In Denmark, we have a system that takes care of children from the time they are born. This system is offered through the municipal health service, which is free for everyone. The purpose is to prevent health challenges in children and adolescents, thereby saving the state for many longe term health costs.
Where do you find the Danish health nurses?
The Danish child health nurses follow children from birth until they leave primary school, and they do so at the age of 14 to 16. They are therefore close to the families without following them day by day. If there are no problems, the family only sees the child health nurses provider a few times.
From newborn to the first day of school.
As a newborn, the child health nurse comes for a visit within the first 5 days after birth, this is done to avoid early problems that may arise, especially with first-time parents. Here, the focus is on screening for Postpartum Depression, this goes for both parents.
At the first visit, the child health nurse’s most important job is to ensure that the parents feel secure in their role as parents. Of course, the child must be looked at here, mostly to secure the child receives nourishment and that the parents know what to do when.
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When the child turns 3, 6 and 12 months, it is time again for visits, where there is more focus on the child, as the child should be able to do much more than eat, sleep, and empty the bowl.
Here, the child must be measured and weighed to ensure adequate nutritional intake. Furthermore, the child health nurse looks at reflects, eye contact and mobility to see if the child is developing as it should.
Besides, looking at the child, the nurse must talk with the mother. This is to ensure that she is okay. Any challenges must be taken as early as possible. The talk can be to give a piece of helping advice but also to see if there should be some challenges that can hinder the child’s development.
At the age of three, a visit is also planned, here the focus is still on the child’s development and nutrition, but it is also an essential part of the visit that there is a focus on any illnesses that can cause long term problems.
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In the school
The health nurse is also found in schools where they see children several times during their time in school, here it varies from municipality to municipality when the children are seen. Still, the rules are that they must be looked at in the first year of school, this usually is together with parents; this is to ensure the child is where it should be in development.
The health nurse provider talks to the parents about sick history, home health, whether the child follows the vaccination program (possibly why they do not) and whether the child expresses some health challenges.
This conversation is essential for informing parents about good health behaviour, but it is equally important to clarify if there is a problem in the family. Fortunately, direct neglect rarely occurs, however, there is often a misconception of good health behaviour.
General school visits
For all planned visits at the school, the health nurse has several measurement points for the child’s development, this is about vision, hearing, height and weight as it should be.
Furthermore, the nurse looks at the health and well-being of the child and how the child thrives in school. This can be seen as a general screening of all school children, not because all problems are found, but many challenges and issues are discovered through these visits.
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Visit as needed
If there is a need for it, the nurse can arrange extra visits, these visits are done in connection with problems and/or challenges. This can be a wide range of challenges ranging from a child who cries a lot to outright neglect. Primarily the nurse deals with:
- Kids who don’t want to eat
- Children who do not want to sleep
- Children who do not develop properly
- Parents who are unsure of what to do and when
- Parents who have a postpartum reaction
A child health nurse provider may have specialized duties, including the treatment of obese children, follow-up and support for young mothers, the monitoring and support for parents with postpartum depression. And much more. These special functions are all aimed at promoting the health of children.
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