A Closer Look at the Olds Model

Nurse-Family Partnership Program

Synopsis of the Work: In 1979, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported a demonstration project in Elmira, N.Y., that used registered nurses to take preventive health services into the homes of young, low-income pregnant women and first-time mothers. Randomized controlled trials conducted in Elmira and subsequently Memphis, Tenn., and Denver showed the home visits yielded positive health and developmental outcomes for children and mothers. After two decades of research, David L. Olds, Ph.D., architect of the Nurse-Family Partnership Program (April 1999 to April 2008), initiated a national program to replicate the model across the country.

Story Told: The architects of the Nurse-Family Partnership grounded the program's strategy and content in research and theory. David L. Olds, Ph.D., and his colleagues reviewed research literature to identify conditions consistently associated with the adverse maternal and child outcomes they wanted to address. The program targeted substance use and other risk factors, and rooted their model in theories of development, behavior and motivation.

Other principal features of the program as it evolved include:

  • A prescribed visitation schedule.
  • Detailed visit-by-visit guidelines that provide the nurse with a consistent structure for each meeting.
  • A caseload of no more than 25 families per full-time nurse.
  • Required training for nurse visitors in program goals, techniques and theory.