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New study says newborn home visits from nurses prevent costly care later

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

The News Observer recently posted a story about a study out from Duke University that reveals new information about home visits to newborns.

News to no one (especially nurses!)–new moms are exhausted, and often overwhelmed and full of questions. So what if they could expect a visit at their door from a qualified nurse weeks after giving birth? Newsobserver.com says that “even minimal nurse visits to newborn babies’ homes pay dividends later, with a reduction in expensive emergency room experiences, a new Duke University study shows.”

The study, which appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Pediatrics, examined results from a Durham, North Carolina program called Durham Connects that gives new moms a few visits from nurses. The program, which costs an average of $700 per family, results in 50 percent less emergency hospital care, a savings which can amount to thousands of dollars.

New programs like these are becoming more common as preventive health care becomes more popular and as the federal health care law provides. Though costly, home visits themselves aren’t new, since they’ve long been considered a great way to ensure a healthy start for a new family. Programs such as Durham Connects are a great asset for less well-off families.

The Duke study showed that “preventive benefits extended to all – the privately insured, those with no insurance and low-income families on Medicaid. For a relatively small investment early in a child’s life, the reward is significant,” say study authors Kenneth Dodge, director of Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy, and Ben Goodman, a Duke research scientist.

“Babies don’t come with instruction manuals, and we like to think of the Durham Connects program as maybe being that instruction manual,” Goodman said.

The Duke research team examined all 4,777 babies born in Durham County between July 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010. For the study, children born on even dates were offered the program, and the scientists studied the medical records of those who received the program versus those who did not.

Visits from nurses, which usually last more than an hour, include tips on breastfeeding and child care, as well as screening for postpartum depression. The free program provides one to three home visits and follow-up phone calls. Nurses provide connections to pediatricians and primary care doctors and often recommend local parenting classes.

“It’s getting into the home right around the time of birth and helping families to get started off on the right foot and to get set on a trajectory that’s going to promote good outcomes over time,” said Goodman, the Duke researcher.

Durham Connects is funded primarily by The Duke Endowment, with additional money from Durham County, smaller foundations and Medicaid reimbursements.

Does your hospital or city have programs like this available to new moms? Have you ever been involved in home visits? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: News Observer

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