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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.24.23290496

Study protocol for a systems evaluation of an infant mental health service: integration of 'Little Minds Matter into the early years system.

S.Masefield A. Ellwood S. Blower J. Dickerson R. H. Moss S. Ahern
Infant Mental Health relates to how well a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to age three. There is a well-established link between parent-infant relationship quality, Infant Mental Health, and longer-term social and emotional development, however, there is a lack of evidence-based interventions that support the parent-infant relationship and/or protect against poor Infant Mental Health. Little Minds Matter is a specialist Infant Mental Health service developed in Bradford (UK) to support parent-infant relationships by providing training and consultation for professionals and direct clinical work to families. The efficacy of this intervention will depend upon how well it becomes embedded within the early years system. This study aims to apply a systems approach to evaluate this service and provide a perspective on the challenges to embedding a complex service within a healthcare system. Multiple methods will be used to investigate embeddedness within the wider early years system. Routine collected quantitative data about the service will be used to develop a system map showing interaction with related services. Qualitative data will be collected through interviews with individuals involved in the design and provision of the Little Minds Matter service, and professionals working within the early years system. Framework analysis will be used to analyse the data inductively and deductively within a systems approach. The findings from this study will provide evidence for the ongoing implementation of the Little Minds Matter Service for providers and commissioning bodies. Exploring this methodological approach to evaluation will have application more broadly for researchers evaluating complex interventions and services within a wider system.