Province pairing expectant mothers facing overlapping challenges with public health nurses

NS Health release:

Nova Scotia Health Public Health is welcoming the Nurse-Family Partnership program to Nova Scotia’s Eastern Zone (includes Antigonish & Guysborough Counties, Cape Breton Island).

A first for Nova Scotia, this international program pairs a Public Health nurse with clients who are expecting a child while experiencing overlapping challenges, such as those related to mental health, or social or economic circumstances.

The partnership between the nurse and client starts early in pregnancy and continues until the child’s second birthday to improve pregnancy outcomes, child health and development, and the families’ economic self-sufficiency.

The program is part of an investment in Public Health’s Early Years programming, an initiative under the province’s Action for Health plan.

“We have a comprehensive plan to improve health care services for Nova Scotians across the entire system. This program, and others like it, provide more support to expecting families and their children during those all-important early years,” says Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness.

The Nurse-Family Partnership began in 1978 in the United States and is currently used in eight countries, including Canada in Ontario and British Columbia. Nova Scotia Health Public Health in Eastern Zone will run the program as a pilot.

“This investment in public health will help improve long-term health outcomes for these families. Early intervention supports the physical, mental and social wellbeing of our clients, and gives them the tools to be healthier throughout their lives,” says Marcia DeSantis, senior director, Population and Public Health, Nova Scotia Health.

The Nurse-Family Partnership is a referral-based program. Clients can self-refer or be referred by health care providers or community organizations, as they are often the earliest and most direct line of contact for those who would benefit from this program. Client referrals are anticipated to start in early 2024.

“The Public Health Eastern Zone Early Years team is thrilled to be introducing this program in our communities. We are currently in the hiring process, and are working closely with our health and community partners to ensure everyone is prepared to champion this program for potential clients,” says Jen MacDougall, Public Health manager, Early Years and Nurse-Family Partnership operational lead, Eastern Zone, Nova Scotia Health.

Studies from other countries and provinces that have adopted the program show promising results, including reductions in hospitalizations, emergency department visits, language delays, behavioural and intellectual challenges, among other benefits for the child and parents.

To learn more about the Nurse-Family Partnership, visit

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