The First 1000 days in the Nordic Countries: Supporting a Healthy Start in Life
First 1000 days in the nordic countries


Nordic Conference on Mental Health and the Early Years
June 27th 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland
The conference takes place in the auditorium Silfurberg on the second floor of the Harpa Concert and Conference Centre.

8:30 – Welcome

8:35 – Opening address

  • Willum Þór Þórsson, Minister of Health

8:40 – Opening address

  • Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Education and Children

8:45 – The First 1000 Days in the Nordic Countries

  • Sigrún Daníelsdóttir, Cand.Psych/M.Sc, project manager for mental health promotion at the Directorate of health in Iceland.

9:10 – Better Mental Health for Mother and Baby is Everyone’s Business

  • Alain Gregoire, consultant perinatal psychiatrist and president of the UK Maternal Mental Health Alliance.

9:50 – Morning refreshments

10:10 – Understanding Babies: Translating Early Childhood Research Into Practice

  • Mette Væver, professor of clinical child psychology and early intervention and Director of the Centre for Early Intervention and Family Studies at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

10:50 – What is it We Cannot Do Alone? The Added Value of Nordic Collaboration

  • Kari Slinning, Head of Division for Infants and Young Children at the Regional Center For Child & Adolescent Mental Health (R-BUP Øst og sør) in Norway.

11:10 – How to Make Change Happen: Bridging the Gap Between Evidence and Policy

  • John Lavis, Director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Centre for Evidence-Informed Policy and Director of McMaster University’s Health Forum in Ontario, Canada.

11:40 – Ari Eldjárn, Icelandic comedian

12:00 – Lunch

12:40 – Parallell workshops

14:10 – Afternoon refreshments

14:30 – Parallell workshops

16:00 – Social event

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Afternoon workshops

Workshop A:     Silfurberg A
Workshop B:     Silfurberg B
Workshop C:     Silfurberg A
Workshop D:     Silfurberg B

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Workshop A: Parents’ Wellbeing during Pregnancy and After Childbirth

1. The Icelandic Home Visiting System
Presenter: Ástþóra Kristinsdóttir og Sesselja Guðmundsdóttir

All new mothers in Iceland are offered frequent home visits from midwives in the first 10 days after childbirth. After that period, the family is visited by a nurse from infant and child healthcare. An emphasis is placed on delivering the home visits in an individualized way, meeting women and families with friendliness and respect. A focus is placed on the mother’s physical and psychological wellbeing and the life changes that a new baby brings to the family. If two parents take care of the infant, the emphasis is on including them both. This talk will discuss the home visiting system in Iceland and implications for parent–infant attachment, breastfeeding, maternal wellbeing, and family communication.

2. Parent groups in the Swedish prenatal and child health services
Presenter: Eva Eurenius

Prenatal and child health services are activities that meet all parents and therefore play an important role in supporting parents during pregnancy and the children’s first years. For more than 50 years, Swedish prenatal and child health services have had a far-reaching mission from the government to support parents around the birth of a child and the child’s first year of life. A common form of this parental support is the parent groups. This presentation will take a closer look at how the parent groups in Swedish prenatal and child healthcare services work and what research has informed about effective methods for well-functioning parent groups.

3. Mamma Mia: An evidence-based online programme for mental health promotion and prevention
Presenter: Thea Sundrehagen

This presentation will offer an introduction to Mamma Mia which is an internet-based intervention for wellbeing promotion and prevention of perinatal depression. The presentation will give an overview of previous research and discuss a new cluster-randomized trial, comparing blended care to the unguided intervention in a Norwegian sample of pregnant women and new mothers.

Workshop B: Wellbeing for the Youngest Children in Early Childhood Education and Care

1. Toddler’s transition to early childhood education and care
Presenter: May Britt Drugli

Research shows that young children spend a full 4-5 months getting used to being in kindergarten and this period can be very challenging for children. Both parents and ECEC staff should therefore aim to do their utmost to ensure a good kindergarten start. This talk will focus on how to promote wellbeing and reduce distress among toddlers during the transition to kindergarten. Research is presented on how parents and caregivers can support a positive transition period and examples for supporting routines and strategies will be discussed.

