MatCHNet at European Public Health Week 2022

The European Public Health Week (EUPHW) aims to raise awareness about public health and promote collaboration among the public health community in Europe. This webpage collates current knowledge about the challenges of evaluating social policies that can improve child and maternal health. It relates to the overall theme of EUPHW 2022 – Health throughout the lifecourse and links to a special theme on A healthy and health literate youth.

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Evaluating Policies in the Early Years

The health and wellbeing of our children is a barometer for any nation’s success. Health inequalities emerge from early in life, this is of particular concern because these inequalities track across the life course, and also from one generation to the next, producing avoidable economic and social costs. Despite decades of policy efforts and research, inequalities in children’s health persist and will increase in the wake of the pandemic.

The early years are now widely accepted to be the most effective period in the life course to intervene to reduce inequalities and improve life chances. Upstream policies, i.e. those which strive to tackle the social determinants of health are thought to hold most potential to improve many health outcomes including those relating to pregnancy and early childhood. Randomised controlled trials are not an appropriate study design for evaluating upstream policies, which can rarely be randomised to some groups and not others (due to ethical implications and political or time restraints, for example). Since new policies are usually implemented across entire populations, control groups common in RCTs may be difficult to identify but can include populations in similar countries who were not exposed to these policy changes. Administrative data, coupled with policy variations across the UK, offer a promising yet under-utilised opportunity to evaluate the impacts of policies on child and maternal health. MatCHNet – the Maternal and Child Health Network – strives to address this gap.

This page showcases a range of research and resources highlighting the importance of Evaluating Polices in the Early Years.

How to effectively use data systems to improve maternal and child health inequalities in Scotland

In this short video, Ruth Dundas speaks about the importance of evaluating policies and how administrative data provides an opportunity to do these evaluations.

Investing in early years to reduce non-communicable diseases in adults

We wrote an Editorial for the European Journal of Public Health. It lays out the steps necessary to carry out robust evaluations of social policies. 

MatCHNet webinar series: policy evaluations in the early years

Find out more about how to do these evaluations from our Policy Webinar Series. These 15 minute webinars focus on the policy implications of the evaluations.

Available to view: The English Teenage Pregnancy Strategy; Impacts of cuts to local government investment on childhood obesity; Using administrative data to evaluate the Family Nurse Partnership in England; Evaluation of ‘Flying Start’, a programme of early years childcare provision.

Please sign up to attend our current webinar series. Topics to be presented: Impact on infant and maternal health of the Baby Box Scheme in Scotland; Impact of the ban on smoking in cars on child health.

Policy briefs and reports

We have identified a range of upstream policies in the UK that can affect maternal and child health.

We consulted with a range of stakeholders from across the maternal and child health sphere, including academics, third sector, government departments and public health agencies. These policies were narrowed down and prioritised according to those that require further research evidence of their impact.

You can read about these priority areas in our Policy Briefs and Reports.