The benefits of the American pilot

17th March 2006 at 00:00
The Nurse-Family Partnership is a home visiting programme now serving more than 20,000 families in 20 US states. Run and developed by David Olds, director of the University of Colorado's Prevention Research centre for Family and Child Health, it is underpinned by extensive research conducted over 25 years.

Under the scheme, low-income, first-time mothers (usually unmarried teenagers) agree to about 64 visits from highly trained nurses over about two-and-a-half years, until the child's second birthday.

The nurses develop a caring relationship with the young mother and her family, demonstrating and encouraging good childcare and giving them firm encouragement to look after their own lives and believe in a future for themselves.

One nurse-visitor told a reporter: "They need somebody in their corner saying, you can finish high school, you can breastfeed, you can quit smoking, you can get a job."

In rigorous studies, the programme resulted in:

* improved prenatal health

* fewer childhood injuries

* fewer unintended subsequent pregnancies and increased intervals between births

* increased maternal employment

* increased involvement of the father

* better school readiness There is also evidence that child abuse and neglect are cut by half, and the babies are 59 per cent less likely to be arrested by age 15, and 90 per cent less likely to be served with the equivalent of an ASBO.

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