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US inspired child health programme

A test programme helping young parents give their children a healthier start in life was officially launched today by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

The Family Nurse Partnership is being tested in the NHS Lothian area, where it is supporting first-time parents or single mums under the age of 19.

The six family nurses will visit expectant mums every one or two weeks during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of their baby's life, offering guidance on child development, preventative health measures, parenting skills, breastfeeding, better diet information and advice for mothers on education and employment.

Ms Sturgeon today met with some of the expectant parents and the nurses at the programme's base in Craigmillar, Edinburgh.

The Health Secretary announced last year that the £1.6 million test site would be launched in Scotland during a visit to an existing programme in Harlem, New York.

Ms Sturgeon said:

"The enthusiasm and commitment of the parents-to-be and the nurses involved in this programme who I have met today is really inspirational.

"This isn't an untested programme - the evidence from programmes already up and running in the US shows that it is improving prenatal health, increasing employment for young mothers, resulting in fewer unintended pregnancies and helping to reduce child neglect.

"Having met some of the families and nurses involved today has left me in no doubt that we will see the same kinds of benefits here in Scotland too.

"Intervening at the earliest possible opportunity to support those in our society who are most in need is the key to improving Scotland's health.

"In time I want to see the kind of support that the Family Nurse Partnership provides across the whole of Scotland."

Melanie Hornett, Nurse Director at NHS Lothian, said:

"We are delighted that NHS Lothian was chosen as the national test site for this programme.

"Being pregnant and having a baby can be challenging for any mum. Every parent wants to do the best for their child and this programme is about helping them to do that.

"We know that early emotional care is crucial to the development of a baby and that parenting skills are key to this. This programme helps mums and dads to focus on and respond to the needs of their baby as well as thinking about themselves."

Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, Convener for Education, Children and Families at the City of Edinburgh Council, said:

"In order to break the cycle of teenage pregnancies and creation of children at risk, we need this kind of intensive targeted work because leaving the child in an unsupported family until the child goes to school leaves it too late. I am very pleased that NHS Lothian is developing this programme and we are looking forward to working with the nurses and families in this valuable scheme."

The intention to bring Family Nurse Partnership to Scotland was announced during Scotland Week in April last year.

NHS Lothian was chosen to host the programme for a number of reasons, including its high number of teenage pregnancies.

Recruitment of the pregnant women started in January this year and it is hoped that during the three-year life of the programme 145 women can be supported. A total of 29 mums-to-be are so far engaged in the programme.

The programme is the brainchild of Dr David Olds, Professor of Paediatrics and Director, Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health, University of Colorado.

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