Health visitors visit every family with a pregnant mother or a child up to five years old which places them in an inimitable position to influence the health outcomes for every mother, for every father and for every baby. It is essential that all health visitors (and all other public health practitioners) are trained to understand the significance of good perinatal mental health (PMH).
This is why the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) has created almost 600 Health Visitor Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) Champions, trained in identifying early recognition of perinatal mental health problems, how to make a differential diagnosis, and preventative and treatment strategies.
Institute of Health Visiting - Cheryll Adams
It is vital that those commissioning services recognise and support the role of the health visitor in perinatal mental health. The transfer of the commissioning of health visiting services to the local authority provides a window of opportunity to rework health and social care contracts to deliver a successful perinatal mental health action plan:
- a strategic plan that is perceptive, proactive and fully engaged
- a plan that will effectively and efficiently translate into improved health outcomes
- a plan that meets the needs of our population today and at the same time considers the health and wellbeing of our future generations
- a plan that will deliver
The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) has created almost 600 Health Visitor peri-natal mental health (PMH) Champions. Champions have now cascaded the training to over 9,500 health visitors and others, including health, local authority and voluntary workers. The training provides an opportunity for practitioners to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to enable effective early intervention for families. It focuses on why the early recognition of risk for, or symptoms of, perinatal mental health problems is so important; including how to make a differential diagnosis, and the preventative and treatment strategies which can be employed, including when to refer.
Through working closely with Champions, the iHV has gathered valuable insight and intelligence about the challenges and opportunities that the public and professionals face in achieving good PMH outcomes. The iHV has used this learning and developed the iHV PMH Multi-Agency Awareness training for other groups of professionals and third sector workers requiring knowledge of PMH.
A survey in 2014 demonstrated that the Champions were not only cascading training, but were doing much more to improve PMH in their areas. They had set up therapeutic groups, led the creation of multi-professional pathways, improved referral pathways, and much more. Inevitably Champions retire or change their jobs. To ensure the continuation and sustainability of the iHV PMHC project it is crucial to continue to train Champions and provide them with on-going support.
Cheryll Adams, Director of the Institute of Health Visiting firstname.lastname@example.org
Initial Funding from the Department of Health