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Nurse-Family Partnership Developed in the 70's by Dr. David L. Olds Still Relevant Today


On Friday, June 15, we attended a program at the City Club entitled "Improving the Life Chances of Disadvantaged Mothers and Children with Prenatal and Early Childhood Home-Visiting by Nurses." The speaker was Dr. David L. Olds, Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Nursing and Professor of Community and Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Nursing. He is also the Director of the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health.

Dr. Olds spoke of the success of the Nurse-Family Partnership, which is a program he developed in the 1970's that "works by having specially trained nurses regularly visit young, first time moms-to-be, starting early in the pregnancy, and continuing through the child's second birthday. The expectant mothers benefit by getting the care and support they need  to have a healthy pregnancy. At the same time, new mothers develop a close relationship with a nurse who becomes a trusted resource they can rely on for advice on everything from safely caring for their child to taking steps to provide a stable, secure future for both of them. Through the partnership, the nurse provides new mothers with the confidence and tools they need not only to secure a healthy start for their babies, but to envision a life of stability and opportunities for success for both mother and child." 


We deeply admire Dr. Olds because he never forgot his own humble beginnings and devoted his adult life to serving those in need. To be sure, he shared several experiences that would have discouraged most of us, such as when he was hiding eggs in a park for an Easter egg hunt for low-income kids, and, no sooner did he put an egg down than it was stolen by a destitute person. Also, it is often the case that the NFP nurses initially encounter hostility from the very people they are trying to help and so compassion and patience are required in order to meet the mom-to-be on her level (i.e., understand why she is hostile and bitter) and show her that she has options.

From what we learned from Dr. Olds, and as we read on the NFP website, currently Nurse-Family Partnership serves low-income moms and their babies in 42 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and six Tribal communities.

We looked forward to attending this program because we wanted to ask about the potential of a visiting nurse program to assist families who have recently immigrated to the United States, because it seems to us that a family in a strange place would feel a lot more comfortable with a newly-acquired but genuine friend visiting them in their home than they would in a medical facility.

We asked Dr. Olds about this during the Q and A and he acknowledged that the needs of newly arrived immigrant families are quite high, but what they have going for them is a very "cohesive family structure" and their ambition to succeed. Accordingly, they take full advantage of any assistance that the nurses can give them and are very appreciative of it.

Along these lines, we sat next to Dr. Kristi Westphaln, a Ph.D. prepared nurse practioner who is now doing post-doctoral research at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She very much agreed with what Dr. Olds had to say. Before moving to Cleveland, Dr. Westphaln had lived in San Diego, where she often worked with families who immigrated to the United States from Mexico and countries in the Middle East. Based on her own experience and research, she believes that home visits by nurses "provide a better picture of what's happening than a check box on a form."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC 







Aimee Jannsohn