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Home Visits Benefit Children in Low-Income Families

Long-term follow-up shows improved outcomes in children visited by paraprofessionals or nurses

THURSDAY, Dec. 5, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Home visits by nurses or paraprofessionals have a beneficial effects on child development in children born to low-income women, according to research published online Dec. 2 in JAMA Pediatrics.

David L. Olds, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado in Denver, and colleagues conducted follow-up, at ages 6 and 9, of children of mothers enrolled in a randomized trial, to assess the effects of home visits by paraprofessionals or nurses to low-income women, from pregnancy to child age 2 years, compared with a control group.

The researchers found that, at age 9 years, children born to mothers with low psychological resources, who were visited by paraprofessionals, showed fewer errors in visual attention/task switching (effect size, −0.30; P = 0.08) compared with controls. Children who were visited by nurses were less likely than controls to be classified as having behavioral problems, including total emotional/behavioral problems at age 6 (relative risk [RR], 0.45; P = 0.08), internalizing problems at age 9 (RR, 0.44; P = 0.08), and dysfunctional attention at age 9 (RR, 0.34; P = 0.07). Compared with controls, nurse-visited children born to low-resource mothers averaged better receptive language (effect size, 0.30; P = 0.01) and better sustained attention (effect size, 0.36; P = 0.006).

"The findings from this trial suggest that if we are going to improve the life chances of our most vulnerable children, we must shift public policy toward investments in a range of complementary interventions early in life," the authors write.

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