We know the evidence that the earliest years are critical to future health and wellbeing, setting a pattern for the next generation’s health and happiness. The transfer of commissioning responsibilities for public health services for 0-5 year olds to local authorities opens up real opportunities but, to take advantage of these, we need to understand the data.
Why do we need data?
Put simply, how will you know that babies and toddlers in your council area are as healthy as they could and should be if you can’t compare your data with that for other parts of England? PHE has been working with colleagues from across the NHS and local government to make sure that national reporting of key indicators continues smoothly through and beyond the transfer. We hope that the voluntary interim approach will give local areas a clear picture of the position before the transfer, as well as how things then develop and compare to other parts of the country. The data will give standardised information to demonstrate improvements in commissioning, aid future local planning of service provision and let us compare populations to detect trends in 0-5 year olds’ public health. Given its potential benefits, it’s important that councils take part.
The interim reporting arrangements
The system of interim reporting for breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks and other indicators connected to health visiting services has been developed with the aim of creating as simple a process as possible. To help local councils participate, detailed guidance on the interim reporting arrangements have been published and a dedicated email address is available for any questions.
In the longer term, all data about maternity care and the health and healthcare of children in the community will be held in one source: the Maternity and Children’s Dataset. It is anticipated that the dataset will be fit for reporting purposes from 2017, at which point the interim process will cease.
Taking the next steps with data for 0-5 year olds’ public health
While national reporting of breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks and other indicators related to health visiting services is essential, this is just the bedrock to understanding the public health needs of babies and toddlers. For this reason, the National Child and Maternal (ChiMat) Health Intelligence Network offers a much wider range of evidence and data which will help build a more detailed picture. As ever, the child health profiles are the best starting point before taking a look at the early years’ knowledge hub which gives key reports and policies, latest research, guidance, tools, events and news.
Helen Duncan, Programme Director, Child and Maternal Intelligence Network