PATH, a new project to support parents experiencing perinatal mental illnesses (PMI), launches this week with a campaign to raise awareness of and de-stigmatise mental illness in the perinatal period.

Findings from a new PATH survey* echo the breadth of evidence around: concerning levels of poor mental health experienced by parents during their pregnancy or the first year after birth; their lack of confidence to seek support; and the exacerbating effects on these issues of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) joins the call to encourage new and expectant parents to reach out, talk and get help.

As a contributing partner in this EU-funded project, the iHV has collaborated on the 3 main aims of PATH to:

  • Reach parents with digital and community initiatives for families, including a new support hub
  • Reach healthcare professionals with PATH resources and training designed to increase their confidence to recognise PMI symptoms and provide appropriate care
  • Reach employers with resources that help them better support maternity and paternity leave and parents’ return to work

Workplace provision for new and expectant parents with existing, or emerging, health issues

In partnership with Southampton City Council and Bournemouth University, the iHV has engaged in a project exploring workplace provision for new and expectant parents with existing, or emerging, health issues addressing:

  • what employers can do to identify and support new and expectant parents who may be experiencing, or who are at risk of, mental ill-health
  • what employers can do to ease the transition to parenthood and help parents achieve a satisfactory work-life balance

Findings from subsequent literature review, focus groups and interviews resulted in 10 recommendations for employers. Further detail is highlighted in the following publications:


Fathers and Partner Awareness training

There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the new Fathers and Partner Awareness training delivered by the iHV, in partnership with Dad Matters UK, as part of the PATH project, to raise professional awareness of perinatal mental health needs of dads, co-parents and intended parents.

Feedback from SCPHN students in the 2Seas region undertaking the training include:

‘It has been great, really eye opening and has inspired me to challenge our current practices and take on this for some serious change!’

‘Thank you, it will change the way I interact with fathers, moving forward.’

‘Very helpful, food for thought on how to include all parents. to remember to include all parents when doing visits.’

‘Really opened my eyes to how excluded dads can be. In future practice I will try to engage and include them as much as possible.’

The iHV has risen to the challenge not only of the virtual world but also the world of virtual reality by participating in the development of an exciting new immersive VR resource to supplement Father Awareness training. Filming was delayed due to COVID but iHV partners, at media company Alright Mate and Bournemouth University, can be seen here putting it all together and we are looking forward to our first VR experience very soon.


The iHV will continue to develop and review content and resources, alongside parents, peer supporters, the voluntary sector and health professionals, for the online multimedia international support hub to enable a deeper understanding of perinatal mental health issues and how to access timely and appropriate support.

About PATH

PATH is a newly EU-funded project which will enable women, families and healthcare professionals to prevent, recognise and successfully manage mild and moderate perinatal mental health issues. PATH will enable parents, the wider family, employers and healthcare professionals to find support and information to help with the parenting journey. PATH aims to promote positive parenting experiences and enable parents to feel confident in seeking self-help or professional support, leading to happier and healthier families.

PATH is partnered with organisations across the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and France:

  • Leading partner: Health and Europe Centre (UK)
  • KMPT (Kent and Medway NHS and Social Partnership Trust) (UK)
  • Devon Mind (UK)
  • Southampton City Council (UK)
  • Odisee University College (Belgium)
  • Kent County Council (UK)
  • Institute of Health Visitors (UK)
  • World Health Organisation Centre in Lille (France)
  • Artesis Plantijn University (Belgium)
  • Bournemouth University (UK)
  • Gio Vzw (Belgium)
  • Maasstad Hospital (Netherlands)
  • UZA: Antwerp University Hospital (Belgium)


*The research was conducted by Censuswide between 21.04.2021 – 28.04.2021, with 1,001 parents who have experienced PMI (either self-diagnosed or professionally diagnosed) during the last 10 years. The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults.  Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society, which is based on the ESOMAR principles. 

A team from the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (SHFT) have been selected by the Health Foundation, an independent charity, to be part of the latest round of its Advancing Applied Analytics programme.






The programme aims to improve analytical capability in support of health and care services. In this fourth round of the programme, the Health Foundation is providing funding to 10 teams in the UK that are working on innovative projects that demonstrate the value of improving analytical capability in health and care.

