1. Section Editor(s): STOKOWSKI, LAURA A. RN, MS

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An educational intervention program for parents of infants born prematurely can reduce parental stress, depression and anxiety, enhance parent-infant interactions, and reduce hospital length of stay, according to a study led by Dr. Bernadette Melnyk of Arizona State University.1 Funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, the study evaluated the efficacy of the intervention program Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment (COPE). The COPE program is designed to make parent-infant interactions a more positive experience and enhance parent mental health outcomes with the ultimate goal of improving child development and behavior outcomes. Families of 260 preterm infants participated in a randomized, controlled trial comparing the 4-phase COPE educational-behavioral intervention program with another intervention program. Investigators found that mothers in the COPE program reported significantly less stress in the NICU and less depression and anxiety than mothers in the comparison group when evaluated 2 months after the intervention. In economic terms, COPE infants had a 3.8-day shorter NICU length of stay (LOS) and very low birth-weight COPE infants had an 8-day shorter LOS than comparison infants. Study authors estimate that implementing the COPE program nationally could save $2.4 billion annually.




1. Melnyk BM, Feinstein NF, Alpert-Gillis L, et al. Reducing premature infants' length of stay and improving parents' mental health outcomes with the Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment (COPE) neonatal intensive care unit program: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2006;118:E1414-E1427. [Context Link]