Background: Baby walkers are a commonly used item of nursery equipment. Between 12% and 50% of parents whose infant uses a walker report that their child has suffered a walker-related injury. Health visitors' knowledge, attitudes and practice with regard to walkers and related health education has not been explored so far.
Aim: The aim of the study was to describe health visitors' knowledge of walkers and walker-related injuries, their attitudes towards walkers and current practice with regard to walker health education, and to examine the relationship between knowledge and attitudes and knowledge and practice.
Method: A survey was carried out with 64 health visitors prior to participation in a randomized controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of an educational package in reducing baby walker use.
Results: The response rate was 95%. Half of the health visitors always discussed walkers postnatally, most frequently at the 6-9 month check. Most did not usually discuss the frequency of walker-related injuries. Most had negative attitudes towards walkers, but believed that parents hold positive attitudes to them and that it is hard to persuade parents not to use them. Health visitors had a limited knowledge of walker use and walker-related injuries. Those giving advice on walkers most often had higher knowledge scores than those giving advice less often (P = 0.03). Those with higher knowledge scores held more negative attitudes towards walkers (rs = 0.29, P = 0.023) and believed parents to have more positive attitudes towards walkers (rs = -0.49, P < 0.001). Few health visitors had resources to discuss walkers.
Conclusions: Health visitor advice regarding walkers needs to be given earlier in the postnatal period than is currently common practice, and they need more knowledge about walker use and related injuries. Education about baby walkers needs to be incorporated into undergraduate and in-service education, which may need to include the development of skills in exploring reasons why parents use walkers and in negotiating alternatives to their use. The provision of audio-visual aids for discussing walkers might also be helpful.