Effects of Home Visiting and Maternal Mental Health on Use of the Emergency Department among Late Preterm Infants

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Abstract

Objective:

To describe use of the emergency department (ED) among late preterm versus term infants enrolled in a home visiting program and to determine whether home visiting frequency was associated with outcome differences.

Design:

Retrospective, cohort study.

Setting:

Regional home visiting program in southwest Ohio from 2007–2010.

Participants:

Late preterm and term infants born to mothers enrolled in home visiting. Program eligibility requires ≥ one of four characteristics: unmarried, low income, < 18 years, or suboptimal prenatal care.

Methods:

Data were derived from vital statistics, hospital discharges, and home visiting records. Negative binomial regression was used to determine association of ED visits in the first year with late preterm birth and home visit frequency, adjusting for maternal and infant characteristics.

Results:

Of 1,804 infants, 9.2% were born during the late preterm period. Thirty-eight percent of all infants had at least one ED visit, 15.6% had three or more. No significant difference was found between the number of ED visits for late preterm and term infants (39.4% vs. 37.8% with at least one ED visit, p = .69). In multivariable analysis, late preterm birth combined with a maternal mental health diagnosis was associated with an ED incident rate ratio (IRR) of 1.26, p = .03; high frequency of home visits was not significant (IRR = .92, p = .42).

Conclusions:

Frequency of home visiting service over the first year of life is not significantly associated with reduced ED visits for infants with at-risk attributes and born during the late preterm period. Research on how home visiting can address ED use, particularly for those with prematurity and maternal mental health conditions, may strengthen program impact and cost benefits.

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