New studies offer additional evidence about Nurse-Family Partnership

October 16, 2015

Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) — a program aimed at improving the health and development of disadvantaged children — has shown an impressive record in the US for more than 30 years.

In long-term studies in Elmira, New York, Memphis, Tennessee and Denver, Colorado, it improved parenting, improved children’s behaviour and learning, and helped mothers achieve economic self-sufficiency, among other benefits.

Now NFP is being tested in other countries and the results are starting to appear. Results in BC — where NFP is being tested for the first time in Canada — won’t be available for several years. But meanwhile, researchers in the Netherlands have also had positive findings.

As reported in three peer-reviewed journal articles in Midwifery and PLOS ONE, the program has been shown to reduce prenatal smoking, increase breastfeeding, and improve child and family safety.

As the Dutch authors observed: “The results of this randomized controlled trial…corroborate the positive effects of this type of intervention that have been shown in NFP trials conducted in the US.”

In England, on the other hand, NFP has not shown the same impact.  In fact, the Lancet has just published an article outlining limited benefits for children and families who received Family-Nurse Partnership (the UK-adapted version of NFP) compared with existing services.  There, researchers studied prenatal nicotine use, subsequent pregnancies at 24 months postpartum, infant birth weight and child emergency room encounters for all causes. The Lancet has also included a commentary on the English findings by David Olds, NFP’s founder.

Charlotte Waddell, who is the co-principal investigator for BC’s NFP evaluation, says, “Every country is different.  For example, public health spending and other kinds of social supports vary a lot, which can influence how effective a new intervention may appear to be.”

“But this is exactly why we’re conducting a trial in BC — to learn how well NFP works in BC and Canada,” Waddell says.

As to whether the effort and expense of this kind of evaluation is worth it, Waddell has no doubts. “Our aim is to improve the lives of children in BC.  This trial is the best way to find out if NFP should be an important part of this.”

To read the three articles on the Dutch trial results please see the following:
Science Direct
Plos One: 2015
Plos One: 2013

To read the article on the English trial results please see the Lancet.

To read David Olds’ commentary on the English trial results please see his article in the Lancet.

The English Family-Nurse Partnership Unit has also posted a response on their website.