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At the request of the Chief Executive Officers of the eight health boards in the Republic of Ireland, a review was commissioned of the child health services for the 0-12 year age group in 1996. This was long overdue since a similar review had not been performed for 30 years. Three Public Health doctors, Dr. Sean Denyer, Dr. Lelia Thornton and Dr. Heidi Pelly carried out a comprehensive review that was completed in 1999 entitled “Best Health for Children”.

In early 1999 a National Conjoint Child Health Committee chaired by Dr. Sean Denyer, Director of Public Health in the North Western Health Board, was established to oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations. The committee includes representatives from each health board, the Department of Education and Science, the National Parents Council and an observer from the Department of Health and Children, the National Childrens’ Office and the I.C.G.P.

This Conjoint approach to working is new in the Irish context. Prior to this, each health board would have devised its own policies and practices. While a lot of excellent work was carried out, very little sharing of information took place, leading to duplication of effort and lack of standardisation and ensuing lack of equity.

In the summer of 1999 two National Child Health Co-ordinators were employed to drive the initiative, Dr. Ailis Quinlan, and Ms. Caroline Cullen.

The key themes of the report “Best Health for Children” are based on

  • Developing a child centred health promotion approach
  • Creating a partnership between professionals and parents
  • Quality assurance systems and procedures that support screening
  • Screening based on evidence
  • Improved co-ordination for children with complex problems
  • Improved management and increased accountability

The National Child Health Co-ordinators meet regularly with representatives from all the health boards to set agreed objectives, to share information and to assess degree of implementation of “Best Health for Children”. Each health board has been requested to choose one aspect of “Best Health for Children” as a demonstration project. This will eventually be rolled out on a nationwide basis, following evaluation and refinement.
The Co-ordinators also link with a wide range of government departments and voluntary organisations that have an impact on child health.

Progress to date

To date, work on the following areas in the report has been started.

  • Assessment of training needs of doctors and nurses involved in delivery of child health surveillance.
  • Development of Child Health Indicators.
  • Parent support.
  • Universal Neonatal Audiology Screening.
  • Metabolic Screening of the Newborn.
  • Demonstration projects on the following topics are planned or have commenced around the country;
  1. Child Health Indicators.
  2. Consumer satisfaction with developmental/ child health services.
  3. Audit of health centre facilities.
  4. Parent held Child records.
  5. School health services.
  6. Protocols for liaison between community care and tertiary services.
  7. Development of child health database.
  8. Pilot of Child Health Nurse.