penny hosie jfhPenny Hosie has been the editor of the Journal of Family Health since 2011. We caught up with Penny (far right, with Pavilion director Christine Hicks) about the journal's recent name change, its unique approach, and the challenges facing community health professionals today.

Can you share some of the history of the Journal of Family Health?

The Journal of Family Health is a bi-monthly title read by community health professionals (HCPs) working with families and children (midwives, health visitors, practice nurses, dietitians, dermatology nurses, nursery nurses and school nurses, to name a few). It has a rich 50 year history, although the title names has changed quite a few times (including recently). My predecessor Pat Scowan worked on the title for over 20 years and really helped establish its reputation as a credible peer-reviewed journal. 

We have an editorial board comprised of senior figures within the world of community health and they help shape the journal by contributing articles, carrying out peer reviews and attending board meetings. They are journal ambassadors and we were very grateful for their support when we set up our first JFHC Live event a few years ago. They also act as a useful check – if they don’t like an idea that is proposed they don’t hold back from voicing their concerns! I welcome this as feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, is always helpful.

For anyone who hasn’t read the journal before, what’s your ethos?

‘Know your reader’ is a key editorial ethos. Research conducted over the years has shown that our readers require clear, readable and evidence-based articles that help guide them in their daily practice and also keeps them up-to-date on policy, public health and medical matters. We receive positive feedback from readers at events we attend and some lecturers have said they find the journal is a really helpful reference tool – so we must be doing something right!

The journal was recently given a new title and fresh new look. What else is new?

We recently changed our title to Journal of Family Health (from Journal of Family Health Care) as we wanted to reflect a broader, modern 21st century remit. It also better reflects our readership base which has been extended from early summer 2015 to include articles that are relevant for school and public health nurses. Our increased pagination offers even more content and value to readers. 

Additionally, our hard hitting leaders and ‘View from the top’ opinion pieces are proving excellent sounding boards to explore topics that can sometimes be controversial and thought-provoking. Our strong front covers are also a better reflection of our drive to become better known as a journal that delivers high quality CPD-accredited articles that demonstrate excellent standards of practice within the HCP community.

JFH has always embraced a multi-disciplinary approach to family health care. What do you think readers get from this?

I believe the journal’s multi-disciplinary approach is not only unique but is also one of the journal’s core strengths. An article on diabetes can be as pertinent to all of our readers, as can articles on safeguarding, for example. We also cover social issues such as poverty and health inequalities, which are of interest to all. Public Health England are keen to support health care professionals as they go about their daily work in the community, but the reality is the job can be demanding, both physically and mentally. It is a huge responsibility to support parents as they embark on life as a family. A good HCP will be expected to provide empathetic support and guidance that is current. 

The journal’s role is to reflect this by being supportive and helpful – this why so many of our articles are evidence-based. Our readers are reassured by knowing the advice they provide is authoritative, topical and relevant. I also encourage authors to include case histories as they show - in a positive and non-critical way - examples of best practice. I really enjoy hearing from HCPs that they keep hard copies of the journal in their office to reference and some even photocopy articles to share with clients.

What do you consider are the biggest challenges facing family health professionals today?

There are multiple demands on their time and, at times, morale (low pay and pay freezes haven’t helped). The current commissioning climate means some HCPs need to ‘sell themselves’ and their services (accumulate evidence and show outcomes) in order to gain funding - this is especially relevant for school nurses. This is tricky as many are busy concentrating on their daily work load improving outcomes for children and young people, which is demanding in its own right. 

Cuts to services and in public health are also having an effect. There is plenty of rhetoric showing the importance of early intervention and yet this is hard to deliver in a climate of cuts to services and to public health. Children’s Centres are still closing down and yet evidence clearly shows they are effective in early intervention and reaching the ‘hard to reach’. Mental health is an area which requires huge investment and yet the view from the ground is that this isn’t happening quickly enough. Safeguarding is also an area which requires more investment, support and training to HCPs. 

The picture can be very demoralising and yet I regularly hear of many inspiring and innovative examples of best practice and there is a professional pride in making a positive difference shared by many HCPs that I find truly moving and humbling.

You’re a regular tweeter over at @journalfhc. Do you think social media is important for family health professionals? Which other twitter accounts in the sector do you consider must-follows?

Following on from my previous answer, sharing examples of innovation and best practice is something that can be achieved really well via twitter. Twitter is a great medium for HCPs to talk to one another – there is no hierarchy. A school nurse or health visitor can easily engage in conversations with people like Viv Bennett (PHE lead nurse) or Crystal Oldman (QNI cief exec). 

There are also professional communities which share ideas and have forums on topics which anyone can contribute to. The @weschoolnurses, @wemidwives and @wehealthvisitor are good examples of this. Social media has also been utilised by savvy school nurses in Leicestershire who developed an innovative ‘text ur school nurse’ app which means  can reach their school nurse for support in a manner that is convenient as well as confidential. Suffice to say this service has won well deserved plaudits and awards and is being rolled out across the UK. 

I see the value in facebook as a news feed and it is also a useful medium for charities and other health organisations to offer updates on news and events. Overall, social media should be embraced by HCPs as a positive professional and supportive tool that can help them deliver even better care.

A big thank you to Penny Hosie for answering our questions. Follow her on Twitter here.