Healthy Babies Healthy Children (HBHC): What Makes High Quality Home Visiting?

By Chase Simms, Health Nexus Practicum Student

I didn’t know what to expect from this pre-conference workshop, and I wasn’t sure how much of it would be relevant to me, especially since approximately 80% of the attendees were public health nurses. I specialize in the social policy realm of public health and wasn’t sure how much of the home visiting material would relate to this. Luckily, I was in for a pleasant surprise - below are some of the highlights that stood out for me.

Presented by: Dr. Jon Korfmacher, Associate Professor, Erikson Institute. February 8th, 2017.

Effective Polling:

What a great tool to engage with the audience! If you haven’t heard of it’s an online polling website that enables users to submit their feedback straight from their smart phone. No need to purchase and distribute survey clickers for the audience or take part in the hassle of collecting them afterwards. Better yet, we could observe the infographics changing on our phones as answers were being submitted.

Easier Said Than Done: Bridging Research and Action

Dr. Korfmacher did a great job presenting his research in a way that was relevant to public health practitioners. For example, excerpts from paraprofessionals, doulas, and mental health therapists he interviewed were included in the slide deck to provide tangible examples.

In addition, he provided some great handouts that can be used by practitioners. These included:

•    My Professional Self-Care Assessment
•    Gathering Staff Input to Assess Supervision Style
•    Professional Quality of Life Scale (PROQOL)

The handouts help the practitioner assess their well-being such as measuring compassion fatigue, as well as the state of their professional relationships especially with their supervisor(s). They also offer practitioners strategies to deal with their stress effectively.

There is a parallel, reciprocal process between the child, the parent, the home visitor, and the supervisor which is all supported by effective leadership. This process is based upon four key concepts, which occurs between all actors:

•    Teach
•    Problem-Solve
•    Regulate
•    Scaffold

Evaluators and researchers lead the inquiry and evaluation of these program processes. The overall goal is for the organization to develop its own culture of inquiry, making the evaluator less central for this task. Inevitably the end goal is for programs to develop their own feedback loops and use this information to inform the practice of all individuals in the process.

Reaffirmed Lessons Learned

•    Reflective practice is essential for all professionals - stop and think about what has happened, is happening, and should happen next.
•    There are commonalities between all public health disciplines - practice, research, and policy are interconnected and interdependent on one another.
•    Interaction and meaningful engagement between decision makers and those affected by those decisions is critical.
•    Evaluation and monitoring - although difficult at times are absolutely necessary for quality programs.

Dr. Korfmacher ended the workshop with an eloquent quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald that highlights the challenges of working in the public health field, and the motivation to enact positive change:  

“…the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise”.
-    F. Scott Fitzgerald