Better Care

Improving outcomes for children and parents

Birmingham Forwards Steps - the citywide health and wellbeing service for pre-school children - is paving the way towards improving outcomes for children and parents, encouraging them to make healthier life choices with the potential to reduce rates of childhood obesity in the city.

Birmingham Forward Steps is making sure families can access the help they need from pregnancy until their child starts school. This includes HENRY, which Birmingham Forward Steps has made a vital element of its early years health and wellbeing services by training staff to provide the most effective support - and committing to rolling out HENRY family programmes in children’s centres across the city.

HENRY programme

Exciting new research from the University of Oxford has highlighted the potential of a citywide early years strategy with HENRY training and family programmes at its core.

The research shows that in Leeds – where practitioners have been HENRY-trained and delivering programmes since 2008 – the national trend of rising childhood obesity has been bucked. Obesity levels at reception age have fallen significantly, with the greatest change seen among the most disadvantaged children.

Additional research is ongoing in Birmingham, with Birmingham Forward Steps participating in the feasibility study for a randomised control trial being carried out by HENRY and the University of Leeds.

This trial will investigate the impact of the HENRY programme on families. While the results of this research lie in the future, parent feedback collected by HENRY already shows some exceptional outcomes for the programme in Birmingham.

In 2018/19 so far, 98 per cent of parents who took part rated the programme as ‘good’ or ‘great’, and retention was very high, with 88 per cent of participants completing the programme.

Furthermore, parents have reported positive changes in lifestyle areas that evidence has linked to childhood obesity, including increased parenting efficacy, improved emotional wellbeing, healthier diets and eating habits, and increased physical activity.

In several cases the outcomes for Birmingham outstripped those HENRY saw nationally in 2018/19.

Birmingham Forward Steps HENRY co-ordinator Alison Moore said: “We have always thought highly of the HENRY programme in Birmingham and the findings in our first six months of delivery by Birmingham Forward Steps are very encouraging.

"Most of the HENRY facilitators have been newly trained and delivering the programme for the first time, so to see that in most areas we have achieved such a high success rate is tremendous.”

Parents said: 

“Fantastic programme. I have better relationships in my family now. I am less stressed and frustrated and we are more healthy and happy.”

“I’ve made changes to our portion sizes. I’m offering healthy choices and setting boundaries, and involving the children in HENRY by talking to them about what I have learned, and encouraging more praise at home.”