between breastfeeding and intelligence, American Psychological Association, vol. 54. No 8, pp 1426-1433

Research source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29952603

Publication date: August 2018

Our Summary: The study argues that there is a wide range of evidence that has looked at the possible association between breastfeeding and the development of cognitive abilities.

The study looked at a national sample of 790 US respondents to test using the data they argue that there would appear to be an association. However, they state that they would be unable to gain any clarity as to how this might take place. Importantly they also found that there was no reason based on the study to, “suspect that non-breastfed children will lag substantially behind their breastfed peers” (p1432).

How were applying this in Southend

Help us help Southend

  • What other ways might we support breast and infant feeding?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@pre-school.org.uk

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