Poor health and developmental outcomes for children are associated with the social determinants of health, such as poverty, isolation, lack of social support, social exclusion generally and poor access to health services, and there is increasing evidence that social adversity has detectable effects from early in development, in childhood and already in utero (Marmot Strategic Review of Health Inequalities, 2010; Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2012).
Citizens UK has a long history of bringing communities together to affect change in the social determinants of health. It was their member organisations that pioneered the Living Wage in the UK, a campaign that has put millions of pounds into the back pockets of low paid workers. This project harnesses the capacity of the community organising model to positively effect mothers and babies’ developmental outcomes.
We carried out a feasibility study in Camberwell in 2013 to explore the capacity of community organising to bring together community leaders and local parents to devise and implement a community-led, community level intervention, providing social support for mothers who were pregnant or with young children. Fifteen of the twenty-five mothers participated in an evaluation of the intervention over a nine-month period. At the end of the study, participants of the co-produced intervention and supportive community leaders chose to sustain the social support intervention and named it MumSpace. In 2014, together with this team, additional local parents and their partners, we co-produced a plan for GSST Charity about how we would expand the project to create five social support networks across Camberwell and Walworth, involving hundreds of parents and their infants. The plan encompasses a number of community interventions that support the wellbeing of parents, and aims to improve children’s health and their developmental outcomes.
We want the project to positively influence children’s health and developmental outcomes. There are a number of indicators we are focusing on:
o Social Capital – As a result of participation parents will have more supportive relationships and access more services.
o Mental wellbeing - The interventions will promote parental wellbeing and good mental health.
o Health Literacy – Parents will be better informed about healthy behaviours and access to services and feel able to articulate their health needs and help shape services.
o Healthy Behaviours – Parents will feel better able to implement healthy behaviours, such as diet and initiation and duration of breast-feeding.
o Social and emotional development – Infants will have improved outcomes in social emotional, and language development.
o Parent Leadership – Parents will be encouraged and supported in their development as parent leaders to take action to improve their communities, and to challenge and find solutions to the underlying issues that prevent families from flourishing e.g. housing, barriers to accessing health services, low wages, childcare and immigration.
o Community Action - Community leaders will feel encouraged and inspired to contribute as partners to the early intervention landscape, by allocating time and resources to supporting parents.