Child and mother health guidance has been available in Finland since 1922. The services are aimed at the whole population and are free for everyone, which makes the model unique.
“The clinics reach practically every Finnish family who are expecting or have children. The best part of the job is the unique encounters and the opportunity to do something meaningful. There is a low threshold to contact us and for many families, their own health care provider is an important resource that listens, helps and affirms them as parents," says alumna and public health nurse Jannika Kuhlefelt, who works with both families and children in Kallio.
During their one-hundred-year history, Finnish maternity and child health clinics have brought infant and maternal mortality record low, prevented diseases, promoted public health, vaccinated children and provided various forms of support for children and families.
“The core tasks of the clinics remain the same, but nowadays we also have the role of life coach on a much broader level. We build long-term relationships with families and are often able to identify problems at an early stage and act before they become too big. This can be anything from identifying a child’s visual defect before it causes difficulties at school, or helping tired parents before they become too exhausted," says Kuhlefelt.
Making a difference at an early stage
Arcada's student in public health nursing Julina Fagerlund is currently doing her internship at the maternity and child health clinic in Kallio. The opportunity to work with health promotion raised her interest for this profession.
“In this job, we can make a difference before the damage is done. Compared to other health professionals, we sometimes work a bit in the shadows, and you might not see everything we do, which is the whole point of our work. And even if we can't solve everything, we can be there and listen, which already is supportive," says Fagerlund, fourth-year student in public health nursing.
Her internship at the health clinic has confirmed her earlier thoughts about working with children and families in the future.
“The work here is diverse, with room to develop and meet a wide variety of clients. I've met expectant mothers, newborns and children up to six years old," says Fagerlund.
Health guidance 100 years in the future
Both Kuhlefelt and Fagerlund are confident that the mother and child health guidance will be around for at least another hundred years, and with an even wider range of services.
“A hundred years ago focus was on measuring and vaccinating, but I think we will have a more guiding role in the future. To be ready for everything happening in society and in the world, the health guidance system must continue to evolve, supported by education and training for us health workers", says Kuhlefelt.
“Overall, I hope for more resources in the future. Early action is the most effective way to reduce health inequalities in society, and the clinics should be able to offer more visits to those who need extra help”, says Fagerlund.
The feedback they get from the families is along the same line: the service is needed and appreciated.
“It feels great to receive a drawing, a card or a touching message, or to see the gratitude of the parents after a visit here" says Kuhlefelt.