Research making a difference for children

February 11, 2020

A significant percentage of very young mothers in BC are coping with low income, poor education and mental health challenges. These were the issues highlighted by Katie Hjertaas, Ange Cullen and Charlotte Waddell speaking at SFU Vancouver’s inaugural Lunch ‘n’ Learn event, Feb. 6,  on the topic Improving Children’s Lives Through Research.

This new series of lunch hour sessions showcases how SFU’s Vancouver research is making a positive difference in society.

Hjertaas, Cullen and Waddell came to their understanding of the challenges facing very young mothers in part through working on the BC Healthy Connections Project (BCHCP). This randomized controlled trial aims to assess Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), an intensive, home-based nursing program for very young mothers and their children. NFP runs throughout pregnancy and the child’s first two years of life.

The talk showed that the 739 girls and young women in the study were coping with daunting challenges when they first enrolled:

  • 83% were living on less than $20,000 per year
  • Half were coping with not having grade 12 or equivalent, and those still in school had their education interrupted by pregnancy
  • Many experienced housing instability
  • 74% were coping with mental or physical health problems that affected their daily activities
  • 56% reported experiencing maltreatment when they were children themselves.

Findings from this study are already informing public health policy locally, nationally and beyond — with more reports to come, particularly on how NFP can benefit children.