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Nurse Visit Programs Boost Low-Income Moms & Slash Government Costs Over Time

The Short of It

We all know becoming a mom isn't easy—and for low-income moms, it may be even tougher. That's why the Affordable Care Act began funding Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting programs, which give moms in need access to nurses to help counsel them about nutrition, health and parenting while they're pregnant and after their babies are born.

The Lowdown

Research suggests that visiting-nurse programs are working. The Nurse-Family Partnership, one of the 17 programs of its kind, has studied its impact in several controlled trials and the long-term effects include:

  • Improved prenatal health
  • Fewer childhood injuries
  • Fewer subsequent pregnancies
  • Increased intervals between births
  • Increased maternal employment
  • Improved school readiness

Preventing problems down the line can help cut government costs, since these moms would need less financial assistance later on.

Symphonie Dawson, a mom near Dallas, told NPR about her nurse, Ashley Bradley, who began visiting her in her home while she was pregnant and will continue to until her son, Andrew, is 2 years old.

"Ashley's always been such a great help," Symphonie says. "Whenever I have a question like what he should be doing at this age, she has the answers."

Ashley has counseled Symphonie about her hopes and fears of becoming a mom, childbirth and how to manage her time, so she wouldn't fall behind in her studies to become a paralegal after her son was born.

The Upshot

Visiting nurse programs are being lauded by people of both political parties—programs that both help people and reduce government spending are something everyone can agree on. But they only work if the program is good, and some critics say that not all the programs have proven successful the way the Nurse-Family Partnership has. They think the requirements the programs should meet in order to receive government funding should be stricter.

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