The importance of parenting in child healthBMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7144.1545 (Published 23 May 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1545
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Sandwells Multi Agency Centres (MACs) improve parenting and child outcomes
The editorial by Hoghughi (1) highlighted a number factors which are barriers to good parenting and indicated that early multiagency interventions are required in order to improve parenting and child outcome.
Sandwell, which is one of the most deprived local authority districts in England, has a multiagency parental support project which enhances the development of parenting skills. This service is delivered through Multi Agency Centres (MACs) which are a partnership between education and community services, health services and the community and voluntary sectors and supported by Tipton City Challenge (2). The MACs provide pre-school education for children aged 0-3 years of age, and view parents as partners in the education process. They encourage parents to be first educators of their children and assist them in developing the language and literacy skills of their children. The centres have been cited as examples of good practice (3) and, are based on Perry High/Scope principles (4), which emphasise the importance of the parent in the education of their children.
MACs are intended to provide a climbing frame of opportunity for parents to access education and training. The skills acquired can be formalised into NVQs and other qualifications enabling parents to gain employment in the caring and educational sectors. With support from Sandwell Regeneration Partnership, this aspect of the work has been expanded in 3 Family Education and Training Centres.
Currently there are 6 MACs, and recent evaluation suggests that on entry to school (nursery or reception), children who have had regular access to pre-school activities are more confident socially than those who have not had this opportunity. They also make good progress in developing language and literacy skills. Their parents are better informed about the educational system and have higher expectations of their children.
We support the view that early learning programmes not only improve school performance but can also have an impact on antisocial behaviour (4). However, if the gains are to be maintained they must be followed by good primary and secondary school education which foster positive learning and behaviour.
We believe that early educational interventions through the MACs provide much needed parental support and are an effective means of improving parenting skills and enhancing child outcomes. We are currently examining ways of expanding the number of MACs in the district.
John Middleton Director of Public Health
Babatunde Olowokure Specialist Registrar
Department of Public Health, Sandwell Health Authority, Kingston House, West Bromwich B70 9LD
Telephone number: 0121 500 1500
1 Hoghughi M. The importance of parenting in child health. BMJ 1998; 316: 1545
2 Multi-agency centres and associated projects. Evaluation report. Department of Education and Community Services: Sandwell, 1998.
3 Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Education initiatives and regeneration strategies: A guide to good practice. 1997
4 Schweinhart L J, Barnes H V, Weikart D P. Significant benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool study through age 27. Michigan: High/Scope Press, 1993.
Competing interests: No competing interests