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Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 15, 2005

‘Healthy Babies’ Leads to Healthy Children, U of G Evaluation Finds

A provincial program that offers families with new babies information on parenting and child development, as well as extra services and support as needed, is a success, according to an evaluation involving University of Guelph researchers.

Family relations professors Bruce Ryan and Donna Lero were part of a consortium that assessed the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ program “Healthy Babies Healthy Children.” The program, which has been operating through each of the province’s 37 public health units since 1998, aims to improve physical, communicative and psycho-social development in children.

Based on interviews with more than 6,000 families and surveys of about 3,500 professionals representing all regions of Ontario, the researchers found better child and family health among those who took part in the program compared with those who didn’t participate.

In the researchers’ interviews and surveys, children involved in the program scored higher on most infant development measures – such as first steps and first words – while parents felt a stronger sense of connection with community services and gained confidence in their parenting skills. Participating agencies and services reported that there were fewer gaps and less overlap in services, as well as fewer misguided referrals.

“The main goal of the evaluation was to assess how well the program was meeting the needs of children and families,” Ryan said. “The evaluation also examined whether blended home visiting, both by lay home visitors and public health nurses, was effective for families in Ontario and could be effective in other provinces as well.”

Healthy Babies Healthy Children is made up of both universal services that are offered to all families and targeted services for families more in need of assistance. Services include prenatal and postpartum screenings, a phone call from a public health nurse within 48 hours of returning home with a newborn and recommendations to the primary caregiver for other health and social services. Where additional help appears useful, a public health nurse offers a course of extended home visits as well as referrals to appropriate additional services.

The researchers plan to follow up their research this fall because the children who were part of the initial evaluation will be in kindergarten. At that time, interviews with the parents and the children’s teachers will be conducted to determine if the program was successful in helping with long-term child development.

The study was done through the University's Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being. The innovative interdisciplinary research and educational centre supports research by faculty, staff and graduate students in matters relevant to individual and family well-being, the interface between work and family, and contextual factors that affect workplace productivity and community supports.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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