Healthy Start Initiative

Healthy Start's Beginnings

  • Healthy Start was first established as a presidential initiative by President George H. W. Bush in 1991. Originally funded under the authority of Section 301 of the Public Health Services Act, Healthy Start was later authorized by Congress as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000.
  • In 1991, 15 urban and rural sites in communities with infant mortality rates that were 1.5-2.5 times the national average were funded to begin the Healthy Start Initiative. The program began with a five-year demonstration phase to identify and develop community-based systems approaches to reducing infant mortality by 50% over the five-year period and to improve the health and well-being of women, infants, children and families.
  • When first begun, Healthy Start was in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, with Dr. Louis Sullivan as the Secretary and an ardent supporter of Healthy Start. The initiative is now located in the Division of Healthy Start and Perinatal Systems (DHSPS), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Healthy Start Today

  • Currently there are 101 federally-funded Healthy Start projects in the U.S. In addition to its focus on infant mortality and women and children, the program now has a mandated fatherhood component as well as a maternal mortality awareness focus.
  • As the federal government’s signature program focusing on reducing infant mortality, Healthy Start is essential in helping our nation’s most disadvantaged children survive infancy and live longer, more productive lives.
  • Healthy Start has shown a track record of saving lives. The Office of Management and Budget has confirmed that Healthy Start funding is “being used directly and effectively to meet the program’s purpose.”

Common Principles Underlying the Healthy Start Program

  • Innovation in service delivery
  • Community commitment and involvement
  • Personal responsibility demonstrated by expectant parents
  • Integration of health and social services
  • Multi-agency participation
  • Increased access to care
  • Public Education

Healthy Start Projects Address Multiple Issues, including:

  • Providing adequate prenatal care
  • Promoting positive prenatal health behaviors
  • Meeting basic health needs (nutrition, housing, psychosocial support)
  • Reducing barriers to access
  • Enabling client empowerment
  • Promotion of fatherhood and male involvement

For More Information:

Join NHSA for our two monthly webinars: the Women’s Health Series or Grand Rounds on the first Thursday of each month and Fatherood on the third Thursday of the month.