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New Community of practice for health visitors working with young parents

30th October 2023

We are delighted to share this Voices blog by Emma Fawkes, a Health Visitor in Southend, about the establishment of a new community of practice for health visitors who work with young parents. 

Emma Fawkes, Health Visitor, Southend

We are developing a new ‘Community of practice’ (COP) for health visitors working with young parents to share best practice and improve the support that these families receive. The COP will be led by health visitors, for health visitors and practitioners working in health visiting teams, with support from the iHV.

The iHV COP aims to bring together practitioners working on topics of shared interest across the UK to facilitate the sharing of ideas, offer support, review evidence-based practice, influence policy and generate potential research ideas.

Many young parents cope well with parenthood and want to do the best for their children. However, young parenthood is both a cause and consequence of health and education inequalities, including higher infant mortality rates, low birthweight and poor maternal mental health, with higher suicide rates (iHV, 2019). Young parents are more likely to have experienced adverse events in their own childhood which can impact on their own child’s start in life ( 2019). Whilst inequalities are not inevitable (Morton and Adams 2022), without effective action to tackle early disadvantage, young parenthood can result in children experiencing fewer opportunities to lead a healthy life. There is also good evidence that early intervention can make a big difference to outcomes for these families. As health visitors, we are at the forefront in being able to connect with young parents in a positive and meaningful way to provide personalised and targeted support to help reduce health inequalities (Early years high impact areas 2021).

It became apparent, when developing a service for young parents in our local area and liaising with other localities, that each area offers a different version of support for young parents within the health visiting service. This sparked ideas for creating a national COP to provide a forum to link in with other health visiting teams working with young parents, to share ideas and create a supportive network. We hope that this will impact positively on the services offered to young parents and enable their children to have the best start in life.

We want to develop the aims, objectives, and terms of reference of the COP together with practitioners who want to join us on this journey. Our initial aims and objectives are:

  • To inspire, energise and support health visitors and health visiting team members working in enhanced and expert roles in relation to young parents through increased networking opportunities.
  • To discover existing support available for young parents, sharing challenges, learning, innovation, and best practice.
  • To develop the evidence base for health visiting targeted interventions in achieving good outcomes for young parents, their children, and families.
  • To generate potential research ideas, with evidence and insight from practice to inform choice and type of research, in turn supporting research that is most meaningful, feasible and acceptable in practice.
  • To implement research findings into practice.
  • To influence service development, promote quality improvement and shape policy.
  • To strengthen the voice of families with lived experience in the design, delivery and evaluation of services and systems.

We held our first online COP with a few local health visitors and practitioners working in this field that we knew about. It was great to meet with like-minded practitioners and share our experiences. At our first meeting, we discussed the services that each area offered, the challenges around providing groups for young parents, and shared success stories and ideas to promote within the groups. All practitioners found this a useful opportunity to network and share ideas, as well as an opportunity to support each other in practice.

We now want to grow our membership and would like to extend the invitation to other health visitors and health visiting team members working across the UK. Learning outside of the organisation is a useful experience. If you have a special interest in working with young parents, please do consider joining our growing community – we would love to hear from you! We plan to hold our meetings online, three times a year via MS Teams.

If you would like to join future COP meetings or if you would like any more information, then please contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Join us in building a supportive network!

Emma Fawkes, Health Visitor, Southend


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