The most influential time on the healthy growth and development of a child is from the period of conception to the age of six. This is a critical time for brain development, parent-child interaction, family functioning, and culture practices. It is also vital for the mental and physical health outcomes for the child, mother, family, and ultimately, the community.
The vision of Maternal Child Health (MCH) is to support pregnant First Nation women and families with families with young children reach their fullest developmental and lifetime potential. This is achieved by providing access to a local, integrated, and effective program grounded in First Nations culture that responds to the needs of the individual, family, and community.
The role of the Home Visitor in the delivery of the MCH services is critical to the improvement of the health of pregnant First Nations women and families with young children.
All aspects of the MCH program are voluntary, strength-based and culturally safe. Home Visitors (HV) spend 70% of their time conducting home visits with their clients. The HV spends the rest of their time researching, planning, and scheduling home visits, as well as organizing and facilitating parent programs in the community. In addition, MCH and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) programs are designed to provide culturally safe programs that acknowledge and respect cultural differences in each community.
Overall, HVs provided home visits to 90 families who learned about parenting and early childhood development, culture, traditions, and the importance of retaining two languages. In these sessions, parents also learned the importance of secure attachment and bonding, which promotes healthy families and children.
Promoting healthy pregnancies and enhancing healthy families through culture and tradition
As an integral component of MCH, Elders from the communities share teachings about culture and traditions. Some of the activities included the following:
- Elders regularly attended our MCH meetings where they provided guidance and wisdom on healthy relationships, especially traditional child-rearing practices.
- Knowledge Keeper Janet Fox facilitated the workshops: “Fatherhood is Sacred and Healing the Caregiver,” as well as the “Importance of Self Care.”
- Home Visitors trained with resources from the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society, including the video, “The Best Start in Life,” and the facilitator’s toolkit, “What Youth Need to Know about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?”
- Home Visitors were trained as facilitators for the Fempower, 2BBoys, and Girl Power program. Some of the topics were about healthy moms, healthy babies and children, building the future, challenges for young moms, being assertive, and historical trauma.
Nippissing District Development Screening Tool
MCH continues to utilize the Nipissing District Development Screen, which is a developmental screening tool used by the parents. Geared for children and infants from zero to six years of age, it provides a snapshot of their child’s development in areas, such as vision, hearing, emotional, fine motor, gross motor, social, self-help, communication, learning, and thinking.
In our work to integrate culture into MCH with FASD programs, we are currently researching health promotion practices and encourage our HVs to initiate or assist with the prenatal and youth-focussed FASD prevention.