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The Chief Executive Officers of the eight Health Boards commissioned a review of the preschool and school child health services in 1996. The review was carried out by Drs. Sean Denyer, Lelia Thornton and Heidi Pelly and led to the production of the report “Best Health for Children”.

This report recommended:

  • A holistic and positive approach towards child health
  • A child centred and flexible approach in planning and delivery of child health services
  • Provision of appropriate support for all parents
  • Empowerment of parents in recognition of the fact that they are best positioned to act
  • as primary screeners of their children

  • An evidence based approach to all child health services
  • In-built quality assurance of all child health service activities.

Two people were appointed as joint National Child Health Co-ordinators with a brief to implement the report in August 1999. Ms. Caroline Cullen has a background in education and health promotion, while Dr. Ailis Quinlan is a public health doctor with experience in senior health service management. Since they took up duty, the Co-ordinators have been involved in a wide range of activities.

Circulation of report

The primary objective of the Co-ordinators was to ensure that the report and its contents were available to senior health service managers and other key players. A data-base was devised and over 500 copies were circulated free of charge. A web-site was established in December 1999. At present, the full text of the report is accessible and an interactive service is planned for the future.

Consultation/Information Meetings

The Co-ordinators met with senior officials in the Departments of Health and Children and Education and Science respectively. Both sectors welcomed the report and indicated commitment and support to the process.

Each Health Board is represented on the National Conjoint Child Health Committee. This representative performs a vital role in acting as a conduit for information between the Committee and Health Board personnel.

The Co-ordinators visited each Health Board and met with relevant senior Health Board personnel in all eight Health Boards over a six-week period.

Annual Report 1999

Best Health have agreed to set up some form of steering committee to oversee implementation of the process. They will establish which elements of the report are currently being delivered and identify elements which are not. Priorities agreed locally and resources necessary for implementation will be communicated to the Co-ordinators.

Each Health Board has been asked to choose one aspect of the report “Best Health for Children” as a topic for a demonstration project. This information will be used to inform discussion at a meeting of the Co-ordinators with the Department of Health and Children planned for April 2000.

National Conference

The report “Best Health for Children” was formally launched in December 1999 at a conference held in Tullamore. A targeted audience of 130 key senior health personnel from Health Boards, government departments, state agencies, parents’ organisations and academic bodies attended.

The theme of the conference was “Investing in Children’s Health”. Dr. Sarah Stewart-Brown, who had contributed in a most stimulating fashion to workshops run to inform the original report, delivered the keynote address. Invited speakers discussed the social, educational and medical dimensions of the topic. Dr. Sean Denyer presented an outline of “Best Health for Children”. Delegates convened in Health Board groupings and discussed the implications of implementation of the report in their respective areas. Feedback concerning the conference was generally favourable, and the National Conjoint Child Health Committee plans to hold similar conferences in the future in order to provide a forum for child health. (See Appendix 1 for conference details and feedback.)

Adolescent Health

“Best Health for Children” deals exclusively with children in the 0-12 year old age group. The conjoint group of Chief Executive Officers has requested the Co-ordinators to carry out a similar review regarding children in the 12-18 age group.

An adolescent health sub-committee of the National Conjoint Child Health Committee has been established to facilitate and steer this process. The committee has been expanded to ensure that as broad a view as possible is taken. Detailed terms have been drawn up and agreed with the Chief Executive Officers.