Health promotion in pregnancy and early parenthood : the challenge of innovation, implementation and change within the Salut Programme

Sammanfattning: Background: In 2005, the Västerbotten County Council launched a child health promotion programme, “the Salut Programme”, in response to an alarming prevalence of overweight and obesity, and trends of increased dental caries, among young county citizens. The programme, initially developed in four pilot areas, is built on multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration and aims to support and strengthen health promotion activities in health care, social services and school settings. It targets children and adolescents (0-18 years of age) and their parents, and starts during pregnancy. This thesis focuses on interventions provided by antenatal care, child health care, dental services, and open pre-schools, directed to expectant parents and families with children aged 0-1 ½ years. Within the programme context, the aim was to explore socio-demographic patterns of overweight and obesity in expectant parents (Paper I), firsttime parents’ experiences of health promotion and lifestyle change during pregnancy and early parenthood (Paper II), professionals’ experiences of factors influencing programme implementation and sustainability (Paper III and IV), and early programme outcomes on professionals’ health promotion practices and collaboration following countywide dissemination and implementation (Paper IV). Methods and results: A population based cross-sectional study among expectant parents showed overweight and obesity in 29% of women (pre-pregnancy) and in 53% of men (n=4,352♀, 3,949♂). The likelihood for obesity was higher in expectant parents with lower levels of education, among those unemployed or on sick leave, and those living in rural areas. In 62% of couples, at least one of the partners was overweight or obese; a positive partner correlation was also found for BMI (I). An interview study with 24 first-time parents (n=12♀, 12♂) revealed that they primarily undertook lifestyle changes to secure the health of the fetus in pregnancy, and to provide a healthy environment in childhood. Parents described themselves as highly receptive to information about how their lifestyle could influence fetal health, and they frequently discussed pregnancy risks related to tobacco and alcohol, as well as toxins and infectious agents in foods. However, parents did not seem inclined to make lifestyle changes primarily to promote their own health. The antenatal and child health care services were perceived as being mainly directed towards women, and parents described a lack of a holistic view of the family which included experiences of fathers being treated as less important (II). An interview study undertaken with professionals (n=23) in the Salut Programme pilot areas indicated programme sustainability at most sites, two years after implementation, although less adherence was described within child health care. Factors influencing programme sustainability, as described by professionals, were identified at multiple organisational levels (III). A before-and-after survey among professionals (n=144) measured outcomes of the county-wide implementation of the Salut Programme in 13 out of 15 county municipalities. Results showed significant improvements in professionals’ health promotion practices and collaboration across sectors. A number of important implementation facilitators and barriers, acting at different organizational levels, were also identified via a survey comprised of open-ended questions (IV). Conclusion: The Salut Programme, developed with high involvement of professionals, and strongly integrated in existing organisational structures and practices, shows potential for improving health promotion practices and cross-sectoral collaboration. The findings can inform further development of the Salut well as new health promotion initiatives, and inform policy practice and future research. These aspects include approaches in health promotion and prevention, father involvement during pregnancy and early parenthood, and factors influencing implementation and sustainability of cross-sectoral health promotion programmes.