Implementation of the Alarm Distress Baby Scale as a universal screening instrument in primary care: Feasibility, acceptability, and predictors of professionals’ adherence to guidelines

Johanne Smith-Nielsen, Nicole Nadine Lønfeldt, Antoine Guedeney, Mette Skovgaard Væver

12 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Infant socioemotional development is often held under informal surveillance, but a formal screening program is needed to ensure systematic identification of developmental risk. Even when screening programs exist, they are often ineffective because health care professionals do not adhere to screening guidelines, resulting in low screening prevalence rates.

OBJECTIVES: To examine feasibility and acceptability of implementing universal screening for infant socioemotional problems with the Alarm Distress Baby Scale in primary care. The following questions were addressed: Is it possible to obtain acceptable screening prevalence rates within a 1-year period? How do the primary care workers (in this case, health visitors) experience using the instrument? Are attitudes toward using the instrument related to screening prevalence rates?

DESIGN: A longitudinal mixed-method study (surveys, data from the health visitors' digital filing system, and qualitative coding of answers to open-ended questions) was undertaken.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Health visitors in three of five districts of the City of Copenhagen, Denmark (N=79).

METHODS: We describe and evaluate the implementation process from the date the health visitors started the training on how to use the Alarm Distress Baby Scale to one year after they began using the instrument in practice. To monitor screening prevalence rates and adherence to guidelines, we used three data extractions (6, 9, and 12 months post-implementation) from the electronic filing system. Surveys including both quantitative and open-ended questions (pre- and post-implementation) were used to examine experiences with and attitudes towards the instrument. Descriptive and inferential statistical and qualitative content analyses were used.

RESULTS: Screening prevalence rates increased during the first year: Six months after implementation 47% (n=405) of the children had been screened; 12 months after implementation 79% (n=789) of the children were screened (the same child was not counted more than once). Most (92%) of the health visitors reported that the instrument made a positive contribution to their work. The majority (81%) also reported that it posed a challenge in their daily work at least to some degree. The health visitors' attitudes (positive and negative) toward the Alarm Distress Baby Scale, measured 7 months post-implementation, significantly predicted screening prevalence rates 12 months post-implementation.

CONCLUSIONS: Adding the Alarm Distress Baby Scale to an established surveillance program is feasible and accepTable Screening prevalence rates may be related to the primary care worker's attitude toward the instrument, i.e. successful implementation relies on an instrument that adds value to the work of the screener.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Pages (from-to)104-113
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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