Researchers Awarded $6.5 Million to Study Long Term Impact of Nurse Home Visits For At-Risk Mothers and Their Children

Grant is largest research award in history of UR School of Nursing

June 05, 2008

Following a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that about one in 43 infants in the United States is physically abused or neglected annually, researchers from the University of Rochester have received a $6.5 million grant to further research and expand an initiative proven to enhance the health and safety of at-risk mothers and reduce rates of maltreatment in their children.

This funding, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), will support research to examine the long term effects of nurse home visits on more than 600 low-income mothers and their children. The mothers were part of a randomized trial in Memphis, Tenn. beginning in 1990, during which registered nurses made regular home visits during the mother’s pregnancy and continuing through the second year of their child’s life. Nurses worked with the mothers to improve the outcomes of their pregnancies, the health and development of their first-born infants and their economic self-sufficiency, with particular emphasis on lengthening the time between subsequent pregnancies and improving the care of the first-born child. Researchers mapped the progress of mothers and their first-born children through the child’s 12th year of life.

The nurse home visits resulted in the mothers having healthier pregnancies, more stable relationships, fewer closely spaced pregnancies and less reliance on government assistance. Studies have shown that closely spaced births compromise children’s health, development and behavior partly because they limit parents’ time to nurture and monitor each individual child. The nurse-visited mothers’ first-born children were better cared for, experienced fewer injuries, had higher cognitive functioning and academic achievement and exhibited more pro-social behaviors. The impact on the mothers’ subsequent children has not yet been assessed. The next phase of research is designed to determine whether the positive outcomes for mothers and first-born children lasted through the child’s adolescence through age 17.

“We now know that first-time mothers facing some of the most daunting social, financial and physical obstacles can benefit greatly from the consistent advice and support nurse home visits provide,” said Harriet Kitzman, Ph.D., R.N., professor of nursing and pediatrics and associate dean for research at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. “We also know that their children are spared many of those same challenges when the lives of their mothers improve. This funding will allow us to further study the long term societal implications of a model of care that has proven so beneficial to so many.”

The 17 year follow-up study is designed to examine school success, mental health and illness, substance use and abuse and HIV risk among the first-born children and whether the incidence of these factors is greater in children at both genetic and environmental risk.

The Memphis project and its follow-up studies were lead by Kitzman and David Olds, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and preventive medicine at the University of Colorado and adjunct professor at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. The Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), the home visit model that grew out of Memphis and study sites in Elmira, N.Y. and Denver, Colo., now operates in cities and towns across the United States and in Europe. Other collaborators at the University of Rochester include Robert Cole, Ph.D. and Carole Hanks, Dr.P.H., R.N.

The NFP program serves more than 200 mothers in Monroe County.

# # #

For Media Inquiries:
Public Relations Department
(585) 275-3676
Email Public Relations