Protecting babies

NSPCC Scotland trials new programme

Non-accidental head injury is the most common cause of death and serious disability in maltreated babies. The NSPCC is currently testing a programme in partnership with midwives, to educate parents about how easily a baby's brain can be damaged and to help them manage their feelings when they are stressed by their baby's crying.

The non-accidental head injury (NAHI) programme aims to protect babies and has been running in NHS Lanarkshire for a year and in NHS Tayside since last summer.

Midwives and health professionals show new parents a short film before they are discharged from hospital. The film helps them understand the dangers of shaking a baby, how to respond to their crying baby, and how to cope with feeling stressed and tired.

Over 2,000 new parents in Scotland have already seen the NAHI DVD, which draws inspiration from successful research overseas such as the 'Buffalo programme' in New York state, which found that over a five-year-period the incidence of non-accidental head injuries in babies decreased by 47 per cent in the pilot areas where the DVD was shown (source: http://www.kaleidahealth.org).

Amanda Kennett, a practice development midwife at NHS Lanarkshire, said the film had been well-received by parents, and most were very open to receiving new information. 'We want parents to remember it, as there is so much going on during that point in their lives, so it has got to make an impact. It is quite a tough subject to broach with some people which is why the DVD does the job it does.'

Matt Forde, head of service for NSPCC Scotland, added: 'The birth of a baby is a critical time when parents are especially receptive to offers of advice and support. By raising awareness of the dangers of shaking a baby to parents before they leave hospital, the programme ensures a captive audience at a time when they are most open to learning new information. It also provides an ideal opportunity to involve fathers as 86 per cent of them now attend their child's birth.

'We're very pleased to be working collaboratively with Wishaw General Hospital to deliver the message to new parents. We are committed to working in partnership in the best interests of children and this programme offers the chance to help parents get off on the right foot - and crucially, to help set the pattern for effective parenting later on.

'NAHI is one of a number of ground breaking international programmes which NSPCC Scotland is testing because we want to help transform Scotland's approach to child protection.'