All the latest news from the Flying Start Team in Luton.
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Gerry Taylor
Director of Public Health
Luton Borough Council


- Research on Infant Feeding

- Pregnancy Plus

- Healthy Teeth for a Healthy Smile

- Baby Babble

- Five to Thrive Training

- Further Information

Please cascade this newsletter to colleagues in your organisation who are working with expectant families and those with young children.


Welcome to Flying Start News, Issue 4

At the start of a new year, it’s great to see the progress we have begun to make with our Flying Start programme and to remind ourselves why we embarked on Flying Start.  In his 2010 report ‘Fair Society, Healthy Lives’ Michael Marmot stated that ‘giving every child the best start in life is crucial to reducing health inequalities across the life course’.  This forms the basis of our thinking for Flying Start in that every child deserves an equal opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
Through Flying Start we plan to strengthen the core service offer to families from conception to 5 years, where getting it right for families is essential to deliver the health and wellbeing outcomes we need for our most disadvantaged families.  I am particularly pleased that this includes mental health and emotional resilience and look forward to seeing the benefits of this part of the programme in the coming years.  I also value the Flying Start approach using the evidence base to ensure we deliver what will work and our focus on the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment is also vital to make sure we focus on what we know about Luton.

During 2015 we saw some good progress particularly working with midwifery, developing the schools programme and taking forward our priority on nutrition. We continued to show some improving public health outcomes, such as reduced rates of infant mortality, teenage conceptions and obesity in reception class.  In October we took over the responsibility for commissioning community health services for 0-5 year olds, giving us the opportunity to further develop our core offer for families bringing together a new approach to services for 0-19s.  This is something I am keen to see come to fruition in 2016 and I look forward to working with you all to achieve this.

Please take a chance to look at this e newsletter which aims to provide you with regular information and updates on the implementation of Flying Start. Please circulate widely to your staff and colleagues.

Gerry Taylor
Life course approach to a healthy weight

One of Flying Start’s three primary outcomes over the next 10 years will be to improve nutrition, with fewer women obese in pregnancy and having improved understanding of nutrition and healthy behaviours, increasing breastfeeding and fewer children obese or with dental decay. There is a lot of work to be done in this area in Luton; 21% of pregnant women are obese, the prevalence of dental decay in children aged 5 is significantly higher than the national average and 21.4% of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese, rising to 37% by year 6.  This issue highlights some of the work being done to improve these nutrition indicators in Luton.

Evidence shows that food preferences and eating behaviours, strongly influenced by families and set early in life, are an important determinant of healthy eating in children. However there is currently little available information on parents’ knowledge of healthy eating and feeding practices in Luton. The University of Bedfordshire are supporting Flying Start by conducting research to explore parents’ views and practices in relation to feeding their children a healthy diet and their perceptions of a healthy weight for their children.  This is an important piece of research that will help guide future interventions in this area.

Parents views on healthy diet and weight for children: a pilot study in Luton conducted by the University of Bedfordshire

This research explored parental views on healthy diet and weight for themselves and their children. Specifically, it explored parents’ knowledge, beliefs and self-perceptions relating to healthy diet and weight and their views on the barriers and facilitators that impact on achieving and maintaining a healthy diet and weight. It also explored parents’ views on how these barriers could be overcome and parents’ experiences with healthcare professionals and current services supporting diet and weight in Luton.

Mothers and fathers (>1 year post birth) who were Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Polish, Black African and White British across the five most deprived wards in Luton (Biscot, Dallow, Luton South, Farley Hill and Northwell) were invited to take part in single sex focus groups (N=24) supported by both the research team and a bilingual interpreter (where necessary). Participants were recruited through a variety of local settings, including children centres, community centres, places of worship, shops and restaurants. A total of 110 parents took part in this research (63 mothers and 47 fathers) between the ages of 21-45 years, across the five defined ethnic groups: White British (N=15), Pakistani (N=22), Bangladeshi (N=20), Black (N=24) and Polish (N=27). Audio recorded focus groups were translated (where necessary), transcribed and analysed using framework approach.

This research has revealed novel findings about current knowledge, beliefs and self-perceptions towards attaining a healthy diet and how these parents feel that they could be better supported to achieve this for themselves and their children. Firstly, there were various discrepancies in parents’ knowledge and perceptions of a healthy diet; therefore, it is vital that these are addressed to ensure that parents have a clear understanding of what is best for them and their child. There was also a clear need for locally based community driven interventions that are both culturally sensitive and culturally relevant, with a focus on not only providing information but also practical advice, such as support for meal planning and preparation.  Finally, this research revealed the importance of regular postnatal support in relation to weaning and feeding practices, alongside observations and peer support to identify any issues and provide support/advice as needed.

