A US-inspired programme designed to get teenage mothers back to work and cut the number unintended pregnancies is to be extended.
New Health Secretary Alex Neil has identified "a high level of need" in Lanarkshire for NHS intervention amongst young first time mothers.
It will become the latest area to benefit from the Family Nurse Partnership Programme, which aims to give children a healthier start in life. NHS Highland has also been chosen to participate in the scheme as part of its pioneering efforts to integrate health and social care.
Family nurses visit expectant mothers every one or two weeks during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of their baby's life, offering guidance and supporting mothers to make positive choices on areas such as child development, preventative health measures, parenting skills, breastfeeding, better diet information and on education and employment.
The evidence from programmes already up and running in the US shows that it is improving prenatal health, increasing young mothers' uptake of employment, resulting in fewer unintended pregnancies and helping to reduce child neglect.
Making his first announcement as Health Secretary, Mr Neil said: "NHS Lanarkshire has been nominated to introduce the programme due to the high levels of need in the area and I am sure this will be welcomed locally. This is also great opportunity to work with Highland, an area of Scotland which is pioneering the integration of health and social care.
"This will help us to explore the benefits of delivering such an intensive programme in a formally integrated health and social care environment. The programme has been running in the US for a number of years and has had some very impressive results for the parents involved and their children. The programme has been running in Lothian for two and a half years now and evaluation of the impact of the project so far has similar positive results.
"Intervening at the earliest possible opportunity to support those in our society who are most in need is the key to improving Scotland's health. That's why I am delighted that even more children and their parents are going to benefit from this programme. I am keen to work with all health boards across Scotland to prepare them for delivering the FNP programme in the future."
The programme is the brainchild of Dr David Olds, Professor of Paediatrics and Director, Prevention Research Centre for Family and Child Health, University of Colorado. It will be up and running in Highland by early next year, and will see a team of four nurses supporting 100 families.
In Lanarkshire, 250 families will be supported by ten nurses when the programme starts later next year. It is already up and running in Lothian, Tayside, Fife, Glasgow and Ayrshire & Arran. The average cost of the project is £3,000 per client, per year, with the programme lasting two-and-a-half years.