Local PRISM initiatives undertaken in support of mothers
In addition to the key minimum elements of PRISM planned and implemented in all eight intervention communities, other important local initiatives were also undertaken in support of mothers during PRISM.
The work of the community development officers, in conjunction with their steering committees, led to a range of additional initiatives in intervention areas. Often ideas developed as community organisations or local businesses became involved in PRISM and offered support of various kinds. Some of the additional initiatives occurred in all areas, such as working with local council staff and councillors to build a focus on maternal health into local government policies and programs. Often 'good ideas' from one community were taken up in and developed in others, as word of these was shared between intervention communities via community development officer meetings, the project newsletter, PRISM Points, or the joint community forums. Other initiatives remained specific to individual communities, reflecting the diversity of responses to providing support for mothers by each steering committee on behalf of their local area.
Some of the additional local initiatives are described here.
Newsletters for mothers
Community development officers and steering committees in most PRISM intervention communities produced local newsletters during the project, specifically for recent mothers. These were designed to:
- inform local women and others about what was happening in PRISM
- provide information about the range of activities and services for mothers locally
- promote PRISM messages to mothers, such as the value of having some time out, of looking after one's own health and well-being, and of finding someone with whom to share the ups and downs of motherhood
- let women know about local businesses, venues and services that were 'mother-and baby-friendly'
- provide an opportunity for mothers to contribute and share their own views of, and information about, motherhood.
Mothers' newsletters were distributed via maternal and child health centres, some GP clinics, PRISM cafès and community centres. Examples:
Mothers' Health Matters: maternal health noticeboards and information sheets
Discussion of information available for mothers in maternal and child health waiting rooms occurred frequently during the PRISM training program for nurses - particularly how so much of the available information related to baby and child health, and so little to maternal health.
The maternal and child health team in the Mornington Peninsula Shire developed the idea of a maternal health noticeboard, Mothers Health Matters, to be set up in each maternal and child health centre, with information adapted from the PRISM Information Kits. Developed over time by groups of two or three of the team's nurses, information and displays on a number of maternal health topics were created for use in rotation on the noticeboards at each centre. These were then shared across the PRISM intervention communities, and with the assistance of the community development officers in each area, Mothers Health Matters noticeboards and information sheets were set up in maternal and child health centres in all PRISM areas. Often information about relevant local services and activities was added to the generic display.
View the Mothers Health Matters information:
- Mothers' health matters too [PDF 449KB]
- Exhaustion [PDF 109KB]
- Being active [PDF 617KB]
- Incontinence [PDF 592KB]
- Back pain [PDF 94KB]
- Being a mother and staying in touch (social networks) [PDF 713KB]
- Depression [PDF 589KB]
- Infant feeding [PDF 634KB]
- Postnatal health [PDF 930KB]
- Sex [PDF 525KB]
Celebrating motherhood became a common theme in many strategies developed by Steering Committees to mobilise their local communities around PRISM and around support for mothers. Community development officers and members of steering committees looked for public ways to acknowledge the enormous and important job that women do in bearing and raising children.
Two important strategies for focusing community attention on mothers were the local PRISM launches and community celebrations of Mother's Day.
Local PRISM launches
The PRISM information Kits for mothers were prepared with local input during the first half of 1999. Launching the kits in each local area developed into an opportunity for promoting PRISM messages about support for mothers and for mobilising community efforts to make such support tangible. They were also important in acknowledging the support already offered to PRISM, such as that from local businesses who had made voucher contributions.
The PRISM launches happened in large shopping centres with management support, at community venues (an arts centre, a community hall, a library, a cinema, a local café in a small rural town) and at municipal offices. In two rural areas more than one launch was organised: in one, in two different towns, to overcome the tyranny of distance; in the other, at two different times (day/evening) to acknowledge the very different time constraints for mothers and local businesses, and ensure they had the opportunity to attend.
The launches were lively and celebratory affairs, attended by lots of mothers and lots of children. There were balloons and show bags and displays about local services for mothers. Several of the launches involved brief performances from the cast members of the popular Melbourne production about motherhood, Mum's the Word. A variety of people also spoke about motherhood, about the need for support and acknowledgement of what mothers do, and about PRISM: mothers, councillors, voucher contributors, local government staff, maternal and child health nurses, fathers, community development officers, members of the research team.
Read excerpts from two launch talks [PDF 444KB] - one from a mother and one from a Council Chief Executive Officer, as well as photos from the launches - included in the September 1999 issue of PRISM Points.
Mother's Day events
A number of steering committees and community development officers focused attention on making Mother's Day each year a time for active community acknowledgement and support for mothers. Mother's Day events [PDF 1MB] were organised to celebrate motherhood and to give recognition to the role mothers play in our community.
Local media coverage about mothers
From the beginning of the project, community development officers were keen to develop contacts with their local media, writing media releases, visiting the local papers and providing information about activities for mothers.
The aim was to work with the local papers in particular, to:
- Inform mothers and the local community about PRISM
- Promote local activities and services for mothers
- Role model PRISM messages about motherhood: the need for support, time out and looking after the health of mothers.
Local media coverage was sought initially when the PRISM commenced to let people know about its aims and to canvass interest in membership of steering committees. At other times there was media coverage of PRISM events and activities. In the period leading up to Mother's Day, articles were written about motherhood and local voucher contributors also featured in advertising segments with special messages of support for mothers.
