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Opportunities to protect and improve our children’s health? by Kim Moonlight

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kim-moonlightAs a midwife I have a long association with the NHS antenatal and newborn screening programmes and the broader public health agenda to support maternal and child health. I currently work as the senior quality assurance adviser across the north east, Yorkshire and the Humber providing specialist clinical advice on antenatal and newborn screening programmes to providers and commissioners.

We know getting a good start in life, building emotional resilience and getting maximum benefit from education are the most important markers for good health and wellbeing throughout life. How we care for infants shapes their lives.

80% of brain cell development takes place by age three.  Early attachment and good maternal mental health shapes a child’s later emotional, behavioural and intellectual development.

Enabling children to achieve their full potential and be physically and emotionally well provides the cornerstone for a healthy, productive adulthood.

Health promotion and addressing wider public health issues for the woman and her family throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period enhances long term health and outcomes for both women and babies.  Early access to maternity services is key to ensuring women receive information on maternity care and their screening choices.  School nurses are well placed to promote early access to maternity services.

Ensuring every child has the best start in life and reducing poor outcome includes:

  • Whole system approach for linked antenatal and newborn screening pathways which includes partnership working
  • Early access to maternity services, including risk assessment and choices for antenatal screening
  • Specialist services for hard to reach, vulnerable groups of women
  • Service design and innovative management of care and engagement
  • Harnessing IT developments to promote early engagement

Remember, most babies are healthy and won't have any of the conditions the screening tests are looking for. For those babies who do have a health problem, the benefits of screening can be enormous. Early treatment can improve their health and prevent severe disability or even death.

Kim Moonlight, Senior QA advisor (antenatal and newborn), PHE Screening - Screening Quality Assurance Service (North)

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