2. Quality Inclusive Early Childhood Education and Care for Children under 2 Years of Age: Shaping the development of children, families, and society
Presenter: Nichole Leigh Mosty

In terms of human development, the importance of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) cannot be overstated. Research has demonstrated that quality ECEC at this very early age has lasting benefits for infants and their families – especially those from diverse backgrounds or disadvantaged sectors across society. Nichole Leigh Mosty will discuss the importance of providing quality ECEC for children under 2 with emphasis on the importance of ECEC providers adapting to the needs of young children and families. This is done through maintaining optimum ratios of adults to infants, ongoing training, including in the specialist area of infant pedagogy, and developing inclusive environments which facilitate low levels of stress. Research has shown these variables to be of particular importance in ECEC for infants under two.

3. The Child’s Plan in Finnish Early Childhood Education and Care
Presenter: Noora Heiskanen

In the Finnish ECEC system, each child gets an individual plan, a „child‘s plan“, which is a pedagogical document aiming to support the child’s overall development and learning. It is drawn up in collaboration with the child and parents and should be reviewed annually. In this talk, Noora Heiskanen describes the practice of preparing and applying the child‘s plan from the perspective of toddlers. With a case example, she illustrates how the child‘s plan works as a pedagogical tool to support children‘s individual needs, strengths and interests as well as to plan pedagogical activities in ECEC relating to an individual child as well as a larger group of children.

Workshop C: Supporting the Parent-Child Relationship

1. What about the other parent? The importance of including non-birting parents in infant and child healthcare
Presenter: Nina Thomsen

This presentation will discuss individual health visits with the non-birthing parent that are currently offered within the national child health care program in sweden when the child is 3-5 months. This model for conducting individual parental conversations with the non-birthing parent was developed and introduced in 2018 as a results of a mission initiated by the national working group for child health care. The parent’s relationship is the child’s most important psychological environment. The child health care mission is to support the child’s health and development and to provide parenting support, individually and to the parental couple. Alongside the individual health visits for parents, two visits are intended to discuss co-parenting issues with the parents together. Traditionally, the focus has been on supporting new mothers but research shows that the quality of the co-parenting relationship has an impact on children‘s health and wellbeing. The non-birthing parents‘ engagement in parenting has implication for the co-parenting relationship as well as directly for chidlren‘s health and wellbeing. The aim of the swedish child health care services is to support these processes.

2. The Alarm Distress Baby Scale and Understanding Your Baby in Denmark
Presenter: Mette Skovgaard Væver

The Alarm Distress Baby Scale (ADBB) is used for identifying persistent social withdrawal in infants aged 2-24 months as an indicator of emotional distress in infants and young children. Early social withdrawal is associated with long-term emotional and behavioural problems in children as well as impaired cognitive and language development. In this presentation, Dr. Mette Væver will discuss early identification of risk using the ADBB and how the ADBB observation in primary care provides a unique context for health visitors supporting parenting skills to use a newly developed universal program called Understanding Your Baby. The ADBB is implemented in 80% of Danish municipalities and during ADBB trainings, health visitors have expressed a need for additional training to further develop their language and vocabulary to better describe the infant’s socioemotional cues and behaviour to families during the ADBB observations. This led to the development of Understanding Your Baby program.

3. The Attachment and Biobehavioral Cath-up (ABC) Programme in Norway
Presenter: Hans Bugge Bergsund

This presentation will discuss the Attachment and Biobehavioral Cath-up (ABC) which is an evidence-based parenting program based on home visits. The ABC programme helps parents respond sensitively to their young children, support their development and build healthy parent-child relationships. The presentation will review research findings from the US and Norway about the ABC programme, discuss participants‘ and clinicians‘ experience with the programme and share insight gathered from the implementation in Norway.

Workshop D: Identifying and Addressing Risk Factors in the Early Years

1. The Early Intervention training programme
Presenter: Ellen Olavesen

Tidlig Inn (The Early Intervention training programme) is a national initiative funded by the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Adolescents and Families. The Training Programme includes specific tools, conversation methods and exercises for health professionals in prenatal and infant healthcare services to strengthen their professional skills in identifying and responding to risk factors in the early years. Competence in identifying and conversing with pregnant women and parents about alcohol use, psychological difficulties and violence will increase the likelihood that the goals of early identification of families at risk and early intervention and support will be achieved. The training programme is delivered by regional teams and consists of lectures, supervision, professional training, development of local procedures, stepped care and cross-sectoral collaboration.

2. Non-violent childhood in Finland: Implications for the early years
Presenter: Ulla Korpilahti

This presentation will describe the background for a new Action Plan for a Non-Violent Childhood in Finland, its focus and implementation across the country. Examples will be given of the plan‘s actions in different settings, including maternity and child health care clinic services. The talk will also include an introduction to the Finnish maternity and child health care clinic services and extensive health examinations that take place for both parents during pregnancy and after birth. These examinations offer a unique venue to explore, prevent and address risk for intimate partner violence and violence against children in pregnancy and the early years.