For the first time, this round of the programme will be supported by NHSX, which is driving digital, analytical and tech maturity in local NHS organisations. NHSX will provide support to the project teams to help them deliver sustained improvement and spread innovation across health and social care.

Each project will run for up to 15 months and will start by September 2020.

The project from the iHV aims to improve analytical capability by:

  1. Enabling a better understanding of challenges and opportunities within the field of health visiting analytics and greater clarity on user needs.
  2. Applying this learning to practice using rapid cycle improvement methodology within the SHFT pilot site to improve understanding of how analytical capability can be maximised locally and for wider system benefit. Specific focus will be given to improving data quality and analytics for “missing children” and those with additional needs.

Alison Morton, Director of Policy and Quality at the iHV said,

“The health visiting service provides a vital “safety net” for our most vulnerable children. As we look to the future, it is clear that the opportunities afforded by data and analytics will be important enablers for this work. This study aims to improve analytical capability in health visiting to “move beyond bean counting”, exploring ways to use data as an enabler of clinical practice and service transformation. We are delighted to be working with leaders in the field of applied analytics at the Health Foundation and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust on this important project”.

Sharon Hargreaves, Chief Clinical Information Officer at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, commented:

“I am really excited that the Health Foundation has given us the opportunity within this project to explore how we can engage clinicians in working more closely with technology, to develop analytical tools and easy-to-use dashboards that will help drive quality improvements to deliver more effective care to the children and families within Hampshire.”

Ginny Taylor, Deputy Director Operations Children and Family Services at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, added:

“This is a very challenging time for health visiting and our families.  This project will support our efforts to ensure that we really focus on those that need our help most by helping practitioners use data to inform decision-making and assessment.”





On World Maternal Mental Health Day and during UK Maternal Mental Awareness Week 2019, the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) is delighted to be part of PATH – a newly EU-funded project which will enable women, families and healthcare professionals to prevent, identify and successfully manage mild and moderate perinatal mental health issues.

Becoming a new parent should be an exciting time – however, for up to one in five women this isn’t the case. Perinatal mental illnesses (PMI), such as postnatal depression, are not always recognised and carry a long-term cost to society of £8.1 billion1 for each one-year cohort of births or approximately £74,000 per mother and child.

This cross-border initiative involves thirteen partners from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. Partners from the UK include the Health and Europe Centre as the Lead Partner, Plymouth and District MIND, Southampton City Council, Kent County Council, Kent & Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust as well as the Institute of Health Visiting. PATH has been awarded more than €5 million of European funding for this €8.5 million partnership.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said:

“Many mothers suffer from perinatal mental illness following birth and up to a year after, of which a majority may not be receiving all the support they need.

“The PATH project will deliver a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of and de-stigmatise PMI and promote prepared parenting, reaching a total of 600,000 people across the 2Seas area.”

“Through this project we will produce a suite of online resources and face-to-face training for health professionals in order to increase their confidence in recognising PMI symptoms and providing appropriate care for mothers and fathers. Alongside this will be resources for employers, helping them to support the return to work of new mums.”

PATH will prepare parents pre-birth for their new role and help them avoid or lessen the impact of possible PMI. The project will also improve the skills of healthcare professionals equipping them to address PMI confidently and effectively. PATH will innovatively design, deliver and implement new, durable services both online and face-to-face, aiming to increase recognition and prevention of PMI and support new families’ mental wellbeing which will, in turn, benefit their children.

PATH will also develop a new online multi-media international support hub, a course of support sessions for 4000 new families in mixed groups of pre-pregnant/pregnant/parenthood and a ground-breaking new model of holistic family support. This model will include peer supporter training and a network of intergenerational community support groups to increase recognition and understanding of PMI and enable greater community support to new families.

1 LSE and Centre for Mental Health – The Costs of Perinatal Mental Health Problems Report summary (Oct 2014) – Annette Bauer, Michael Parsonage, Martin Knapp, Valentina Iemmi & Bayo Adelaja


ukactive has kicked-off a ground-breaking project called This Mum Moves, aimed at supporting women to be active during and after pregnancy.

In collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), the project team used a Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) approach, undertaking a baseline survey of healthcare professionals’ knowledge and confidence in providing physical activity advice, and conducting focus groups with midwives, health visitors, and pregnant and postpartum women.

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the iHV, said:

“Giving every child the best start in life is key to achieving health outcomes, we want to support all mothers to understand the benefits to them and their baby from being physically active throughout their pregnancy and after their baby is born. This project will provide health visitors with the knowledge and resources to confidently promote physical activity during their work with families.”

Seven PPI focus groups were conducted in the pilot areas of Bexley (London) and Sheffield, with support from the local councils. The pregnant women and new mothers that participated called for greater consistency in the information provided, as well as specific and early advice from healthcare professionals, and links to local services.

The healthcare professionals’ survey received more than 400 responses, with 27% indicating that they did not know whether pregnant women should continue to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, as recommended in specific guidance introduced by the Chief Medical Officer in 2017. This is in keeping with recommendations for the general adult population. However, 97% said they would be interested in further training to support their practice.

The findings were consistent with existing literature in this area that shows there is a lack of knowledge and confidence in providing physical activity advice and guidance during pregnancy and the postnatal period.

The insights from the work will be used to develop a toolkit for healthcare professionals and a wider campaign aimed at supporting pregnant women and new mothers in maintaining regular physical activity during pregnancy and beyond.

The project, funded by the National Lottery and Sport England, involves a coalition of partners including ukactive, CCCU, iHV, the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, Best Beginnings, Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy, Aston University, the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine – Sheffield, and the Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (spear).

ukactive Strategic Projects Director Will Smithard said:

“ukactive is proud to be working with the wider healthcare sector on such a hugely important area as physical activity for pregnant women and new mothers.

“This project will help provide midwives, health visitors, and other healthcare professionals with better access to information so that they can be confident in recommending physical activity to women during and after pregnancy.”

Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England, said:

“Remaining active when having a baby, or even starting new activities, can be a daunting prospect. Our insight tells us that despite their time pressures and conflicting priorities, new and expecting mums want to be more active. That’s why Sport England is investing National Lottery funding into programmes like This Mum Moves. We hope this funding goes a long way to equip midwives, health visitors and other healthcare professionals with the right tools to help them feel confident guiding pregnant women and new mums to activities that are right for them.”

Dr Marlize De Vivo, from Canterbury Christ Church University, said:

“This area has received considerable attention since the launch of the new CMO guidelines in 2017, however, it is clear that more needs to be done to ensure that practice aligns with current policy.  This Mum Moves facilitates inter-professional collaboration and celebrates the increasing focus on women and families enjoying and benefitting from active lifestyles.”

Insights from the project will be used by the project team to develop the resources and campaign for launch this Autumn in Sheffield and Bexley, with plans for a national rollout in the future.

Blackpool, after doing extensive research over the past three years within its Big Lottery funded A Better Start project, has concluded that the way forward to reduce health inequalities in Blackpool is to increase the number of health visitor contacts for all families to eight contacts!

Blackpool Better Start launched its groundbreaking new HV service today at its Health Visiting Service Transformation event. Blackpool’s new model of health visiting sees 8 universal visits delivering standardised, evidence-based interventions and a key ethos of developing a therapeutic relationship with families.

The Institute was delighted to support the launch with a keynote presentation from Dr Robert Nettleton, Education Advisor iHV who said:

“The evidence base for Health visiting has never been stronger. Blackpool’s new model is making expertise more available to Blackpool families.”

Dr Robert Nettleton addressing the Blackpool Better Start launch event

Dr Robert Nettleton

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said:

“It is so gratifying that Blackpool, an area which suffers above average health inequalities, has made the decision that the way forward is to increase health visitor contacts for all families based on all the evidence that they have been looking into over the past three years.

“As this is the same conclusion reached by Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, I really hope their action will precipitate reinvestment into health visiting where the service has been cut in England. However, this will require the government to make good the recent cuts to public health budgets first, as part of their planned increase in health funding.

“Well done Blackpool for your leadership and to the National Lottery for helping to make this possible!”