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Helping mums and dads to better understand their children

4 July 2016

This is Uma Purohit, a CNWL Specialist Health Visitor in Hillingdon, who is working with the 100th family to be recruited from Camden and Hillingdon into a trial of a home-based programme helping parents better understand their young children’s behaviour and communication. 

The large-scale research study – Healthy Start, Happy Start – has been running since July last year in Camden and Hillingdon, and also Islington and Oxfordshire.

It aims to help improve children’s development and behaviour and support families by intervening early, potentially preventing early behavioural problems.

Therapists hold up to six sessions in the family home and film parents’ interactions with their children to explore what’s going well and also think about the more challenging moments, that all parents of young children experience. One of these therapists is Uma Purohit, a Specialist Health Visitor from CNWL’s Health Visiting Service in Hillingdon, who was the CNWL employee of the year last year.

Uma Purohit with Claire Murdoch

Uma Purohit receiving her award at the Annual Gem Awards 2015

Uma said: “What I really like about the programme is that it focuses on the moments when parents are doing really well. I particularly enjoy the way that using video clips helps parents notice the implications of their interactions with their child. They often immediately spot what they can do differently to have a positive impact on their child. The programme also deals with challenges, but building on the positive moments, which we often miss in the busyness of everyday life. It’s a really powerful way to help families.”

The ground-breaking study, which runs in conjunction with Imperial College, Oxford University and Leiden University in The Netherlands, is proving a success with families who have taken part.

One parent who has recently completed the programme said: “Healthy Start, Happy Start have taught me to view my daughter’s moods in a more positive light. They have enabled me to take a step back from some of the more challenging behaviours of my daughter and use these times to improve our bond.”

Maggie Waters, (Health Visiting Service Manager) said: “We are really excited to be involved in the Healthy Start, Happy Start study. We know how important the early years are for children’s wellbeing and can’t wait to find out how helpful the programme is for families.”

Study lead, Dr Paul Ramchandani, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at CNWL, said: “We’re learning a lot about how to help families in this way, and this research study is exciting because it will help us to know whether this programme will help families and children in the long term.”

The study team have now recruited the 100th participant into the study, and hope to have completed recruitment of a total of 300 families by next summer, with each family being followed up for two years.  There is still time to take part in the study.  The team are recruiting families in health visiting clinics and children’s centres, and families can find out more by going online at www.happystart.org.uk/ or by phone or email: 0208 383 4167 or happystart@imperial.ac.uk.