Local families with young children are to benefit from a preventative, therapeutic parenting programme, now used extensively across Australia where it was developed.

The Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting (MECSH) programme supports parents with four key areas vital to a young child’s development – communication, relationships, nutrition and exercise, and oral health.

Those who are invited and choose to join the voluntary programme of sustained support, from pregnancy until their child is two years old, build a trusting relationship through consistent and sustained contact with their health visitor over 25 home visits. Aspects of the programme can also be used with families who may only need support in one key area.

Photograph of health visitors in a training session
Edwina Lintin (second left) leading a MECSH training session for health visitors

All Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust’s health visitors are undergoing specialist training in MECSH so they can use it with families right across Bradford, Shipley and Keighley. Edwina Lintin is MECSH Implementation Champion with the Care Trust’s Public Health Nursing Children’s Service. She explains:

“We trialled MECSH over two years in the Better Start Bradford areas of Bowling and Barkerend, Little Horton, Bradford Moor and Bradford East. It’s an evidence-based programme which has been proven to work well in Australia and has been adopted in one or two areas of the UK.

“We found the results of our trial were so positive, we’re not only rolling MECSH out for families with children up to two years of age, but we will also train our nursery nurses in the follow-on programme ‘Infant to School’ which supports families with children up to five years old. That will make Bradford district only the second area in the UK to deliver both programmes.”

Infant to School helps parents prepare a child for school, offering support with things like toilet training and speech and language development. It can be used with families who have or have not been through the MECSH programme.

Photograph of a MECSH training session for health visitors
All the Care Trust’s health visitors are training to deliver the MECSH programme

Edwina says: “Our health visitors who took part in the MECSH trial said they felt it was very rewarding to feel and know they were making a difference. Everyone knows that prevention is better than cure and MECSH and Infant to School will help us to identify any issues early on and work with families so they get the support they need right there and then, rather than those issues developing over time.”

Parents who took part in the MECSH trial said:

  • “It makes me feel better that I can see I am doing the right thing. I know I am doing it correctly.”
  • “They helped to give me confidence and that I was not missing anything important.”
  • “It helps you if you are unsure and reduces your worries. I know what to do.”

Find out more about MECSH on the Family Health Services website, ‘Better Lives, Healthy Futures’.