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FOR RELEASE: December 5, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
405/271-5601

Children First Nurse Home Visitation Program Scores Some Success

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health have observed a lower risk of some adverse outcomes in babies whose mothers were enrolled in the Children First nurse home visitation program conducted by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

In an independent analysis of the program, the researchers found:

  • Children First mothers were 32 percent less likely of having a “very preterm baby,” defined as less than 30 weeks gestation, than were non-Children First mothers.
  • Children First mothers were 15 percent less likely of having a ”very low birth weight” baby, defined as less than 3 ½ pounds, than were non-Children First mothers.
  • Children First mothers were also 72 percent less likely of having their infant die within the first year of life than were non-Children First mothers.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch asked for an independent review of Oklahoma’s Children First program in an effort to ascertain information necessary to make critical decisions concerning Oklahoma’s vulnerable children and families, especially during a time of a budget shortfall.

“This evaluation tells us that our Children First program is having a positive impact on the high-risk population we target,” Beitsch said. “We know that babies born too early or too small can require increased hospital and health care provider resources, including time in a neonatal intensive care unit, where costs can total nearly $3,000 per day. A severely ill newborn may spend several weeks or months in a neonatal intensive care unit. In addition, children born with very low birth weight are also likely to have increased child care, health care and education needs as they grow. The preventive intervention services provided through Children First may help us reduce the need for these expensive treatment services.”

Children First was implemented in Oklahoma in 1997 following a directive from the Oklahoma State Legislature to provide nurse home visitation services to high-risk first-time mothers and infants. The program is voluntary and was modeled from an existing family resource program designed by Dr. David Olds of the University of Colorado National Center for Children,

Families and Communities. The “Nurse-Family Partnership” model created by Olds has been carefully researched and has documented results that yield a variety of positive outcomes for high-risk families. These families typically include a teen mother with less than a high school education who is low income and unmarried.

Public health nurses provide home visitation services during the first-time mother’s pregnancy and the first two years of her infant’s life that include child development assessment, parenting education, nutrition education, health and safety information, and referrals to other community resources that may benefit the family. In the five years since its implementation, more than 17,000 mothers have enrolled in the program and benefited from more than 300,000 nurse visits.

The evaluation was conducted by Helene Carabin, DVM, PhD, and Linda Cowan, PhD, with the help of David Thompson and Christophe Agbangla of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Data for the analyses came from State of Oklahoma birth certificates for first-time Oklahoma resident mothers younger than 36 years old who gave birth between 1998 and 2001. Comparisons were made between mothers enrolled in the Children First program and mothers who were not enrolled in the program.

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