This randomized controlled trial was designed to evaluate the 2-year costs and effects of a proactive, public health nursing case management approach compared with a self-directed approach for 129 single parents (98% were mothers) on social assistance in a Canadian setting. A total of 43% of these parents had a major depressive disorder and 38% had two or three other health conditions at baseline.
Study participants were recruited over a 12 month period and randomized into two groups: one receiving proactive public health nursing and one which did not.
At 2 years, 69 single parents with 123 children receiving proactive public health nursing (compared with 60 parents with 91 children who did not receive public health nursing services) showed a slightly greater reduction in dysthymia and slightly higher social adjustment. There was no difference between the public health and control groups in total per parent annual cost of health and support services. However, costs were averted due to a 12% difference in non-use of social assistance in the previous 12 months for parents in the public health nursing group. This translates into an annual cost saving of 240,000 dollars (Canadian) of costs averted within 1 year for every 100 parents.
In the context of a system of national health and social insurance, this study supports the fact that it is no more costly to proactively service this population of parents on social assistance.