The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) has launched an online training programme to support Making Every Contact Count (MECC) implementation.

The new online educational programme, called CHAT, aims to increase practitioner confidence in engaging and supporting families to make lifestyle changes to improve their short and long-term health.

CHAT offers online and face-to-face training and is unique in that it combines the ‘knowledge of healthy behaviours in early life’ with Healthy Conversation Skills (HCS). This unique, scalable and transferable intervention will help achieve current government targets to combat maternal and childhood obesity through the MECC mandate.

CHAT has already delivered positive results in a recent pilot with the Pre-school Learning Alliance. Of the 70 respondents, the majority (80%) reported a significant increase in confidence when giving advice on nutrition and lifestyle post training.

Dr Wendy Lawrence, Associate Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Southampton leads the development and delivery of HCS training, said: “The Alliance pilot showed that there were significant shifts from telling/suggesting responses to asking Open Discovery Questions, which reflect an empowerment approach to supporting behaviour change, thus demonstrating how effective the training and accompanying resources can be.

“This programme aids implementation of the MECC mandate by providing practitioners with the skills to initiate difficult conversations on sensitive health-related topics and more effectively support individuals to make meaningful and long-lasting changes.”

Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Member of the ITF, who has developed the Ten Steps programmes for healthy pregnancy, infancy and toddlers, said: “The Ten Steps series are incorporated within the context of the CHAT programme to effectively combine the HCS and the guidance to help form healthy habits. If those professionals who have contact with young families used a consistent, empowerment style of communication with their clients, obesity rates in under-fives could be reduced through prevention which would have a positive impact on long-term population health.”

For more information on the face-to-face training contact info@infant&toddlerforum.org. The online resources are available from www.infantandtoddlerforum.org/health-childcare-professionals/healthy-conversation.