Working with government, NGOs and communities to co-design and deliver programs to improve health outcomes for kids and new parents.
The Healthy Start, Healthy Communities Program is an initiative of the Healthy Communities Foundation Australia to assist government, community and other organisations to design and deliver programs to educate and support young people and parents to ensure children get a healthy start in life. The Program focuses on the early years of life, starting from preconception to the age of 5 years. While focussed on the health and well-being of children, we take a broader approach that encompasses family planning, sexual and reproductive health and prenatal health and wellbeing - the conditions in which children are born and grow that determine their life chances.
Becoming a Parent
No-one knows how to be a parent before they become one. We learn much of what we know from how we were raised by our parents, what we learn at school and our peers.
This can be challenging for young people who have not had the life experience necessary to understand the challenges and risks of having children or have not yet completed their education.
Teenage pregnancy brings with it heightened risks to the mother, and to the healthy development of children. It can create unexpected financial, housing and other pressures.
Raising a healthy child begins with making informed decisions about whether pregnancy is the right choice at the time, and ensuring that women can exercise control over those choices for their own well-being and the life outcomes for the child.
It is true that women have given birth for a millennia, but that doesn't mean pregnancy is easy or the knowledge you need comes naturally.
Less than two centuries ago many women, and their children, died in child birth or soon after. Modern health care, and better knowledge about pregnancy, has saved millions of lives over the last century.
Tragically, maternal and child deaths associated with pregnancy remain a big challenge in some parts of Australia - particularly rural, remote and Aboriginal communities.
This is influenced by a range of factors from getting pregnant too young, nutrition before and after pregnancy, the social and economic environment in which the mother lives, levels of emotional and physical support during pregnancy, consumption of alcohol or drugs and exposure to violence or trauma. Congenital problems can also be a major challenge for new mums and dads.
Improving health literacy around pregnancy during adolescents, and into young adulthood, delivered locally in culturally appropriate and engaging ways is essential to ensure that children have the best start in life.
After baby is born
The first years of life are critical for the healthy development and growth of a child. Parenting is hard work and new parents need to be prepared for the challenges and rewards of parenting.
Government issued Child Health Books are a great place to start, helping parents to understand about immunisation, nutrition, health weight and growth and developmental stages.
A growing issue for new parents is understanding child behaviour and development. If children are not behaving in the way that are expected (e.g. crawling, verbalising) then seeking help is really important. It may be nothing in which case a visit to a heath professional can provide reassurance. But with the growing rate of neurodevelopment conditions in children, parents need to act quickly to get their child screened, and for treatment to commence, to ensure they can live a happy and fulilling life.
Being a good parent also means looking after ourselves, and understanding when we may not be reacting in the best way. There are lots of strategies to help to cope with the stresses of a new child that parents can access to get the support they need.
Taking care of you and your babies' mental health
Raising kids can be challenging and rewarding. Mums and dads are often expected to know how to be a good parent even when they have never raised a child before. This can put a lot of pressure on parents at a time when they are adjusting to increased financial costs, or maybe a change of house and the demands of work and family.
From the time of birth kids pick up on emotions and stress in households. This is why it is important for parents to prepare for the possible stress of child rearing and to know when to seek help.
Mental health and suicide prevention are key services new parents need to know about, and use when things feel like they are a bit much.
Preparing for school
The Child Health Book provided to every parent following the birth of their child, and which is available online, is an invaluable resource to help parents (even second or third time parents) understand developmental milestones. These are the points in time when your child should be verbalising, crawling, reaching a certain height or weight and so forth. Every child is different, and these things are guides only but can be helpful to identify when your child may be having challenges that need attention on their pathway to school.
SPEECH & HEARING
Want to talk to someone about how the Healthy Start program could help your community or organisation, please send us your email and we will be in touch.