McMaster University

McMaster University

Brighter future for moms at risk

By Howard Elliott
Hamilton Spectator
March 8, 2011

Effective social programming is more than charity. It's an investment in people, families and the future. A program that The Spectator's Jon Wells wrote about Saturday is a perfect example. The Nurse-Family Partnership was piloted here back in 2008. It's a home support program in which public health nurses make regular, intense visits to first-time moms living on low incomes. The nurse assigned to the case visits a client 14 times prior to childbirth and then regularly during the first two years of life. The content of the counselling offered is wide-ranging, but all based on tested and proven curriculum developed by Dr. David Olds, an American physician.

The results have been positive — extremely so. The cost of the program, $5,600 per client, per year is modest considering that U.S. research has shown it pays $6 in social cost savings for every $1 invested.

That's the key word here — investment. The Spectator's authoritative Code Red investigation showed the high cost of unsatisfactory health outcomes in households in poverty in the absence of effective intervention and mentoring. The Nurse-Family Partnership goes directly at that problem and provides the requisite supports and education. U.S. research says the visits give babies a healthy start during the most formative years of their life, as well as modelling positive behaviour and health in mothers and creating a ripple effect for future generations. As such, programs such as this one have been shown to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

The Hamilton program can only help 100 moms due to resource limitations. Health officials and Mayor Bob Bratina are lobbying the province so more of the 300-400 women eligible annually can be served. Wouldn't you invest $1 now to save $6 later, especially if the investment promised a brighter future for moms and babies?

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