Examples of local media coverage:
In two PRISM areas, regular columns about motherhood [PDF 1.2MB] were negotiated with local papers, and PRISM community development officers, local mothers and steering committee members wrote short articles with an emphasis on the experience of mothers, maternal health issues and the value of support.
Making environments mother-friendly, baby-friendly, family-friendly
Getting out and about in the local community with a young baby and other children in tow is a challenge most mothers are very familiar with:
- footpaths that defy pushing a pram along
- doorways into shops that are too narrow or have doors too hard to open with one hand and a pram
- lolly displays at child-height in shops and supermarkets n non-existent or inadequate baby change and feeding facilities
- narrow parking spaces that are hard to manoeuvre a pram in and out of the car
- playgrounds without fences or shade for summer days.
Making local environments more mother-friendly became an important goal of the project and considerable effort in PRISM communities was invested in helping local businesses and shops, service providers of various kinds and local government departments responsible for footpaths, parking and community facilities to become more aware of the needs of mothers with young children.
Each PRISM locality guide for mothers also highlighted the existence of mother-friendly services and facilities in the area, and the project acknowledged those businesses and services that made efforts to welcome and support mothers by awarding a PRISM window sticker [PDF 24KB].
Read more about some of the strategies employed to raise awareness about making getting out and about in local communities easier for mothers [PDF 184KB].
What about fathers?
PRISM was a project focused on support for recent mothers. An important support for mothers is very often their partners. Fathers of new babies also need support and some PRISM areas put extra energy into recognising their efforts as well. For example, one area organised a Dad's Arvo for fathers and their babies.
In addition, the inclusion of an information booklet for fathers [PDF 506KB] in all the PRISM Information Kits, and in some areas, the inclusion of vouchers [PDF 601KB] specifically for fathers was done in recognition of fathers' role in their babies' lives and in supporting mothers.
Improving the focus on maternal health in local government
An important part of PRISM activity in all areas involved raising the profile of mothers with local government and working with council staff and councillors to ensure that Council policies and programs were attentive to the needs of recent mothers.
This activity took a range of forms from participating in developing or amending Municipal Public Health Plans and Children's and Family Services Plans, to writing a Maternal Health Policy for adoption by Council, to recommending changes to existing services or, in one instance, initiating a whole new service designed to meet the needs of mothers, a council-provided home cleaning service for mothers.
In addition, much work was done consulting with mothers and feeding back their recommendations to Council – in one area this occurred around the need for childcare services, in others around the need for more mother-friendly local environments, as outlined above.
Read more about some of these efforts in relation to local government policies and programs [PDF 243KB].
Joint activities between maternal child health nurses and general practitioners
Following the education programs for maternal and child health nurses and general practitioners, a number of local activities were organised to promote greater contact and collaboration between nurses and GPs:
- In some areas, maternal and child health nurses visited GP practices to talk about their own work and build links with local GPs
- An MCH Contact card [PDF 18KB] for mothers to give their GPs as a way of notifying GPs which nurse the mother was attending, and encouraging GPs to contact nurses was implemented throughout the project - with mixed success.
- In one area GPs were invited to attend lunches at the maternal and child health centres to promote understanding of the work of nurses and better referral mechanisms between nurses and GPs
- In several areas joint continuing education activities were organised on maternal health and related topics (eg maternal depression, sexual health) sponsored by GP Divisions and local government.
Post-PRISM - a focus on maternal health - the challenge continues
The two-year implementation phase of PRISM was completed at the end of 2000. This was not, however, the end of 'PRISM strategies'. Ongoing work in support of mothers has continued with a range of the activities established through the project being sustained. The following are just some of these.
By early 2001 PRISM Steering Committees completed their two-year terms co-ordinating PRISM strategies locally. However, in all areas the local committees decided to continue their focus on maternal health and support for mothers by forming ongoing committees/networks of various kinds. These new bodies have continued to draw together health professionals, community agencies and local mothers to promote mothers' interests in each area and advise local government on issues for mothers and families. In several instances they have formal links with local government, with some having Council sub-committee status.
Three PRISM areas continued to fund community development officers with local council funding (one part-time on a short-term basis for several months, a second part-time for over a year, and the third with an ongoing full-time position attached to the maternal and child health team). A fourth area maintained the community development officer employing her in a related role through the local community health service.
Several areas continued regular newsletters about health issues and local activities for mothers, with the assistance of local mothers themselves.
PRISM information kit materials - mothers' health leaflets and the locality guide for mothers - have been incorporated in one area into a new council information package for local parents; and in other areas Council Community Services Directories have been re-vamped to include PRISM-style locality guide information for mothers.
Maternal and child health teams have continued with a range of befriending strategies for mothers, including mothers' walking times, groups for mothers with second and subsequent children or special mothers' events. Other community organisations have also maintained involvement in befriending for mothers.
Maternal health topics' sheets and maternal and child health noticeboard displays continued to be produced and were made available for other PRISM MCH teams beyond the implementation phase of PRISM.
The focus on improving local environments for mothers also continued with a number of councils including relevant environmental improvements in forward planning and budget estimates.
In some areas, links forged between maternal and child health teams and General Practice Divisions during PRISM have resulted in subsequent joint continuing education sessions on maternal health topics.
In November 2001, a joint PRISM Communities' Forum was held to share both the achievements and the challenges of keeping support for recent mothers on local agendas, 'post-PRISM'.