Protocol for a randomized controlled trial evaluating the impact of the Nurse-Family Partnership's home visiting program in South Carolina on maternal and child health outcomes

Trials. 2020 Dec 4;21(1):997. doi: 10.1186/s13063-020-04916-9.


Background: Policy-makers are increasingly seeking rigorous evidence on the impact of programs that go beyond typical health care settings to improve outcomes for low-income families during the critical period around the transition to parenthood and through early childhood.

Methods: This study is a randomized controlled trial evaluating the impact of the Nurse-Family Partnership's expansion in South Carolina. The scientific trial was made possible by a "Pay for Success" program embedded within a 1915(b) Waiver from Medicaid secured by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. This protocol describes study procedures and defines primary and secondary health-related outcomes that can be observed during the intervention period (including pregnancy through the child's first 2 years of life). Primary study outcomes include (1) a composite indicator for adverse birth outcomes including being born small for gestational age, low birth weight (less than 2500 g), preterm birth (less than 37 weeks' gestation), or perinatal mortality (fetal death at or after 20 weeks of gestation or mortality in the first 7 days of life), (2) a composite outcome indicating health care utilization or mortality associated with major injury or concern for abuse or neglect occurring during the child's first 24 months of life, and (3) an indicator for an inter-birth interval of < 21 months. Secondary outcomes are defined similarly in three domains: (1) improving pregnancy and birth outcomes, (2) improving child health and development, and (3) altering the maternal life course through changes in family planning.

Discussion: Evidence from this trial on the impact of home visiting services delivered at scale as part of a Medicaid benefit can provide policy-makers and stakeholders with crucial information about the effectiveness of home visiting programs in improving health and well-being for low-income mothers and children and about novel financing mechanisms for cross-silo interventions.

Trial registration: The trial was registered prospectively on the American Economic Association Trial Registry (the primary registry for academic economists doing policy trials) on 16 February 2016 ( AEARCTR-0001039 ). NCT03360539 . Registered on 28 November 2017.

Keywords: Care coordination; Early childhood; Family planning; Home visiting; Medicaid; Nurse home visiting; Pregnancy; Premature birth; Randomized controlled trial; South Carolina.

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