Healthy Start

Healthy Start strengthens the foundations at the community, state, and national levels to help women, infants, and families reach their fullest potential.  

Since our program’s creation in 1991, we have grown from a demonstration project in 15 communities to 100 Healthy Start projects in 37 states and Washington, DC. Close collaboration with local, state, regional, and national partners is key to Healthy Start’s success.

The recent Healthy Start special issue of the Maternal and Child Health Journal exit dsiclaimer includes original research articles from Healthy Start grantees throughout the U.S. and articles focusing on the program as a whole.

The papers highlight how Healthy Start strengthens communities, uses data to guide program improvements, and other defining characteristics of our program that has made a difference across the nation for more than 25 years.

HRSA gives Children and Families a Healthy Start

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What are our goals?

  • Reduce differences in access to, and use of health services, 
  • Improve the quality of the local health care system, 
  • Empower women and their families, and 
  • Increase consumer and community participation in health care decisions.

Who are we trying to help?

We target communities with infant mortality rates that are at least one and a half times the U.S. national average. We also aim to reduce other negative birth outcomes such as maternal mortality – a growing and serious problem in our nation – as well as poverty, education, access to care, and other socioeconomic factors.

Our program delivers: 

  • Standardized interventions, including risk assessment, health education, medical and psychosocial supports and referrals, by a competent workforce, and 
  • Support for ongoing evaluation at local and national levels.

What are our strategic approaches?

We use five strategic approaches to provide individual services and community support to women, infants, and families: 

  • Improve women’s health before, during, and after pregnancy 
  • Promote quality services, 
  • Strengthen family resilience, 
  • Achieve collective impact, and
  • Increase accountability through quality improvement, performance monitoring, and evaluation.

How do we help program participants?

We want to help entire families achieve better health outcomes. We enroll women and their families into Healthy Start at various stages of pregnancy, including pre-conception, inter-conception, and post-conception. 

Each family that enrolls receives a standardized, comprehensive assessment. It considers: 

  • Physical and behavioral health, 
  • Employment, 
  • Housing, 
  • Domestic violence risks, and 
  • More. 

Understanding all aspects of a family’s needs helps us provide targeted and appropriate comprehensive services.

What specific services do we provide?

  • Health Care Services – prenatal, postpartum, well-baby, adolescent care, reproductive life planning, and women’s health
  • Enabling Services – case management, outreach, home visiting, adolescent pregnancy prevention, childbirth education, parenting skill-building, self-esteem building, transportation, translation, child care, breastfeeding and nutrition education, father support, housing assistance, job training, and prison/jail-based services
  • Public Health Services – immunization and health education (e.g., smoking cessation)
  • Provider training

How do we work with grantees?

We work directly with grantees and indirectly, via the Healthy Start EPIC Center exit dsiclaimer. We provide all grantees technical assistance, which strengthens their ability to:

  • Put evidence-based practices in maternal and child health into action, 
  • Share their expertise and lessons from the field with other grantees and partners,
  • Evaluate their activities for effectiveness, and 
  • Work with community partners to improve health and social service systems for women, infants and families.

How do we define success?

Overall, Healthy Start succeeds in improving health outcomes for people in the US with the highest risk for negative health outcomes in three areas: 

  • Reducing infant mortality rates, 
  • Increasing access to early prenatal care, and
  • Removing barriers to healthcare access.
Date Last Reviewed:  June 2018


Contact Us

Benita Baker, MS
Chief, Healthy Start West Branch

Sonsy Fermín, MSW, LCSW
CDR, USPHS
Acting Chief, Healthy Start East Branch

(301) 443-8283

Technical Assistance