Nurse Home Visits Support New Families’ Health
Three new studies highlight the value of home visits by nurses in pregnancy and throughout infancy.
Dr. Harriet Kitzman and her team of the University of Rochester in New York looked at the effect of prenatal and infancy home visits by nurses on children’s later substance abuse, behavioral problems, and academic achievement.
They analyzed figures from over 630 12-year-old firstborn children of mothers who were primarily African-American and economically disadvantaged. Mothers were randomly assigned to receive either home visits during pregnancy and until their child turned 2 years old, or normal care in pregnancy as well as developmental screening and referral for the children, but not home visits.
The researchers found that “through age 12, the program reduced children’s use of substances and internalizing mental health problems, and improved the academic achievement of children born to mothers with low psychological resources.”
Children who were visited by nurses reported significantly fewer days of having used cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana in the month before the interview. These children were also less likely to report having “internalizing disorders,” such as such as phobia, depression, panic disorder, and other anxiety disorders, that met the borderline or clinical threshold.
The group of nurse-visited children scored significantly higher on achievement tests in reading and math. Full results are published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The second study was carried out by Dr. David Olds of the University of Colorado and colleagues. Using the same group of mothers, they examined partner relationships, fertility, economic self-sufficiency and government spending on the families, by the time the firstborn child was 12 years old.
Mothers who had received nurse visits at home had less “role impairment due to substance use” (0 percent compared with 2.5 percent), longer partner relationships (59.6 months vs. 52.6 months) and “a greater sense of mastery” in their parenting.