The opportunity to influence child’s health starts during pregnancy
DENVER, CO (November 14, 2017) – A new study published this month by The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing shows that the national Nurse-Family Partnership® program can help to prevent childhood obesity. Research shows that low-income children are more likely to be obese than the general U.S. population, and Nurse-Family Partnership’s intervention with first-time moms and their children in poverty is strongly positioned to influence the mother’s health behaviors.
The study showed that – like in other low-income families – obesity among infants and toddlers from families participating in Nurse-Family Partnership was significantly greater than in children from the general U.S. population (14.8% compared to 8.7%). To reduce the chances of low-income children becoming obese, several prevalent risk factors were identified that Nurse-Family Partnership can address with low-income moms. Children participating in Nurse-Family Partnership were less likely to be obese if their mothers showed the following health behaviors:
- Expectant mother began her pregnancy at a normal weight versus expectant mother that began her pregnancy overweight;
- Expectant mother had limited weight gain during pregnancy (28 pounds or less), versus expectant mother who gained 40 or more pounds; and
- Mother breastfed her infant for more than 20 weeks versus mother who only breastfed for one to three weeks or less.
“This study shows that Nurse-Family Partnership has a unique opportunity to promote healthier behaviors and reduce unhealthy weight gain for both mom and baby,” said William Thorland, PhD, lead author of study and director of evaluation and research at Nurse-Family Partnership. “Early intervention is key to prevent not only obesity for the baby, but to reduce the child’s likelihood of being obese throughout his or her life course.”
Children below age 2 with excess weight are at greater risk for delayed motor development, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other serious health conditions throughout their life course. Obesity has also been shown to diminish quality of life, productivity and lifespan, while also posing a significant economic burden with the additional costs of health care.
Nurse-Family Partnership’s intervention begins with nurses reaching low-income women pregnant with their first baby. Each woman is paired with her own personal nurse to guide her though her pregnancy and help her have a healthy baby. The nurse provides the expectant mom with information to help her make healthier choices on nutrition and prepare for the baby’s arrival. The nurse is also there to monitor her weight gain and assess her health to promote healthier outcomes for both her and her baby. After the baby’s arrival, the nurse continues to support the new mom to improve her child’s health and development throughout the first two years of the child’s life.
The study, “Status of High Body Weight Among Nurse-Family Partnership Children,” was based on a study of over 14,000 children of families enrolled in Nurse-Family Partnership between 2007 and 2010, and was written by William Thorland, PhD; Dustin Currie, MPH; and Claire Colangelo, MPH.