British Columbia today launched a provincewide program to make sure that at-risk or potentially vulnerable first-time families get the healthiest start in life for mom and baby.
Healthy Start focuses public health resources from the second trimester of pregnancy to the child's second birthday for young, low-income, first-time mothers.
The $23-million Healthy Start initiative enhances public health perinatal and child health prevention services by standardizing public health services. At the same time, it focuses pregnancy and parenting support on the families who would benefit the most from intensive follow-up.
A key component of Healthy Start is the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program, which will begin early 2012. NFP is a nurse home-visitation program offered to vulnerable, young, first-time mothers who have low incomes, and who are at an early stage in their pregnancy (28 weeks or earlier). Those who join will be assigned a specially trained public health nurse, who will work with them to provide health and nutrition counselling, pre- and post-natal advice and guidance, and link them to supportive health and social services.
Public health nurses will be spending more time and more resources on at-risk mothers who will gain most from the extra time and parenting support they receive.
British Columbia will be the first province to implement and evaluate the NFP program in Canada, although a small pilot project is currently underway in Hamilton, Ontario. The NFP is based on the very successful NFP program in the United States. The U.S. program is well-established, and has demonstrated long-term, scientifically proven positive outcomes for graduating families for more than 30 years.
As part of its implementation, B.C.'s NFP will undergo an evaluation led by the Children's Health Policy Centre at Simon Fraser University, in partnership with the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University and the founder of NFP, Dr. David Olds.
Healthy Start is part of Healthy Families BC, the Province's overarching prevention and health promotion strategy, which is implementing a variety of healthy living programs across the province to help improve British Columbians' health, reduce obesity and promote wellness.
Healthy Start will also include child growth monitoring using the new World Health Organization's standardized growth charts to support optimal growth, healthy eating and physical activity, helping to prevent childhood obesity and promote healthy growth and development. The program will be consistent and standardized across all health authorities.
NFP is only one facet of the overall spectrum of public health services in the province aimed at improving child and maternal health. Work is currently underway to ensure that all women across the province have a consistent standard of pre- and post-natal care.
- It has been shown that by partnering vulnerable young families with a specially trained public health nurse, they are able to foster healthy child development and build parental life skills that help families thrive over the long-term.
- The assigned public health nurse will visit every week during pregnancy, with visits tapering to once a month by the child's second birthday.
- The NFP program has demonstrated best results with families who join before the 28th week of pregnancy.
- Young women will be able to find out more about NFP once implementation plans are fully in place, about six months from now, by contacting their doctor or midwife, or a public health nurse, social worker, or other health-care or social assistance provider.
- The introduction of NFP in B.C. also supports key actions focused on healthier early childhood development within the Province's recently released 10-year plan to address mental health and substance use, Healthy Minds, Healthy People.
Healthy Families BC: www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca
Perinatal Services BC: www.perinatalservicesbc.ca/
The Nurse-Family Partnership program in the United States: www.nursefamilypartnership.org/
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)