Maggio, R., Ethnographies of Home Visiting: Culture, Context, and Measuring Health Outcomes, ABSTRACT accepted for conference

Abstract accepted at the Inter Congress of IUAES –  International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Dubrovnik, 4-9 May 2016


Home Visiting always takes place in highly specific contexts. Culture can deeply influence the behaviours, attitudes, and reactions of parents who are enrolled in early intervention programmes. In the past few years, a systematic examination of the participants’ perspectives encouraged scholars to develop new methods of assessing the developmental and health outcomes of these initiatives. Given their highly contextual and culturally specific character, ethnographic methods have become increasingly popular in this endeavour.

Rather than drawing exclusively on external measurements to evaluate and act upon the individual situations of parents and children, an approach based on qualitative methods seemed to yield the kind of insights that can inform a more case-to-case type of intervention. For example, in rural Australia, using culturally competent care workers has been found to “deliver better developmental outcomes for children and improve maternal health and family functioning”. However, since communities in urban contexts seldom share a single culture, and their members are often very numerous, ethnographic methods might be difficult to use and ultimately inefficient.

In this paper, I propose to reflect upon the combination of ethnographic and statistical methods to understand the influence of multiple cultures of motherhood in the context of HV programmes. My aim is to illustrate the potentials and the limits of statistical and ethnographic methods for the purpose of imagining early intervention initiatives that are both more effective and ethical.

Panel: Early life programming and child development – insights from birth cohort and long-term follow-up studies


Saša Missoni (Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb)

Noel Cameron (Loughborough University)

Panel abstract:

Early-life exposures, such as environmental and maternal lifestyle factors during intrauterine development can influence growth and development not only in fetal life, but also during childhood, with repercussion on health outcomes later in life. It is now widely accepted that adverse intrauterine factors are associated with predisposition to non-communicable diseases (NCD) later in life: a phenomenon termed ‘early life programming’. The influence of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors in early-life programming are still to be elucidated. . Well established birth cohorts studies together with long-term follow-up studies can provide a unique opportunity to monitor early-life factors associated with variation in growth and development and the risk for NCDs in children. Collaboration between scientists dealing with the different fields of early and young childhood life can provide a wide variety of comprehensive data that could represent a fruitful approach to the search for these relationships. The results of such collaborations and data exchange could provide benefits both for the individuals and populations in general. In this panel current relevant data and research designs relating to different stages and aspects of the lifecourse will be discussed.

Panel website