Newham has the UK’s highest birth cohort of 6500 babies each year. It has a diverse and often divided borough with a Black and Minority Ethnic Population of 83.3%. Many families are not aware of the information and support that is available through mainstream public services. A recent report suggests a language barrier is one reason (JSNA 2016).   Another, is that most families prefer to look for support in their own communities as opposed to public services.

A report also showed that Newham mothers are very much in need of trusted, reliable information in order to help them make more informed decisions and to get the help they need for themselves and their children.

This is the need that Best Beginnings aims to address and has set its ambition high – by 2021 it hopes that at least 50% of parents-to-be and new parents will be actively using their  Baby Buddy app to help maximise their own and their babies’ physical and mental wellbeing with a focus  on tackling difficult conversations around mental illness: videos of parents from all backgrounds, sharing their experiences are a key feature in the app and help reduce the feeling of isolation.

Newham Resident, Shabira Papain is Chief Operating Officer of Best Beginnings and has actively championed the need to work in Newham. Papain, a mother of two herself,  is particularly passionate about emotional health during pregnancy and shortly after.

“We have to remember that we talk about a mother’s mental health, we are also talking about the mental wellbeing of the whole family including the baby. Emotional health during pregnancy and the early months after birth has a profound impact on a baby’s developing brain. If we want our children to be able to maximise their potential, we need to look after mum and dad too.”

“As we know, talking about mental health is still really taboo in lots of our communities”, says Papain. “Many people don’t realise that low mood and anxiety are common in early parenthood. The sooner people know that they might need a little extra support, the sooner they can take control of their health and well-being. First they need to know what to look out for and then what to do and where to get help".

When mental health videos were first piloted, Papain took them to a mothers group in east London, “We demonstrated the impact with just one video clip.  Honestly in fifteen years of working in community development, I had never experienced anything like it before.  It was as if the floodgates had opened. Everyone started talking about their own experiences. It was incredibly empowering and liberating.”

If you are an individual or organisation and you would like to find out more about the Parents as Leaders Training Programme or to get more information about the Baby Buddy pregnancy and Parenting app, please contact our head of Operations, Carly Bond at [email protected]