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Home Visits Can Help New Parents

Study finds programs reduce ER trips and doctor appointments
(*this news item will not be available after 03/26/2017)
By Robert Preidt
Monday, December 26, 2016
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MONDAY, Dec. 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A home visit program for new parents helped reduce their use of medical services for their infants, a new study finds.

The research included 244 first-time parents living in New Mexico. The parents were randomly assigned to either a control group that received no additional help, or were enrolled in a program in which health care workers and parent educators made home visits during the infant's first year.

Compared to those in the control group, parents in the home visit group were a third less likely to take their infants to the emergency room. Parents who received home visits were also 41 percent less likely to take their infants to a primary care doctor nine or more times during the first year, the study found.

Typically, an infant is expected to have seven well-child visits during the first year, according to American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations.

Some infant home visit programs use only nurses, but this approach may not work in some areas due to nurse shortages and the high cost of using nurses only, the researchers said.

They noted that New Mexico is a state with a shortage of nurses and child outcomes rated among the worst in the United States.

"Our findings suggest that it is possible to prevent costly health care use during the first year of a child's life by using a home visiting model that does not rely exclusively on nurses," said study lead author Rebecca Kilburn, a senior economist with the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization.

"We also found the program benefited both those families who were at risk for problems, as well as those who had no risk factors," she said in a RAND news release.

Home visit programs typically target new mothers with certain risk factors, such as being a teen or having a low income. But, this study found that this type of program also benefited infants of parents not considered at-risk.

The study was published online recently in the journal Pediatrics.

SOURCE: RAND Corp., news release, Dec. 15, 2016

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