JAMA study finds tangible results in nurse home visits

From no less an authority than the Journal of the American Medical Association comes the first study heralding the success of the Nurse-Family Partnership.

The study marks the first time researchers have looked at a high-income country and unearthed tangible, measurable benefits of a program that pairs a registered nurse with a low-income, first-time mom from pregnancy through the first two years of a baby’s life to teach self-care, nutrition and in general how to keep a baby happy and healthy.

California’s Nurse-Family Partnership serves new mothers in 21 counties, including Sacramento County, but Christopher Krawczyk, state director of the program, would like to see it expanded. “The hope is that we would be able to bring this program to more low-income areas of the state.”

The study in this month’s JAMA journal, Pediatrics, found the weekly or biweekly nurse visits result in fewer preventable deaths among both low-income mothers and their first-born children living in disadvantaged, urban neighborhoods.

Nurse-visited children were less likely to have emotional or behavioral problems at age 6, less likely to internalize emotions at age 9 and less likely to display dysfunctional attention at 9.

Compared with a control group, nurse-visited children born to low-resource moms ranked better in the category of receptive language at 2, 4 and 6 years old. Kids in the program also were stronger in sustaining attention at 4, 6 and 9 years old than those in the control group.

“The lower mortality rate found among nurse-visited mothers and children likely reflects the nurses’ support of mothers’ basic human drives to protect their children and themselves,” said David Olds, pediatrics professor at the University of Colorado and lead researcher.

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