Scoping a common elements approach for the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities to improve outcomes for young children

Little boy working on a puzzle

CEI is delighted to have worked with the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) scoping the feasibility of using a common elements approach in parenting of vulnerable children aged 0-2. The work, led by our team in the UK & Europe, drew on our extensive common elements experience within Australian family services, including with Aboriginal-led services, as well as work undertaken with the new Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning & Development (CHILD) in Singapore.

The Office of Health Improvement and Disparities: facilitating access to parenting support

OHID exists to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing and to reduce health inequalities. Within OHID, and as part of its Best Start in Life program, the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) National Unit has a broader remit to lead a public health approach that ensures all parents can access the right level of evidence-informed parenting support, according to their needs and context. OHID was therefore interested in exploring a common elements approach to parenting support, as a way of strengthening the uptake of evidence and broadening access to effective evidence-based practices that are part of parenting programs such as FNP.

What is a common elements approach?

A common elements approach enables us to get evidence into practice sooner. Strengthening evidence-based practices improves the delivery and quality of services. A number of evidence-based and manualised programs exist that are of proven effectiveness in meeting the needs of families and children for example. FNP is one of these, widely used both in the UK and globally. These programs are an important part of provision for parents, particularly those who need more intensive support across a range of areas. The intensity of evidence-based programs means that they can be onerous for agencies to install, deliver and sustain, and they are used for targeted groups of families rather than to reach families more widely. The content of effective programs can also overlap, with several techniques or approaches common across programs.

A common elements approach involves identifying the specific practice techniques (‘common elements') that are recurrently part of effective programs and supporting practitioners to deliver these – typically in a modular approach and with resources to support the selection and sequencing of common practice elements for individual service users. The approach is thus flexible and responsive to the specific needs and preferences of service users. Research has highlighted its feasibility and effectiveness.

What did the study involve?

  • A rapid review of approaches to identifying and operationalising common elements and of evidence of implementation and treatment outcomes
  • Initial consultation sessions with stakeholders (national and local decision-makers, professional organisations, academics) to explore views about the potential of using a common elements approach in parenting provision
  • Review of relevant policy and practice frameworks
  • Advising on the stages and phases of work that would be involved in taking a common elements approach forward