Nurse-Led Program Helps Young, At-Risk Moms and Babies

The Nurse-Family Partnership is projected to touch the lives of more than 400,000 families nationwide by 2019.

    • February 27, 2012

Throughout 2012, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is celebrating 40 years of improving health and health care for all Americans. The Foundation’s 40th anniversary celebration includes a year-long effort to highlight some of the programs, policies and efforts supported by RWJF that have been highly effective and have had a dramatic impact on health and health care in the nation.

One of those distinguished programs is the Nurse-Family Partnership. Now operating in 34 states, the program has touched the lives of more than 140,000 moms and families since 1999. That was the year RWJF awarded a $10 million grant to David Olds, PhD, to roll out a program that would send public health nurses into the homes of new teen mothers. By then, the model had already undergone more than 20 years of testing, including a demonstration project that was also funded by RWJF in 1979. Olds first tested the home visitation model in Elmira, N.Y. in 1977. Its effectiveness is now beyond question.

“One unique aspect of the Nurse-Family Partnership is that it is based on a foundation of research,” said Kammie Monarch, RN, MSN, JD, chief operating officer of the Nurse-Family Partnership. “That is also one reason for our success. We have set the bar very high for ourselves as an evidence-based intervention. This program not only is based on two decades of research but also on an ongoing longitudinal study. And our establishment and adherence to this rigorous standard is thanks in large part to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

Headquartered in Denver, the Nurse-Family Partnership works with state and local agencies, tribes and other entities to implement the program in local communities. The group trains nurses, monitors programs, ensures accuracy in reporting, provides quality control, and coordinates the development of new sites. Each young woman who enters the program is assigned a nurse home visitor who supports her through pregnancy and until her baby turns 2. The nurses provide educational activities for their clients that improve pregnancy, child health, developmental and maternal outcomes, and that increase the young women’s self-sufficiency.

By making home visits, nurses are able to “meet, interact and provide care quite literally where the mom is, to help her achieve her goals and get to where she wants to be,” Monarch explained. “This is the only intervention and service delivery model that relies on the scientific integrity, clinical judgment, problem-solving, intellect, care and compassion of registered nurses.”

Communities that provide Nurse-Family Partnership services have seen improvements in the health, educational and economic outcomes of women and families in the program, as well as decreases in the number of families enrolled in Medicaid and food stamp programs. Nurse-Family Partnership services have also contributed to improvements in pregnancy outcomes, health status, school achievement, parental employment and family stability.

At its current growth rate, the Nurse-Family Partnership program is projected to have reached more than 400,000 families by the time it celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019.

“Our projections are really a salute to the support of foundations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which have made early and significant investments in our work,” Monarch noted. “We owe a debt of gratitude more than words can say to RWJF.”

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