The study has already recruited 275 families across the UK.
The study is looking at a home-based programme supporting families to better understand their young children’s behaviour and communication, to help nip behaviour problems early on. Local health visitors are hoping to shortly have 300 families enrolled in the study.
The large-scale ‘Healthy Start, Happy Start’ research study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research, and led by researchers at Imperial College London, Oxford University, King’s College London, Warwick University, and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Health visitors (trained nurses who visit parents with children under five in their own homes, to offer support and advice) across Oxfordshire have been helping families participate in the study.
As part of the programme, trained therapists hold up to six sessions in the family home, and film parents’ interactions with their children to see about what is going well, and explore more challenging moments that all parents of young children experience.
Sylvia Woolley, a specialist health visitor at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “It has been fantastic to take part in research that is trying to change families’ lives for the better. I have discovered how interesting it is to work with families using video to capture and rewind the micro-moments, highlighting the positives that can pass by so quickly in everyday life. I am excited to see how helpful the programme will be for families.”
One parent who has recently completed the programme said: “I have really enjoyed taking part in the Healthy Start, Happy Start study with my daughter. The research visits are really interesting and we can’t wait to learn more about the study as it progresses”
Nicola Taylor, health visitor lead at Oxford Health said: “We are really excited that so many families in Oxford have had the opportunity to take part in the Healthy Start, Happy Start study.”
“We know that the earliest years in children’s lives are central to their development and finding out how best to support families during this time is important.”
Professor Alan Stein, a child and adolescent psychiatry researcher at the University of Oxford said: “Supporting families early on is key to securing the best outcomes for children. Large-scale research studies like Healthy Start, Happy Start allow us to understand if programmes like these might be helpful for families both in the short and long-term.”