Nurture Early for Optimal Nutrition (NEON)
It is well evidenced that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are an important period for both growth and brain development, and that feeding practices developed during this period can impact children’s nutrition, growth, dental health and cognitive development, and longer-term health later in life.
Children of South Asian origin in east London have a much higher risk of poor nutrition and obesity than the average UK child. The NEON programme aims to optimise infant feeding, care, and dental hygiene practices among children under 2 years old, within communities of South Asian origin in East London. It shifts the power to the community to better support mothers and carers.
NEON is led by Prof Monica Lakhanpaul from the Institute of Child Health and Dr Logan Manikam from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, both at University College London. It is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), and supported by NIHR ARC North Thames, who submitted the nomination. The programme has been developed in partnership with South Asian communities in East London and involves a wide range of academic, health, local government and charity partners including London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest Council, Newham Council, North East London NHS Foundation Trust NHS Foundation Trust, The Parent and Family Support Services in Tower Hamlets, Tower Hamlets GP Care Group, UCLPartners, British Heart Foundation and Newcastle University.
NEON is a community-led and co-produced intervention, which supports the development of safe, inclusive environments for mothers and carers to explore the key health challenges they face, share information about good practices, and support each other to overcome any issues.
Community members were trained as co-researchers in order to shape the NEON aims and approach, and local, bilingual women were trained and introduced into local women’s groups as community facilitators to lead the NEON intervention. These groups helped to reduce language barriers and literacy issues so that communities were given health advice that they understood and could turn into action.
Overall, the programme has seen improved nutrition and feeding practices, maternal and neonatal survival rates, and the research has influenced Tower Hamlets and Newham Local Authority early year programmes. It has also led to the co-development of an intervention toolkit with South Asian Communities in East London, which includes a cultural recipe book with healthy baby feeding practices, a list of local support services, and participatory community asset maps.