University of Rochester2014-08-01 5:47 PM

Effect of Home Visiting by Nurses on Maternal and Child Mortality


Mothers and children living in adverse contexts are at risk of premature death.

To determine the effect of prenatal and infant/toddler nurse home visiting on maternal and child mortality during a 2-decade period (1990-2011).

Design, Setting, and Participants  
A randomized clinical trial was designed originally to assess the home visiting program’s effect on pregnancy outcomes and maternal and child health through child age 2 years. The study was conducted in a public system of obstetric and pediatric care in Memphis, Tennessee. Participants included primarily African American women and their first live-born children living in highly disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, who were assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups: treatment 1 (transportation for prenatal care [n = 166]), treatment 2 (transportation plus developmental screening for infants and toddlers [n = 514]), treatment 3 (transportation plus prenatal/postpartum home visiting [n = 230]), and treatment 4 (transportation, screening, and prenatal, postpartum, and infant/toddler home visiting [n = 228]). Treatments 1 and 3 were included originally to increase statistical power for testing pregnancy outcomes. For determining mortality, background information was available for all 1138 mothers assigned to all 4 treatments and all but 2 live-born children in treatments 2 and 4 (n = 704). Inclusion of children in treatments 1 and 3 was not possible because background information was missing on too many children.

Nurses sought to improve the outcomes of pregnancy, children’s health and development, and mothers’ health and life-course with home visits beginning during pregnancy and continuing through child age 2 years.

Main Outcomes and Measures  
All-cause mortality in mothers and preventable-cause mortality in children (sudden infant death syndrome, unintentional injury, and homicide) derived from the National Death Index.

The mean (SE) 21-year maternal all-cause mortality rate was 3.7% (0.74%) in the combined control group (treatments 1 and 2), 0.4% (0.43%) in treatment 3, and 2.2% (0.97%) in treatment 4. The survival contrast of treatments 1 and 2 combined with treatment 3 was significant (P = .007); the contrast of treatments 1 and 2 combined with treatment 4 was not significant (P = .19), and the contrast of treatments 1 and 2 combined with treatments 3 and 4 combined was significant (post hoc P = .008). At child age 20 years, the preventable-cause child mortality rate was 1.6% (0.57%) in treatment 2 and 0.0% (SE not calculable) in treatment 4; the survival contrast was significant (P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance  
Prenatal and infant/toddler home visitation by nurses is a promising means of reducing all-cause mortality among mothers and preventable-cause mortality in their first-born children living in highly disadvantaged settings.

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