Randomized controlled trial of universal postnatal nurse home visiting: impact on emergency care.

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Although nurse home visiting has proven efficacious with small samples, scaling up to community populations with diverse families has not yet proven effective. The Durham Connects program was developed in collaboration with community leaders as a brief, universal, postnatal nurse home visiting intervention designed to screen for risk, provide brief intervention, and connect families with more intensive evidence-based services as needed. This study tested program effectiveness in reducing infant emergency medical care between birth and age 12 months. METHODS: All 4777 resident births in Durham, North Carolina across 18 months were randomly assigned, with even birth date families to intervention and odd birth date families to control. Intervention families were offered 3 to 7 contacts between 3 and 12 weeks after birth to assess family needs and connect parents with community resources to improve infant health and well-being. Hospital records were analyzed by using an intent-to-treat design to evaluate impact among a representative subset of 549 families. RESULTS: After demographic factors (ie, birth risk, Medicaid status, ethnicity, and single parenthood) were covaried, relative to control families, families assigned to intervention had 50% less total emergency medical care use (mean [M] emergency department visits and hospital overnights) (M(intervention) = 0.78 and M(control) = 1.57; P < .001, effect size = 0.28) across the first 12 months of life. CONCLUSIONS: This brief, universal, postnatal nurse home visiting program improves population-level infant health care outcomes for the first 12 months of life. Nurse home visiting can be implemented universally at high fidelity with positive impacts on infant emergency health care that are similar to those of longer, more intensive home visiting programs. This approach offers a novel solution to the paradox of targeting by offering individually tailored intervention while achieving population-level impact.





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Dodge, Kenneth A, W Benjamin Goodman, Robert A Murphy, Karen O'Donnell and Jeannine Sato (2013). Randomized controlled trial of universal postnatal nurse home visiting: impact on emergency care. Pediatrics, 132 Suppl 2. pp. S140–S146. 10.1542/peds.2013-1021M Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/15882.

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Ben Goodman

Research Scientist

Ben Goodman is a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy. His research interests focus broadly on the implementation and evaluation of population-based interventions to reduce child maltreatment and improve parent and child health and well-being, including the evidence-based Family Connects postpartum nurse home visiting program. His research also examines how sources of stress and support shape the quality of parent-child relationships, parents’ own well- being, and child development.

Research Interests:
  • Home Visiting
  • Child Maltreatment
  • Parenting
  • Program Evaluation
  • Ph.D. The Pennsylvania State University - 2009

Robert A. Murphy

Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Murphy is a licensed clinical psychologist focused on child traumatic stress, including its treatment and prevention and development and dissemination of evidence-based interventions. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Murphy serves as Executive Director for the Center for Child & Family Health (CCFH), a community and three university partnership (Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Central University) dedicated to research, training, and intervention related to child trauma and maltreatment. Interests include treatment and prevention of child maltreatment and traumatic stress, dissemination of evidence based interventions, and improving mental health care for military families. In partnership with the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy Center for Child and Family Policy, he has been active in the development and evaluation, via two randomized controlled trials, of a brief, postnatal, universal nurse home visiting program (Family Connects) that has demonstrated improved parenting and parental distress, as well as reduced emergency medical care costs and lower rates of reported child maltreatment. Since 2003, CCFH has been a community treatment and services center within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network focused on improving access to evidence based mental health care for foster care youth and developing trauma informed child welfare systems.

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