Fiona Black is Specialised Community Public Health Nurse (Health Visiting) at NHS Lothian. Here she talks about promoting accident prevention as a public health priority:
Public health is defined as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society” (WHO, 1988).
It’s evidenced that around 62 children die each year as the result of an accident, while more than two million under the age of 15 experience accidents in the home environment. From the age of 0-4 years those risks are elevated with falls and deaths from fires being the most common. Through education, most of these accidents are preventable and the vision of promoting health and well-being includes working with families to prevent the wider aspects of health such as prevention of accidents.
The Health Visiting Universal Pathway (Scottish Government, 2015) provides health visitors with the opportunity to build relationships with parents. This universal service reaches all families, giving all parents the opportunity to access services they may not be aware of, or reluctant to engage with.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) resources and campaigns help raise an awareness of accident prevention for both health professionals and parents. Many parents were not aware of RoSPA and their work until spoken to by a health professional, and since becoming more familiar with RoSPA’s work I am increasingly mindful to speak of accident prevention during my visits.
The parent-health visitor relationship promotes trust and understanding and there are many points throughout the Health Visiting Universal Pathway where opportunities arise to discuss home safety in relation to children in the 0-4/5 age bracket.
From personal experience, RoSPA resources provide the opportunity to highlight issues relating to burns/scalds; falls; trapping fingers; poisoning; drowning; strangulation; suffocation and choking. Although there were some aspects of the RoSPA pack that parents might not use, including them still offered the opportunity to create an awareness around specific issues. There was also the opportunity to share online safety information with parents, which was useful if a parent wished to share the message with another, or the wider family.
Public health professionals have a duty to promote the health and wellbeing of the children they work with. Salutogenesis, person-centredness and viewing the person in situation characterises health visiting practice. This, plus Getting it Right for Every Child (Scottish Government, 2018) and keeping children safe and healthy, are the bedrock of health visiting practice.
On a daily basis health visitors have the opportunity to highlight accident prevention though directed discussions during home visits. They are able to include these conversation during all visits, for instance when discussing their child developmental stage and developing gross motor skills, or during weaning discussions. They should also be directed by the parents’ need for information in a person-centred manner. Health professionals should also ensure they have access to up to date information, their clinic room is safe and there are opportunities to display appropriate information in an environment accessible to parents.
Cowley S., Whittaker K., Malone M., Donette S., Gridulis A and Maben J. 2015. Why health visiting? Examining the potential public health benefits from health visiting practice within a universal service: A narrative review of the literature. International Journal of Nursing Studies 52 (2015) pp465-480