Click here to access the brief report outlining some of the key findings from this study

For further details on the method or the full results please contact or
Please cascade this newsletter to colleagues in your organisation who are working with expectant families and those with young children.
Pregnancy Plus

In February this year the first course of Pregnancy Plus will launch at Dallow Road Children’s Centre. Pregnancy Plus is an 8 week maternal weight management programme. The programme will be available to pregnant women with a BMI> 30, which accounts for 21% of pregnant women in Luton. The programme is endorsed by the Royal College of Midwives and in line with recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The high prevalence of maternal obesity in Luton has far-reaching implications not only for the mother, but also for the child both during pregnancy and throughout life. This programme will not only focus on maternal nutrition, but consider the prevalence of obesity holistically. This will include physical activity, active birth, infant feeding (with a specific focus on breast feeding), menu planning and a postnatal session that focuses on healthy eating following birth.

Excitingly the classes will draw on the local expertise of existing programmes such as Me Time Family, encouraging women to continue to utilise the resources of the local community beyond pregnancy for both themselves and their children!

For more information contact Jenni Wood:

Healthy Teeth for a Healthy Smile

Flying Start is supporting an exciting new intervention to improve oral health for young children in Luton. Starting in January 2016, children will receive toothbrush packs (which include toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste) and oral health education; as part of the Healthy Child Programme, at the 9-12 month development review.  The Community Dental Service will be working with Health Visiting and the Family Nurse Partnership teams to deliver this universal primary preventative intervention. 

The Intervention aims to make a significant impact on the poor dental health of young children, which has been identified as a priority for Flying Start. Our local data shows there is a high level of dental decay in young children in Luton. Tooth decay is a preventable disease that together we can help avert, particularly with the most vulnerable young children. This scheme is designed to ensure that all families with young children are accessing toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste for their child, receiving information on key messages for promoting healthy teeth including healthy snacks and drinks and oral hygiene and being encouraged to register all family members with a dentist.

For more information contact Louise Morrissey Flying Start Early Years Nutrition Lead Telephone 07587 036318

If this email has been forwarded onto you and you would like to subscribe and receive your own copy please click here to send an email request to the Flying Start Team.

Baby Babble - an early attachment pilot in a Children's Centre

One of Flying Start’s strategic outcomes is to improve children’s social and emotional development and to strengthen attachment in the very earliest years in life. As part of our development work, Flying Start worked with the Anna Freud Centre and Building Blocks Children Centre to test the impact of a workforce approach to improve the quality of parent – infant attachment in a universal stay and play group.

In the first phase of the pilot the Anna Freud Centre trained all the staff in the Children’s Centre through a one-day introductory course in parent – infant attachment. This was followed by a more intensive training and supervision programme with three staff who worked specifically in the Baby Stay and Play intervention group, who would be modelling and supporting parents in positive attachment interactions with the babies. As well as evaluating the training for all staff, the Anna Freud Centre used videos to analyse whether there were any changes to the intervention stay and play sessions. A control group was also videoed for comparison purposes.

The results from this pilot are very interesting and have shown that it is possible to change the culture of the organisation and of the group to be more focused on attachment. Children’s Centre staff reported improved understanding of early relationships which translated into greater competence in focusing on the child in assessment, reports and outreach activities.  In the group there was a significant increase in adults’ attention to, and positive interactions with the babies, and babies’ seeking of interactions with adults and each other.

Click here to read the Baby Babble pilot evaluation report

Salma Fazil, Deputy Manager at Building Block Children Centre who was very involved in the pilot and has very positive feedback
“It was beautiful to observe the change in mothers who were initially withdrawn and sat with their baby on a mat in front of them, with little or no interaction with others in the group or even their own baby, who were now interacting with others and also encouraging their babies to interact with others. Mothers started to physically place their baby in a circle facing other babies. Mothers stared in wonderment at how actively their babies conversed with other babies, commenting that ‘I didn’t know babies spoke with each other.’ The sense of pride in their babies was apparent as comments such as ‘my cleaver little baby’ were often heard in the room”.

Please click here to read Salma’s full report 

Five to Thrive Training

Five to Thrive is an approach which has been developed and tested to train practitioners to support parents to develop strong attachment with their babies through the use of five simple messages RESPOND, CUDDLE, RELAX, PLAY and TALK.  This simple approach builds on the significant scientific evidence of the importance of these five activities in promoting optimal brain development in babies and young children.

We have some new training dates available:
  • Wednesday 23rd March 2016
  • Tuesday 14th June 2016
  • Wednesday 16th November 2016
Follow this link to book on a course.

For more information

Flying Start Implementation Manager: Christine Rogers
Telephone: 01582 548335

Flying Start Development Manager: Stephanie Cash
Telephone:  01582 547980

Flying Start Community Participation and Volunteer Manager: Joe Biskupski 
Telephone 01582 547980

Flying Start Parenting Coordinator: Gillian Smith 

Flying Start Early Years Nutrition Lead: Louise Morrisey


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