Health information for parents

Useful resources for practitioners working with families

NHS Heath Scotland recently published a research report, Health and Parenting Information: meeting the needs of all parents commissioned from the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen).

The research comprised two components: (1) a rapid review of the literature, which explored the 'grey' and published literature on effective approaches to providing information support for parents, and (2) interviews with key informants with a national or more strategic role, and mini-workshops and interviews with front-line practitioners who provided locality-based support to parents in Highland, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The study participants represented professionals working in a variety of services with parents from different family, social and economic circumstances and from urban and rural locations in Scotland. The parents they supported were from black and ethnic minority communities; young parents; parents under stress, fathers and families with experience of disability.

The findings

Parents need information about a wide range of topics; about their child's health, parenting, child-parent interaction, the wider family and about support services. They need such information, either on an ad-hoc or on a continuing basis.

Many find it hard to get information support because of a lack of services, poor signposting to services, a lack of specific resources to meet their needs, child protection or financial concerns and/or because they are afraid of being stigmatised as being "in need".

The study also found that:

  • Parents who struggled to access or understand information needed personal support to make the best of the available information
  • Parents who lacked confidence, had poor literacy or limited ability to understand complex information, might need considerable support
  • Many parents relied on a narrow range of family members and professionals for support and many are unaware of, or simply would not seek, other support
  • Young parents wanted information which addressed them as young people as well as parents
  • Despite a growing literature and recent initiatives to support their situation, the needs of fathers remained unmet
  • The provision of information support for BME communities is not simply a matter of translation, but needs to be embedded in an inclusive approach to service design and delivery
  • Promoting child health among "vulnerable" families requires appropriate, age and culturally sensitive resources coupled with individual support such as translation, the use of pictures, verbal explanations and demonstration
  • Information about child health facilities and appointments on its own was insufficient to meet parents' information support needs as many required (pro) active practitioner support to ensure parental engagement and attendance at appointments

Conclusion

As this research focused on the views of professionals/practitioners rather than on the views of parents themselves, further research with parents is needed to fully understand what information they need and how they can best get it, for example through different media and technologies. This research will be carried out in 2011.

Additionally, we need to consider how best to involve professionals who support parents' information needs so that they can respond in an appropriate and inclusive manner to those who seek information about their child's health and well-being.

Download Health and Parenting information report (PDF 735kB)