In addition to saving on emergency room care, the program improved health and parenting outcomes. Participating families had lower rates of maternal anxiety and safer home environments than other families, and they showed more positive parenting behaviors, such as comforting or reading to their child. The new research appears online December 19 in the
"Everyone is concerned about healthcare costs," said lead author Kenneth Dodge, who directs Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy. "Nurse home visiting programs can prevent inappropriate use of emergency medical care for infants. They represent a cost-effective ways to help young families get off to a good start."
The study examined a community-wide home-visiting program for newborns and their families called Durham Connects. The Durham, N.C. program is the first to evaluate the application of a nurse home visiting model to an entire community. In addition to providing health checks and other services, nurses encouraged families to develop strong relationships with pediatricians, and not to visit the emergency room for primary care.