Turning Research Findings into Policy and Practice

An Update from the Home Visiting Research Network

By Kay M. Gonsalves, MSPH
Home Visiting Research Network Coordinator, HVRN
General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Anne Duggan, ScD
Home Visiting Research Network Director, HVRN
General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Home visiting can play a key role in the early childhood system of services. For home visiting to achieve its potential, decision makers must make informed choices regarding adoption, adaptation, implementation, coordination, scale-up and sustainment. We need a coordinated, focused and theory-based home visiting research infrastructure to inform such decisions.

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program under the Affordable Care Act seeks to improve health and development outcomes for at-risk children and families through the implementation of evidence-based home visiting programs. The transdisciplinary Home Visiting Research Network (HVRN) was established in July 2012 to guide efforts in strengthening home visiting programs through the use of implementation science to improve service models and implementation systems. The HVRN is funded by the HRSA/MCHB.

The HVRN aims to create the infrastructure for a rigorous program of research that informs policy and practice on home visiting as part of the early childhood system of services. Its objectives are to: 1) develop a national home visiting research agenda; 2) advance the use of innovative research methods; and 3) promote an environment that is supportive of the professional development of emerging researchers interested in home visiting. An overarching goal is to promote the translation of research findings into policy and practice.

The first HVRN task is to develop a national home visiting research agenda. The approach drew from the methods of other agenda-setting groups. In late 2012, the HVRN elicited research priority nominations from nearly 1,800 home visiting stakeholders through a Web-based survey. They received a total of 4,267 nominations in response.

The HVRN organized and synthesized these nominations into a list of "Top Ten Home Visiting Research Priorities" that reflects the themes identified in these nominations: the current emphasis on home visiting scale-up, the recognized need to strengthen and broaden the benefits of home visiting across outcomes and population subgroups, and growing interest in identifying the core components of effective service models and implementation systems.

The draft research agenda has undergone several rounds of revision following a presentation at the 2013 Pew Quality in Home Visiting Summit and review by the HVRN Steering Committee. In late June, the HVRN will make the research agenda available for public comment. The HVRN will use comments and feedback to revise the document into its final form. Please visit HVRN.org in the coming weeks if you are interested in the opportunity to provide comment.

A primary way that the HVRN will advance the use of innovative methods and address the priorities in the research agenda is through a practice-based research network. The HVRN will call this network the Home Visiting Applied Research Collaborative (HARC). The HARC will bridge the gap between research and practice by promoting appreciation of the value of research by practitioners and the value of practitioner views by researchers. This collaborative will further strengthen the evidence-base for home visiting by focusing on research questions generated by the individuals that actually deliver services to families and their unique knowledge and expertise.

The HVRN is currently developing the policies and procedures that will underline the governance structure of the HARC. All programs that use home visiting as their primary service strategy for expectant families and families of children birth to five years are welcome to participate in the HARC, as are researchers who study home visiting. Programs will be able to choose in which research studies they would like to be a part, and will be among the first to know about results and findings. Please continue to check HVRN.org for more information, or contact Kay Gonsalves with questions or comments. We want to hear from you!