Early childhood development entails supporting children’s holistic development across different domains: cognitive, social, emotional, mental and physical health.
Since 2017, Circle of Care (CoC) has been partnering National University Hospital’s Child Development Unit (NUH-CDU) to develop and implement a preschool-based Health and Development Support in Pre-school Partnerships (HEADS-UPP).
Through the programme, our team of paediatricians, teachers, child development specialists and social workers:
- Provide holistic health and development screening
- Partner parents to inculcate healthy habits for children
- Work closely with parents to support them in following through with referrals and helping to ensure that the children receive needed treatments in a timely way
Providing easy access to medical screening of children at partner preschools for early identification and assessment of health and developmental concerns
Interdisciplinary team of professionals working closely with parents to provide a strong support network and continuum of care for children
Systemic approach to bridge barriers for families with greater needs towards seeking professional help for health and developmental risks of children as early as possible
Ways We Support
With the partnership between CoC and NUHkids, the Health and Development Support in Pre-school Partnerships (HEADS-UPP) aims to identify, assess and support children’s health and/or developmental needs early.
Health and Development Screening
A holistic health screening for young children is conducted at partner preschools by paediatric-trained doctors and nurses from NUHkids. The screening includes growth, development, vision, hearing and dental health.
Parents are invited to be present as they may consult the doctor on concerns they have about their child’s development. The familiar environment for the children also makes for a more accurate screening as well.
Interdisciplinary Team (IDT) Collaboration
The IDT is made up of professionals from Early Childhood Education, Social Work and Learning Support, and supported by social workers, school leadership, child development specialists and doctors.
They come together immediately after the screening to contribute skills and knowledge from their respective disciplines as well as an understanding and knowledge of each child in different settings, which allows for a more comprehensive care plan for the child.
The Health Toolkit guidebook is produced as a collaboration between NUHkids and CoC which addresses the psycho-educational component of Health Development. It informs parents about common health topics ranging from nutrition, screen-time, vaccinations, exercise, dental hygiene, sleep hygiene and safety at home.
Our CoC social workers also partner parents in using the Toolkit. Through activities and games, we work together to help inculcate healthy habits for children.
Referral and Follow-up
Being able to access timely support in the community is an essential component of Health Development, especially for parents of children identified with health or developmental concerns.
Doctors in HEADS-UPP facilitate this through post-screening referral letters and recommendations for appropriate follow-ups. CoC’s social workers work closely with parents to support them in following through with referrals and helping to ensure that the children receive needed treatments as timely as possible.
A study of this pilot programme was launched in 2018 by the National University Hospital’s Khoo Teck Puat – National University Children’s Medical Institute (KTP-NUCMI). The study found that investing in an integrated preschool-based healthcare model for children from low-income families reduces barriers to health services and improves overall quality of life.
However, results from the study also found that young children from low-income families faced a drastic drop in referral follow-ups after their health screenings. This highlights a continual need to better connect families to follow through and work with existing support systems on health development.
There were really positive findings for (Circle of Care). This allowed us to remove some of the barriers to us reaching the children who were hard to reach. Designing such place-based health models for the hardest-to-reach children helps to enhance early detection of health and developmental issues and informs parents of changing practices.
Dr Chong Shang Chee, Principal Investigator of the study
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