Preventive Intervention for Premature Infants Effective

Though not boosting cognitive development, does improve behavior, decrease parental anxiety
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- A home preventive care program for very premature infants and their caregivers results in improved behavioral and emotional regulation at age 2, as well as less depression and anxiety among caregivers, according to research published online June 14 in Pediatrics.

Alicia J. Spittle, Ph.D., of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues conducted a study of 120 very preterm infants (<30 weeks) to determine the effects of a home preventive care intervention on child development at 2 years of age and caregiver mental health. Sixty-one infants were assigned to the intervention group, and 59 were assigned to a control group. The intervention involved nine home visits in the first year from a psychologist and a physiotherapist.

Using a variety of assessment tools when the children reached the corrected age of 2 years, the researchers found no statistically significant differences in cognitive, language or motor scores between the groups, although caregivers of children in the intervention group reported significantly less externalizing and dysregulation behaviors and increased competence of the intervention children as compared with the control children. Parents of children in the intervention group reported less anxiety and depression than those in the control group.

"Greater selectivity for high-risk populations may identify infants who may benefit most from any specific, targeted form of intervention. Reassessment of the children and their families at a later age is vital for determining the longer-term benefits of this program," the authors write.

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