Are we getting the message across? Women's perceptions of public health messages in pregnancy
As the primary health professionals involved with families from their very beginnings, midwives have an ideal opportunity to promote health and wellbeing through family-centred conversations around key public health issues. To explore and articulate this aspect of the role of midwives and maternity support workers, the Royal College of Midwives has developed a new model for public health within midwifery services. As part of this project, a focus group was conducted using a closed Facebook group to investigate how women using the service perceive the delivery of public health messages. Three major themes emerged: pressures on the midwife–woman relationship; different media for health messages; and midwives' and maternity support workers' communication skills.
The potential for midwives to have a long-term impact on families by engaging purposefully in their public health role has been more clearly recognised in recent years, with publications such as Midwifery 2020 (Chief Nursing Officers of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 2010) highlighting this unique contribution. Aiming to further articulate this vital aspect of the role of midwives, and to explore how maternity support workers (MSWs) can also engage in the public health remit, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) received funding from the Department of Health to develop a new model for the public health role of the midwifery team.
As part of the RCM's project, Dr Sanders and colleagues from Cardiff University used closed groups on Facebook to conduct focus groups for various professionals within the maternity setting, raising a wide range of key themes and recommendations (Sanders et al, 2016). However, a limitation of their study was that it exclusively examined professionals' views, without giving a voice to those using the service; recognising this, the authors recommended further study (Sanders et al, 2016: 8):
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