The six high impact areas articulate the contribution of health visitors to the 0-5 agenda and describe areas where health visitors have a significant impact on health and wellbeing and improving outcomes for children, families and communities. One of these areas is the two year review, which health visitors in Manchester are making more family friendly. This is also a universal health visiting review offered to all families.
Age 2 – 2½ is a crucial stage when problems such as speech and language delay become visible. During this stage of development, health visitors have a key role in supporting positive parenting and child development and can help to address developmental issues before a child starts school.
The parent-completed Ages & Stages Questionnaires®, Third Edition (ASQ-3™) is one of the tools used to assess the development of a child and is acknowledged as an accurate, family-friendly way to screen children for developmental delays between one month and 5½ years.
It is a highly valid and reliable tool as evidenced by rigorous research through an unparalleled survey of 15,138 diverse children. It uses parent-completed questionnaires to identify children who may need additional help to achieve their developmental milestones by tapping into their in-depth knowledge of their child.
Another known benefit is that it helps it engage parents in assessing the development of their children and to learn about and appreciate their own child’s skills. It is designed to recognise parents as the experts to build their confidence. Despite being such an informative and hugely effective tool, it only takes a parent 10-15 minutes to complete and a practitioner 2-3 minutes to score.
However, in the North while we could see the value of the questionnaire as a tool, we wanted to do more. In conjunction with Health Education England colleagues we were keen to ensure Health Visitors provided a really skilled high quality service through receiving specialised training. We also wanted to give them the opportunity to use the full range of products available. So through a bid supported by the NHS England Health Visitor Transformation Fund we purchased play bags for each health visiting provider to use with parents and children.
The bag is full of interactive child and parent friendly items from teddy bears to first cups to stacking blocks to books to DVDs to weaning spoons. It’s bright and colourful and provides Health Visitors with a professional set of equipment to use in conjunction with the intervention activities recommended in the ASQ 3 pack. They can also be used as a model so additional sets can be purchased and used by other members of the team.
This ‘toolkit’ bag enables parents to see for themselves development stages and how their child uses the key materials that help enable assessment. And for the child, it’s a great excuse to play while Mum or Dad talk to that lovely visitor.
We are now holding train-the-trainer events to ensure that all Health Visitors in the North and hopefully beyond can be trained in this technique. While we would love to provide every Health Visitor with their own ‘official’ pack, we have really thought about what not only are most effective aids but what health visiting teams can easily purchase to create their own ASQ 3 pack.
For us we feel that this approach taps into what health visitors do: use professional expertise, work as leaders in public community health and through their role as leaders and innovators, improve outcomes for young children and their families.
Claire Walker Senior Programme Manager