SECOND GLANCE: Home visiting initiative assessed for improvement

As we prepare to implement the Nurse Family Partnership in Jacksonville, we thought we would repost this blog from National Infant Mortality Awareness Month about the Pew Trust’s look at how to improve home-visiting programs. You can also watch this video, which shows how home visitation programs yield big returns for families and taxpayers.

National Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Voluntary home visiting program funds, recently approved by the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Commission, will allow for the new implementation of a Nurse-Family Partnership in Jacksonville. These visiting programs pair families with trained professionals, who provide ongoing information and support services to families in their homes during pregnancy and through their child’s first three years. This time is critical to cognitive, social and emotional development, and when parents lack the resources to meet their baby’s needs, the negative health and social problems can be lasting.

The Pew Center on the States reviewed home visiting programs and all 50 states and the District of Columbia for fiscal year 2010, including each state’s program quality, funding, administration and oversight, and offered the following policy recommendations to help states prepare to deploy new federal resources and garner the highest return on investment in home visiting:

Require the tracking of all home visiting funds.

Insist on – and invest in – programs with a foundation in research.

Support and require programs to monitor performance and evaluate key outcomes.

Set clear, evidence-based eligibility guidelines and develop systems to ensure compliance.

Use the best available data about families to determine appropriate home visiting allocations and to establish a realistic plan for expansion.

When following an evidence-based model, these programs lead health care savings and other public expenditures, specifically when invested in families most at risk for low birthweight, child abuse and neglect, poor nutrition and other problems. Economists estimate that well designed and implemented home visiting programs return up to $5.70 per taxpayer dollar invested.

The new Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program established by Congress in 2010 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was expanded by 1.5 million dollars over five years and mandates that federal funds be spent only on approved, evidence-based models that are effectively coordinated and monitored.