Children were better prepared for starting school and parents made wiser use of the health service as a result of a family intervention programme trialled in a disadvantaged part of Dublin — leading to calls for it to be rolled out elsewhere.
An analysis of the benefits of Preparing For Life found that when it came to school readiness, children in the programme were more likely to be ready for school, ready to learn, less hyperactive and inattentive, more emotionally mature and socially competent, and more likely to be on track in their ability to do basic maths.
Particular gains were identified in numeracy, with 62% of the intervention children considered on track at maths compared to 44% among the control group.
The PFL study included 233 parents randomly allocated into an intervention/ control group.
All families received some supports, but those in the intervention group received intensive parenting supports from pregnancy until their children started primary school.
The impact of the intervention programme on child health was also examined. It found PFL children used fewer hospital services overall, were less likely to be diagnosed with urinary tract infections, or to suffer fractured bones.
The intervention children also used fewer follow-on hospital services such as X-rays and consultant visits.
Lead researcher for the study, Dr Orla Doyle of the School of Economics/Geary Institute for Public Policy at University College Dublin, said the results have significant implications for health services.
“The results show that providing the PFL intervention improves children’s health, while also potentially reducing both hospital waiting lists and health service costs,” said Dr Doyle.
Parents taking part in Dublin 5 and 17 received approximately 50 home visits from trained mentors during the programme cycle.
Amid mounting evidence of the benefits of PFL, programme manager Noel Kelly said it was “ready to be replicated in other communities”, achievable at a maximum cost of €2,000 per family.
PFL is a community-led prevention and early intervention initiative operated by Northside Partnership.
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