Jean Urquhart today welcomed news of a pioneering programme which provides support to first-time young parents being extended to the Highlands.

The Family Nurse Partnership programme, which aims to give children a healthier start in life, is already up and running in Lothian, Tayside, Fife, Glasgow and Ayrshire & Arran council regions.

Family nurses visit expectant mums every one or two weeks during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of their baby’s life, offering guidance and supporting mothers to make positive choices on areas such as child development, preventative health measures, parenting skills, breastfeeding, better diet information and on education and employment.

The evidence from programmes already up and running in the US shows that it is improving prenatal health, increasing young mothers’ uptake of employment, resulting in fewer unintended pregnancies and helping to reduce child neglect.

The programme will be up and running in Highland by early next year, and will see a team of four nurses supporting 100 families.

Jean Urquhart welcomed the Government’s announcement, saying:

“The Highlands is deservedly gaining a reputation for pioneering the integration of health and social care. This will help us to explore the benefits of delivering such an intensive programme in a formally integrated health and social care environment.

 “The programme has been running in the Lothian region for two and a half years now and evaluation of the impact of the project has so far shown positive results.

“Intervening at the earliest possible opportunity to support those in our society who are most in need is the key to improving Scotland’s health. I look forward to seeing this programme bring benefits to a region which is already at the forefront of Scotland’s innovation in health.”

The programme is the brainchild of Dr David Olds, Professor of Paediatrics and Director, Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health, University of Colorado.