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  • Writer's pictureConnected Caregiving


Bringing home a new baby is exciting – and scary. Especially for families experiencing disadvantage, early parenthood can be stressful.

Sustained nurse home visiting (SNHV) is where a trained nurse visits families in their own home over a long period of time. This lets families build a strong and trusting relationship. Visits are usually front loaded – more at the beginning, and fewer as the baby grows and parents gain confidence. Many programs also focus on building community connections, helping parents form a network of support.

Who is SNHV for?

Sustained nurse home visiting is used internationally including in the UK, Germany, US, the Netherlands, and here in Australia. It is one of the best evidenced ways to support mothers who are living with disadvantage.

Research shows that the first 1000 days is a critical time for babies’ developing brains. During this time, babies’ brains are extremely sensitive to their environment. Empowering mothers experiencing adversity to give their babies the best support during this critical time is a powerful way we can address inequity and intergenerational disadvantage.

Can I get home visiting in Australia?

In SA, every family receives one home visit as part of the universal service, but there is not widespread access to sustained home visiting. There are several SNHV programs running in other parts of Australia, including the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program, for first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers; NSW’s Sustaining NSW Families program; and the right@home program in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Both Sustaining NSW Families and right@home are based on an Australian-designed program called MECSH, or Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting, developed by Distinguished Professor of Nursing Lynn Kemp at Western Sydney University. Also part of right@home is Diana Harris of ARACY - the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, who says:

Sustained nurse home visiting takes the pressure off mums who might be doing it tough. They have a trusted professional who is there to help – and they keep turning up to help. The mum doesn’t have to keep asking for support, and they don’t have to worry about transport, or care for older kids. It’s easy, it works, and it feels safe, and that’s why our research mothers give their relationship with the right@home nurse an average score of 39.4 out of 40.”

Researching SNHV in Australia

The research she refers to is the right@home Randomise Controlled Trial (RCT). This is Australia’s largest trial of SNHV and is one of only three RCTs internationally that has followed children up to school age.

In Phase 1 of the RCT, trained nurses delivered up to 25 visits to mothers with indicators such as living alone, low education, never working, having anxious mood, or no support network. A control group of similar mothers received “usual care” through the universal health system.

The researchers found statistically significant differences at the end of the two year program. Mothers in the right@home group showed warmer and more responsive parenting (linked to healthy attachment and brain development). They had more regular routines, safer homes, and felt more confident in caring for themselves and their children.

As the research continues, those benefits have endured. Up to three years after visits ended, the researchers are still seeing better maternal mental health and parenting confidence. While the results are not yet published, early signs are that the right@home babies are now doing better in social and emotional development and reading readiness. These gains are small, but consistent across a number of different measures. The researchers next plan to compare the right@home children and the control group with school NAPLAN data as the children turn eight.

SNHV is a proven way to enhance vulnerable mothers’ ability to care for their children during a critical time of development. In supporting mothers to parent well, we are breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage and giving children the early opportunities they need to thrive.


For more information on right@home, please contact Diana Harris, Lead for Knowledge Translation at ARACY

Tel: 0449 059 729


Originally published in Connected Caregiving Autumn 2023


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