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Role of home visiting in improving parenting and health in families at risk of abuse and neglect: results of a multicentre randomised controlled trial and economic evaluation
  1. Jane Barlow1,
  2. Hilton Davis2,
  3. Emma McIntosh3,
  4. Patricia Jarrett1,
  5. Carole Mockford4,
  6. Sarah Stewart-Brown1
  1. 1Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  2. 2Centre for Parent and Child Support, South London & Maudsley NHS Trust, Munro Centre, Guy’s Hospital, London, UK
  3. 3Health Economic Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  4. 4Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J Barlow
    Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Gibbet Hill, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK; jane.barlow{at}


Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of an intensive home visiting programme in improving outcomes for vulnerable families.

Design: Multicentre randomised controlled trial in which eligible women were allocated to receive home visiting (n = 67) or standard services (n = 64). Incremental cost analysis.

Setting: 40 general practitioner practices across 2 counties in the UK.

Participants: 131 vulnerable pregnant women.

Intervention: Selected health visitors were trained in the Family Partnership Model to provide a weekly home visiting service from 6 months antenatally to 12 months postnatally.

Main outcome measures: Mother–child interaction, maternal psychological health attitudes and behaviour, infant functioning and development, and risk of neglect or abuse.

Results: At 12 months, differences favouring the home-visited group were observed on an independent assessment of maternal sensitivity (p<0.04) and infant cooperativeness (p<0.02). No differences were identified on any other measures. A non-significant increase in the likelihood of intervention group infants being the subject of child protection proceedings, or being removed from the home, and one death in the control group were found. The mean incremental cost per infant of the home visiting intervention was £3246 (bootstrapped 95% CI for the difference £1645–4803).

Conclusion: This intervention may have the potential to improve parenting and increase the identification of infants at risk of abuse and neglect in vulnerable families. Further investigation is needed, along with long-term follow-up to assess possible sleeper effects.

  • RCT, randomised controlled trial

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  • Published Online First 19 October 2006

  • Funding: Department of Health, Nuffield Foundation.

  • Competing interests: None.

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