Adverse early experiences are associated with long-lasting disruptions in physiology, development and health.
These experiences may be ‘biologically embedded’ into molecular and genomic systems that determine later expressions of vulnerability. Most studies to date have not examined whether preventive interventions can potentially reverse biological embedding.
The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is an evidence-based intervention with demonstrated efficacy in improving prenatal health, parenting and child functioning.
The Healthy Foundations Study is an innovative birth cohort which will evaluate the impact of the NFP on biological outcomes of mothers and their infants. Starting in 2013, 400 pregnant mothers and their newborns were recruited from the British Columbia Healthy Connections Project—a randomized controlled trial of the NFP and will be followed to child aged 2 years.
Women were recruited prior to 28 weeks’ gestation and then individually randomized to receive existing services (comparison group) or NFP plus existing services (intervention group).
Hair samples were collected from mothers at baseline and 2 months post-partum to measure physiological stress. Saliva samples were collected from infants during all visits for analyses of stress function.
Buccal swabs were collected from infants at 2 and 24 months to assess DNA methylation. Biological samples will be related to child outcome measures at age 2 years.