3. The Family outpatient clinics in Denmark
Presenters: Michelle Kolls and Camilla Dolberg Schmidt

This presentation will offer an introduction to the Danish Family Outpatient Clinic model. Since 2011, all Danish regions have established family outpatient clinics that are connected with their prenatal services. The family outpatient clinics offer specialized support for families at risk because of mental illness, violence or alcohol and substance abuse with the aim of reducing long-term harm to children. The family outpatient service can extend over a long period of time, from pregnancy until the child reaches school age. The presentation describes how to integrate and develop new knowledge and methods for early prevention for families in order to strengthen the mental wellbeing and healthy development of infants and toddlers born into vulnerable circumstances.

Better Mental Health for Mother and Baby is Everyone’s Business

Poor maternal mental health, particularly in pregnancy and postnatally (‘perinatal mental health’), is a major cause of suffering and disability in mothers as well as having substantial negative effects on the children and wider family. There is growing evidence of this impact spreading across the generations and that interventions aimed at improving the lives of the most disadvantaged people are most likely to be effective by focusing on the early years of life, including mental health care of mothers and fathers at this time.

Perinatal mental health care requires specialist knowledge and skills amongst a wide range of professionals in mental health, maternity, public health and primary care, some dedicated services and multiagency collaborative pathways. We have good evidence of the individual, family, social and economic consequences of poor care, the levels of need for healthcare, effective and costed treatments and models of care and systems for assuring their quality. Despite this, access to good enough perinatal mental health care in all countries has been patchy or non-existent.

There is now evidence that collaboration and pressure from multiple groups, united in Maternal Mental Health Alliances, is leading to improvements in awareness and provision of better care. This is an area of development that offers major opportunities to improve lives in this generation and the next, both effectively and cost effectively, in high and low income countries worldwide.

The Added Value of Nordic Collaboration

In her talk, Kari Slinning will discuss the value of Nordic collaboration and lessons learned during the 3-year project, The First 1000 Days in the Nordic Countries. What is it that the Nordic countries can benefit from working more closely together?  What implications could stronger collaboration within the Nordic region have for the knowledge we depend on, the services we provide, the wellbeing of our children and the future of our societies?

How to Make Change Happen: Bridging the Gap Between Evidence and Policy

John will discuss approaches that can be used to support policy action based on reports like The First 1000 Days, as well as approaches that can be used to support ongoing learning and improvement as these policy actions are pursued.

Drawing on insights from the Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges, he’ll also discuss how midwives, teachers, social workers and others can help or hinder efforts to ensure that evidence is an important consideration – among many others – in policy decisions and policy implementation.

Understanding babies: Translating early childhood research into practice

The early years and especially the young child’s socio-emotional development during the first 1000 days lay the foundations for lifelong mental health and wellbeing. How do we get that message out? How do we support parents and professional caregivers in supporting and promoting early childhood mental health and development? In her keynote address, Dr. Mette Væver will discuss how the Centre for Early Intervention and Family Studies (CIF) in Denmark aims to promote early childhood (0-6 years), mental health, parental skills and qualifications of frontline staff in a variety of applied research studies.

In her talk, she presents results from the Copenhagen Infant Mental Health Project (CIMHP) on the implementation of the Alarm Distress Baby Scale (ADBB) in health visitors’ practice in primary care as well as a randomized controlled trial of the American program Circle of Security-Parenting (COS-P) in a large at-risk community sample.

Dr. Alain Gregoire

Dr. Alain Gregoire is a Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist who has led multiple award winning specialist perinatal mental health services in the United Kingdom for over 30 years. He has contributed extensively to the development of policy, strategy, guidance and clinical services in parental and infant mental health in the UK and across the world. 

Dr. Gregoire is the founder and current president of the UK Maternal Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of over 110 organisations in the United Kingdom committed to improving maternal mental health care and outcomes for mothers and infants. The coalition has successfully campaigned for government funding for perinatal mental health services across the UK and launched the 2013 cross-party manifesto, The 1001 Critical Days, which sets out a vision for the provision of services in the UK for the period between conception and age 2.

In 2016, Dr. Gregoire launched the Global Alliance for Maternal Mental Health with similar aims worldwide which now includes over 25 international member organisations.