BCHCP Methodology Manuals now available for researchers

November 26, 2020

The study team for the BC Healthy Connections Project (BCHCP) has recently released a series of scientific methodology manuals. Their aim is to inform health researchers, research trainees and students conducting similar long-term research, in particular with populations experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage.

This body of work highlights the team’s knowledge and expertise collected over eight years in conducting 4,000 in-person and telephone research interviews with 739 girls and young women and their 737 children who were experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage upon entry into the trial.

The team collected survey and observational data from this cohort at six interview timepoints, starting in early pregnancy and continuing until children reached age two years (2.5. years duration per family). Retention results were encouraging (>83%) given that many participants were experiencing considerable disadvantage including residential instability, low income and intermittent cell phone access.

These methodology manuals highlight key aspects of the Field Interviewer role including:

  • intensive training over four weeks with ongoing support and mentorship over many years
  • rigorous questionnaire administration and data quality
  • participant-centered retention efforts
  • safety awareness and risk mitigation during in-person interviews

The manuals provide resources, practical guidance, and troubleshooting for situations that a Field Interviewer may encounter. The team has  also published its planned, theory-and evidence-based BCHCP retention protocol.

The Nurse-Family Partnership program (NFP) is a primary prevention program involving intensive home visiting by public health nurses starting early in pregnancy and continuing until children reach age two years. It aims to improve child and maternal wellbeing, focusing on young, first-time mothers experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage. While findings from three NFP randomized controlled trials in the United States have shown many short- and long-term benefits for both children and mothers — including the program paying for itself — this trial is the first scientific evaluation of NFP in Canada.

Conducting such a large-scale, public health randomized controlled trial involved intensive resources and rigorous scientific oversight. The manuals represent lessons learned from designing and implementing the trial. The scientific field interviewers were unaware of families’ group assignment (i.e., NFP or comparison) to ensure unbiased data collection, hence this work has implications for all health research studies and not just randomized controlled trials.

“Our goal is to inform health researchers and service providers committed to reaching and sustaining engagement with populations experiencing disadvantage who we describe as “need-to-reach,” rather than “hard-to-reach,” according to study Scientific Director Nicole Catherine.

Recent findings show that NFP reduces cannabis use in all participants and the number of cigarettes used (by smokers) during pregnancy, which is a crucial window for healthy child development. Reports on other outcomes of interest including NFP’s effect on child maltreatment, child cognition, language and mental health, as well as maternal life-course, are expected in 2021 and 2022.

The study manuals may be viewed here (scroll to end of page).