Nurses and Parental Health Investments

Miriam Wüst¹ (with Jonas Lau-Jensen Hirani²)

1 University of Copenhagen

2 The Danish Center for Social Science Research (VIVE)

Timely adherence with vaccination schedules and preventive health checks for infants can help avoid costs to the health care system and support population health. Can public health interventions--such as universal home visits--encourage timely parental uptake of vaccinations and health checks? We study this question in the context of nurse home visits for new parents in Denmark. Using merged nurse records and administrative data, we exploit variation in the timing of nurse visits around the recommended age for vaccinations and preventive health checks at the GP in an event study design: we compare the outcomes of treated and control families, i.e. families with a nurse visit prior to or shortly after the recommended age. While treated parents are more likely than control parents to delay the first GP health check, we find that a timely nurse visit increases the probability of timely vaccination adherence. In the longer-run treated parents are not more likely than control parents to adhere with vaccinations, but they appear to be more likely to adhere timely. These findings suggest that nurses act as human reminders and impact parental beliefs about the importance of the timing of health investments. Thus policy makers should consider the timing of early interventions such as contacts to primary health care providers for new families to support the central goal of achieving timely population-wide vaccination coverage.