Welcome to the seventh A Better Start Southend Research Bulletin produced by Rachel Wood.

This is your regular update giving you the latest on early years policy, practice and evidence, and how we are using these findings to influence our work in Southend.

If you would like to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please email abetterstart@southend.gov.uk.


Review of commercially produced jars and pouches of baby food marketed in the UK

Workforce development and breastfeeding

Parental Influence and Child Development

Using case studies as part of the research and evaluation process

Disadvantaged children and early education

Review of commercially produced jars and pouches of baby food marketed in the UK

Title: Baby Food in the UK

Research source: http://www.firststepsnutrition.org/pdfs/Baby_Food_in_the_UK%20_2017.pdf

Publication date:  2017

Authors:  Crawley, H. and Westland, S.

Our summary

This report was published by First Steps Nutrition Partnership, a charitable organisation which works closely with such partners as The Baby Friendly Initiative, Best Beginnings and The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

It provides a review of commercially produced jars and pouches of baby foods marketed in the UK. Both national and global recommendations are that babies receive complimentary family healthy (minimally processed) foods. It is also well known that the quality of food at this stage, is often related to obesity in later childhood, and indeed adulthood. The review outlines key issues and comparing home-made and commercial baby foods. It also provides a useful resource to support the introduction of solids and the foods that infants eat in the first year of life. It also argues that it is a good starting point for the debate relating to commercial baby food, and in supporting families to have the confidence to provide cost effective home prepared family meals also suitable for the energy needs of that age group (see Table 7 page 28).

How we’re applying the research in Southend

* By developing new ways in which we can share knowledge and learning with our families and partners;

* Be reflecting the report evidence in the workforce development associated with introducing nutritious foods; and

* By increasing our service development and implementation planning in 2017/2018 on our diet and nutrition related outcomes (e.g. information points and introduction of a 3-5 month universal assessment which includes the introduction of solid foods);

Help us help Southend

* In what ways can we gather information about the ways in which our families approach introducing solids and infant feeding?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Workforce development and breastfeeding

Title: Education and training of healthcare staff in the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to work effectively with breastfeeding women: a systematic review

Research source:  https://internationalbreastfeedingjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13006-016-0097-2

Publication date: 2017

Authors: Gavine, A. MacGillivrans, S. Renfrew, M.J. Siebelt, L. Haggi, H. and McFadden, A.

Our summary

This systematic review starts from evidence that women need effective support to breastfeed. It sets out to review whether staff education and training programmes have an impact on the knowledge and skills of the workforce, and in turn breastfeeding and child outcomes.

The study concludes that there is currently a clear lack of good evidence on staff education and training in terms of breastfeeding. It also proposes that there is a great need for this to be undertaken through the use of Random Control Trials (RCTs). It also argues that this is in contrast to the large number of such trials available in relation to direct support of mothers. This is seen as a great cause of concern in relation to the current international focus on the potential for breastfeeding to both prevent disease and save lives. Despite this some evidence (small but positive significant effects) of post intervention breastfeeding knowledge and attitudes were found in the review. However, the authors are concerned as to the quality of this evidence in terms of methodological quality (e.g. risk of bias). None of the studies examined had been undertaken were UK or US interventions.


Help us help Southend

* What sort of workforce development do you think would be useful in terms of breast and infant feeding?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Parental influence and child development

Title: When can parents most influence their child’s development? Expert knowledge and perceived local realities

Research source:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26945544

Publication date: 2016

Authors: Worthman, C.M. Tomlinson, M. and Rotheram-Borus, M.J.

Our Summary

The report argues that the long term impact in pregnancy and early childhood on development has stimulated a focus on the first 1000 days. This study took place in South Africa. The question asked was:

At what age or stage can a parent or caregiver have the most influence on a child’s development?

There was a general consensus amongst the caregivers asked that they believed that this occurred at adolescence (12 years). Development needs in pregnancy and early childhood were on the other hand seen as more ‘manageable’.

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence for the significant effects of early adversity on outcomes, parents in the study felt that they could impact more on the later age group. Only one parent in the sample of 38 acknowledged the importance of the first 1000 days.

The authors argue that developing a global developmental science and policy maybe challenging against such diversity in traditional parenting practices. They also propose that prevention and early intervention also supports future development that may take place in adolescence.

* If you would like to know more about the ‘The 1001 critical days: the importance of the conception to age two period’ (UK’s first cross-party children’s manifesto) go to: http://www.1001criticaldays.co.uk/

Help us help Southend

* How can we increase awareness of the first 1001 days and infant mental health?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Using case studies as part of the research and evaluation process

Title: Using Case File Data in Research

Research source: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/impact-evidence-evaluation-child-protection/impact-and-evidence-insights/using-case-file-data-in-research

Publication date: 2017

Authors: Hollis, V.

Our summary

This blog looks at how more ‘naturalistic’ or qualitative methods can be integrated into research. Specifically it looks at how case files can provide crucial insight into the needs of a population or a proportion of the population. It also highlights the ethical issues that can be involved in the use of such data e.g. data protection and permissions.

The tips it outlines are as follows:

  • Consider ethical issues before you start;
  • Collecting data and deciding how to use it; and
  • Develop a data extraction form.

The main challenges outlined by the author are as follows:

  • The quality of the data maybe low, and that there may-be a lot of missing or out of date data; and
  • An unintended bias may arise from the process e.g. data selection and interpretation.

Help us help Southend

* What are the biggest challenges to Southend partners in using naturalistic methods of research? How might they be overcome?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Disadvantaged children and early education

Title: Unknown Children – Destined for Disadvantage?

Research source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/helping-disadvantaged-young-children-ofsted-thematic-report

Publication date: 2016

Authors: Ofsted

Our summary

The report argues that although early years education is now at its highest standards, that it is still failing to support the most disadvantaged of children. This is on the basis of data which appears to show that half of these children have the knowledge skills and understanding required for ‘school readiness’. Indeed, there is a 10% increase in the number of children from these areas (18%) that are in early years provision that has been rated by Ofsted as less than good.

The long terms impact of disadvantage if it continues into adulthood are not insignificant, and are argued to be as follows:

  • the unemployment rate in the most deprived local authorities remains more than double that in the least deprived local authorities; and
  • the life expectancy of both men and women in the most deprived local areas is, on average, two to three years lower than those from more affluent communities.

The report found examples of strong leadership in local authority areas where barriers were being removed so that health and educational practitioners could work seamlessly together to achieve this. However, in around half of the areas researched did not have a strategic, coordinated approach to such partnership working, and was not seen as a priority. One example given is that 80,000 children (1/3 of eligibility) nationally did not take up a funded place (2015).

The report outlines nine key findings as well as associated recommendations. Among these are:

  • Tackling the issues facing disadvantaged families and their children requires leaders across children’s services, health and education to have a broader understanding of what it means to be ‘disadvantaged’.
  • Being disadvantaged continues to have a considerable detrimental impact on children.
  • Providing a joined-up service is crucial in tackling disadvantage.

Help us help Southend

* What innovative ways e.g. workforce development could we employ to ensure that child outcomes are improved in our target wards?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

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