Abstract: Original focus was Tower Hamlets Public Health Team, now broadened to wider UK
Introduction: The aim of the research was to gain a greater understanding of the factors that influence mother’s perceptions and practices in relation to infant and young child feeding and oral health in Tower Hamlets. The research fed into the borough restructuring decisions, with all recommendations agreed to be supported, including an annual mixed team workshop to improve integration. A borough workshop increased impact of research to feed into present discussions on the impact of advertising and the role of sugar in obesity and diabetes.
Methodology: A qualitative methodology was applied. The target group were mothers with children under five, service providers and carers. The participants were selected using purposeful, convenience and snowball sampling methods. Data was collected using key informant interviews, focus group discussions and direct observations. In all, 36 key informant interviews, 3 direct observations and 18 focus group discussions were carried out. The focus group discussions included 144 participants. A thematic analysis was used.
Findings: The themes identified were communication, access, trust, reaching the most vulnerable, policy adherence, capacity, leadership and governance. There was universal knowledge that breastfeeding is best and that too much sugar is unhealthy. However, there was less clarity on what drinks and food contain the least sugar and when you should take your infant to see the dentist. Mothers reported mixed messages, pain and pressure from the media and families as the main reasons for early weaning and changing from breastfeeding to bottle feeding. Many mothers did not take their infants to the dentist until they started school. Mothers find adhering to healthy eating guidelines too expensive, and snacks like chicken and chips were not thought of as food, just snacks. Not all dentists were seeing infants. Mothers prefer face to face health information rather than leaflets.