One of the nation’s largest programs providing home visitation support for at-risk mothers and children may not be as successful in reducing early childhood injuries as it was in earlier evaluations, according to new research findings from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
CHOP’s PolicyLab, which develops evidence-based solutions for the most challenging health-related issues affecting children, evaluated the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) over seven years in Pennsylvania. The researchers found that children served by the program had no fewer injuries than children in comparable families not enrolled in the program – and in some less serious cases, had higher injury rates.
The researchers found that nearly one-third of the families served by NFP in Pennsylvania had emergency room visits for injuries to children from birth through the second birthday, a rate 12 percent greater than for families not enrolled in the program.
Lead author Meredith Matone, MHS stressed that it’s natural to have some bumps in the road as the scale of home visiting programs increases, and continuous evaluation is key. “Evaluation should focus on identifying local barriers that may be undermining a program’s success,” she said. “By identifying these barriers, we can foster smarter programs that are better equipped to serve families in diverse communities.”
NFP President and CEO Thomas R. Jenkins Jr. said that, despite the limitations of the study, the findings were significant enough for them to improve their implementation of the NFP as it is spread to new communities throughout the country.
“The findings from PolicyLab’s study over the past year have led us to add new training for nurses to enhance their effect on reducing serious childhood injuries among the families they serve,” Jenkins said. “This adds to our ongoing continuous quality improvement work using thorough data collection and analysis. ”
PolicyLab has a growing portfolio of research into family and parenting supports. To learn more about this body of work, visit http://www.policylab.us/index.php/research-and-policy/family-and-parenting-supports.html.