Ontario’s Healthy Babies, Healthy Children (HBHC) is an early identification/intervention program for infants and young children at risk for poor child development outcomes. It offers both universal services (screening, assessment, an initial postpartum home visit, and educational resources) and targeted services for children at risk (in-depth assessment, service coordination, referrals, and home visiting). This project evaluated the early operation of the program and its short-term outcomes, and laid the basis for continuing evaluation activities to measure longer-term outcomes. The literature clearly indicates that the benefits and cost-effectiveness of such early intervention programs become apparent only as children mature. As such, short-term results were not anticipated for HBHC. Nonetheless, the evaluation revealed that HBHC’s achievements are considerable in its short history. By 2002, it was approaching its target of universal coverage for all newborns in Ontario and delivering intensive home visiting to services to families identified as at risk for healthy child development (approximately seven percent of Ontario families). The program was very well received by families, and various measures relating to access to services, quality and integration of services, and health outcomes indicated improvements. Surveys of the 37 individual health units through which the program was administered offered insights into conditions for success as well as challenges. Ongoing evaluation activities will continue to inform program development and will shed light on the longer-term impact of the program for children and families.
This project was supported by the Health Transition Fund, which was created in 1997 to provide support for evidence-based decision-making in health care reform by supporting pilot and evaluation projects which test innovative approaches to health care delivery. The views expressed herein do no necessarily represent the official policy of federal, provincial, or territorial governments.