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Preventing mental ill-health across the life course when healthcare professionals deliver different (unexpected) news to families in the first 1001 days of life

9th November 2021

In support of the publication of a new research study on Improving the Delivery of Different News to Families by Healthcare Professionals, we share a Voices blog from Dr Esther Mugweni, iHV Research Lead on behalf of the Delivering Different News Study Team.

woman's head and shoulders

Dr Esther Mugweni, iHV Research Lead

Preventing mental ill-health across the life course when healthcare professionals deliver different (unexpected) news to families in the first 1001 days of life – Why it matters and what we can do about it?

The first 1001 days, covering from pregnancy to the time that a child is two years old, are critical for children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. Families are vulnerable when congenital anomalies are identified, as this presents a different parenting journey from their  expectations. Ineffective delivery of this different news, and the news itself, can result in depression or anxiety in parents. This may impair parenting ability which potentially has a direct immediate and long-term impact on the infant’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Different news must be delivered sensitively and compassionately by professionals. This does not always happen due to a lack of standardised training or policy in this area.

Working with parents with the lived experience of receiving different news and healthcare professionals, we developed a training intervention that equips professionals to demonstrate empathy; compassion; utilise kind, simple and truthful language; answer questions; and signpost to further support using a mnemonic to structure and pace the conversation.

204 professionals received the Delivering Different News training. Parents who co-delivered the training, emphasised that they retained a strong image of how they received their different news as a film in their minds long after they had received the news. Following the training, we found statistically significant improvements in confidence and skills to provide sensitive, responsive, balanced care to families. The training may equip professionals to minimise the psychological distress associated with receiving different news which can prevent mental ill-health across the life course. It is imperative to roll out the training nationally to ensure that families adequately supported.

Dr Esther Mugweni, Research Lead Institute of Health Visiting on behalf of the Delivering Different News Study Team

Email [email protected]


If you are interested in attending a future Delivering Different News training event please contact: [email protected] to express interest in any future dates available.