In Oxfordshire, it’s part of each health visitor’s role to offer additional expertise as part of partnership work with children’s centres. Within my team, individual health visitors have specialised in issues like domestic violence or post-natal depression, as well as obesity, and co-deliver programmes for parents with children’s centre staff. I was interested in HENRY because of its emphasis on parenting as an integral part of a healthy family lifestyle. I work in a deprived part of the city where parents are leading chaotic lives and struggling in their relationships with their children as a result of stress, low self-esteem and depression – so they need support with family life in general.
What I love about HENRY is that as well as helping families lead healthier lives, it also builds parents’ confidence in themselves. Parents coming along to a HENRY programme feel nurtured – and stronger as a result. HENRY’s approach draws out what families can do rather than what they can’t and encourages them to share ideas with each other. And the way the sessions build on each other makes change manageable and helps parents take small positive steps forward.
Where I work it’s a huge challenge getting parents engaged, so seeing them stay the course over the 8 week programme and the difference it makes is very rewarding. For many it’s their first experience of being in a group since they were at school and you can visibly see their self-belief, hope and motivation grow.
HENRY’s solution-focused approach helps parents ask themselves “How can we?” rather than just believing they can’t. They start eating together more as a family – preparing food at home and thinking about portion sizes – and building physical activity into their lives so that getting out to the park or going swimming with their children becomes part of normal daily life.
One family were living in bed and breakfast accommodation with no proper cooking facilities so they were eating takeaway food every night. But whilst they were doing the HENRY programme they made macaroni cheese for the first time – using the two hotplates in the B&B.
HENRY has also helped me in my day-to-day work as a health visitor. The HENRY resources fit really well with the Start4Life messages and I use them when I’m talking to parents at clinic or doing development checks. The HENRY training and resources have helped me to talk much more confidently about weaning, portions sizes and family eating behaviour – to help families provide a healthy environment for children to grow up in. I also take my iPad to visits with me so we can look at the HENRY resources online and encourage them to watch HENRY’s healthy eating film on the website.
It also spills over into your own life. I’ve got two children and the whole family is now much more on board with eating more fruit and vegetables and reducing sugar. HENRY is just very motivating – when I was running my first programme I did the 'couch to 5k' and got down to my target weight. So it’s not just the families I work with that are experiencing the benefits of HENRY!
Supporting parents to provide a healthy start in life for their children
Real stories from HENRY families