• breast feeding;
  • health visitors;
  • research implementation;
  • visiting decisions


Health visitors from two health authorities in the North East of England were asked to indicate when they would first propose to visit and how often they would expect to visit in the next 6 months a (fictitious) new client who was breast feeding a 14-day-old baby. The study provided no evidence that the health visitors modified their visiting behaviour in response to a mother's age or age at leaving school, factors that Wright & Walker (1983) had identified as predictors of early termination of breast feeding. However, significant differences were found in proposed visiting behaviour to a number of other new clients who were included in the study to provide an appropriate context and to help disguise the nature of the manipulations. These differences were attributed to the variation in the ages of the babies and to the existence of specific problems. Significant differences were also found between the responses of the health visitors from the two health authorities. These were explained in terms of different caseloads in a mainly rural versus a mainly urban area. The implications of these results for the assumption that the implementation of research findings can be left to individual health professionals are discussed.