Catherine Lowenhoff's Story
Catherine embarked on her Fellowship in 2012 to learn more about Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting (MECSH), a structured programme of sustained nurse home visiting for families at risk of poorer maternal and child health and development outcomes.
Catherine travelled to Sydney and Adelaide for six weeks to meet Professor Lynn Kemp, recognised as one of the leading primary health care early childhood researchers in Australia. Lynn and her team are responsible for developing and monitoring the effectiveness and acceptability of MECSH. One of the ambitions of MECSH is to help parents understand how every child develops, so that parents can foster that development to help their child feel secure.
One of the programmes being used in MECSH is called ‘Learning to Communicate’, which focuses on the development of communication skills. Catherine met the author of ‘Learning to Communicate’, attended workshops, talked to health nurses and accompanied them on home visits to observe how such programmes are used in practice.
This was especially done to support health visitors in England to use MECSH and ‘Learning to Communicate’ as the framework for structured and sustained home visiting of the most vulnerable families on their caseloads.
On her return, Catherine was able to share what she had learnt at a pre-arranged series of workshops for health visitors in Essex and at the annual Community Practitioner and Health Visitor Association conference.
As Essex, Jersey, Plymouth, Somerset and Lewisham have made a commitment to use MECSH and ‘Learning to Communicate’, Catherine is actively involved in supporting them and establishing MECSH UK Community of Practice (CoP) which will enable UK based organisations to share ideas, challenges, experiences and co-ordinate support from Professor Lynn Kemp. It will also provide information and support to any new organisations who might be considering using MECSH.
Catherine’s discussions with health visitors made it clear that Health Visitor tutors and Community Practice Teachers were feeling overwhelmed with the challenge of delivering on the government commitment to increase the health visitor workforce by 25% from 2011 to 2015. With the much larger cohorts of students starting their training every year, the tutors and teachers were looking for innovative ways of sharing information and developing proficiency in the practice of health visiting.
With the help of some start-up funding and in collaboration with a colleague, Catherine designed three interactive games and one set of activity worksheets for health visitors. These learning resources were awarded the 2013 CPHVA MacQueen Award for Excellence in Practice, which led to Catherine giving a presentation at the CPHVA conference in 2013, and writing an article for the Community Practitioner Journal in 2014. As a result, Catherine and her colleague have set up a company (LCB Resources) to develop and distribute learning resources to health and social care professionals.
In 2015, Catherine was appointed as one of the 154 inaugural Fellows of the Institute of Health Visiting. She was also awarded a Nigel Groome 150th anniversary PhD research studentship at Oxford Brookes University to explore the best way of supporting mothers with mental health problems during pregnancy and the year following delivery.
She has also successfully applied for place on the European Academy of Nursing Science Summer School. This has been set up for nurses from all over Europe who are studying for a Phd in order to develop and promote knowledge in nursing science and to recognise research and scholarly achievement in the pursuit of excellence.