CHILD DEVELOPMENT: Pre/Post-Natal Homecare Is Effective
"Poor women who received regular home counseling by nurses before and after they gave birth reared children with fewer behavioral problems as adolescents," according to a new study published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (Coleman, AP/Nando Times, 10/13). Led by Dr. David Olds of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, the study followed 315 children born to unmarried white women in upstate New York, with half receiving pre- and post-natal nurse visits and half receiving standard prenatal and post-natal care. Over nine visits, the nurses also provided expectant mothers with "maternal personal development" counseling, linking "families with needed health care and human services." The children of the mothers who received home visits reported "fewer instances of running away, fewer arrests, fewer convictions and violations of probation, fewer lifetime sex partners, fewer cigarettes smoked per day, and fewer days having consumed alcohol in the last six months." By way of confirmation, parents of the participating children also reported the children had "fewer behavioral problems related to use of alcohol and other drugs" (Olds et al., JAMA, 10/14 issue). Click here to see an abstract of the study.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Felton Earls of the Harvard School of Public Health, called the experiment "well designed" and said it "provides convincing evidence that home visitation by nurses during the prenatal period and the first 24 months of postnatal life produces long-lasting" benefits. However, Earls said that "it will be no easy task to advance policy in this area, regardless of how compelling the evidence." As a result, "disadvantaged children will continue to pay a price in terms of educational underachievement, vulnerability to substance abuse, and the many negative consequences of antisocial and criminal behavior" (Earls, JAMA, 10/14).