Health care reform has the potential for reducing crime at very little cost, UCLA public policy expert Mark A. R. Kleiman argues in Newsweek. Thirty years ago, pediatrics professor David Olds (then at Cornell, now at the University of Colorado, Denver) came up with the idea of sending nurses into the homes of poor and undereducated first-time teenage mothers to coach them through their children’s difficult first two years. There are now 18,000 families receiving that service in 29 states, supported by some $80 million per year of federal, state, and foundation funds, under the Nurse-Family Partnership National Service Office, a spinoff of the University of Colorado.
The program was designed to improve health, not to control crime, but it turned out that by the time the kids were 15 years old, those served by the program had been arrested less than half as often, and convicted only one fifth as often, as similar children who weren’t given the assistance. When a provision for nurse home visit grants was added to the House version of the health-care bill, the House Republican Conference mocking it as a “nanny-state boondoggle.” They called it “billions for babysitters” and suggested buying copies of Dr. Spock’s child-care book instead. Fox News anchor Glenn Beck says the program reminds him of 1984, suggesting it will be forced on families with overweight children by the fat police.