Giving every child the best start in life is a policy priority in England, yet we currently lack understanding of how to support children at a local level. To address this, we are undertaking a programme of research to better understand child health systems at a local level in order to identify opportunities for intervention. A systems model of public health “conceptualises poor health and health inequalities as outcomes of a multitude of interdependent elements within a connected whole”. It places emphasis on understanding the whole system of influences on child health, rather than individual factors. Currently we have a limited understanding of how local child health systems operate and are changing over time. In this work package, we will use a systems ‘lens’ to map the components of local systems that influence child health and inform systems-based approaches to improving CYP outcomes. By ‘local’ we mean the geographical boundaries of the local authority but recognise that components of the system will not be organisationally-bounded to local government but will include other public bodies (e.g. the NHS), third and private sector actors. We will use the system map to identify potential cost-effective, equitable local policies/practices/interventions that seek to change the system to work towards better child health outcomes within current resources available; and develop principles of good practice for the development of a protective system to reduce child health inequalities.
The overall aim of this work is to scope and create a child health system map for use at a local level in order to inform opportunities for effective interventions at a systems level to reduce child health inequalities.