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Nurse Visits Benefit Children

School of Medicine


AURORA, Colo. (Dec. 9, 2013) – Home visits by nurses to low-income pregnant women and parents of young children had some positive benefits for the children on cognitive and behavioral measures at ages 6 and 9, according to the results of a clinical trial published by JAMA Pediatrics.

Home visits by nurses to low-income families have been promoted as one strategy to improve health and development outcomes for first-born children from those families.

David L. Olds, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and colleagues followed up with participants in a randomized trial in Denver that included 735 low-income women, most of them unmarried, and their first-born children as part of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), a program that today is being conducted in 43 states throughout the U.S. and in seven other societies, including England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada.

The goals of the NFP are to improve outcomes of pregnancy by helping women improve their health-related behavior, improve their children’s subsequent health and development by helping parents provide competent care, and enhancing a mother’s personal development by promoting the planning of future pregnancies. The Denver trial tested the program model when delivered by paraprofessionals, who were required to have a high school education and no college preparation in the helping professions and who also shared many of the same social characteristics as the families they visited.

Researchers found that children born to mothers with low psychological resources but visited by paraprofessionals showed fewer errors in visual attention/task switching at age 9 years. Children visited by nurses were less likely to be classified as having total emotional/behavioral problems at age 6 years, internalizing problems at age 9 years, and dysfunctional attention at age 9 years. Nurse-visited children born to low-resource mothers also had better receptive language and sustained attention averages over time.

“As the NFP is replicated and tested in new randomized clinical trials throughout the United States and other societies, it will be important to determine whether it is particularly successful in reducing disparities in health, achievement and economic productivity among children born to mothers who have limited psychological resources and who are living in severely disadvantaged neighborhoods, as this will enable policy makers to focus NFP resources where they produce the greatest benefit,” the authors conclude.

The JAMA Pediatrics article is available online as is an interview with Olds.

Olds directs the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health where he has been affiliated since 1993. Earlier this year he was named the 2012-2013 recipient of the Chase Faculty Community Service Award. Each year, a full-time CU faculty member who provides exceptional service to the community receives a $10,000 endowment, funded by a grant from Chase.

Faculty at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine work to advance science and improve care. These faculty members include physicians, educators and scientists at University of Colorado Health, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver Health, National Jewish Health, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The school is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system. To learn more about the medical school’s care, education, research and community engagement, please visit its web site. For additional news and information, please visit the University of Colorado Denver newsroom.

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