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Healthy Start Initiative

In 1991, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funded 15 urban and rural sites in communities with infant mortality rates that were 1.5 - 2.5 times the national average 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 their families.

Originally funded under the authority of Section 301 of the Public Health Services Act, Healthy Start has been authorized by Congress as part of the Children's Health Act of 2000. The Healthy Start Program is located within HRSA. It is a component of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau under the Division of Perinatal Systems and Women's Health.

Currently, there are 100 federally-funded Healthy Start projects located in the United States, and five main types of Healthy Start grants: Perinatal Health, Border Health, Interconceptional Care, Perinatal Depression and Family Violence.

The common principles underlying the Healthy Start program are:

  • Innovations 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 positive fatherhood & male involvement 

(Source: Telling the Healthy Start Story: A Report on the Impact of the 22 Demonstration Projects, National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, 1999.)

Check out Infant Mortality: Low Birthweight and Racial Disparity in Perinatal Outcomes or visit the Maternal and Child Health Bureau for more information about infant mortality and low birthweight.

The National Healthy Start Association Inc.
1325 G Street, NW Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 296-2195 
Contact via E-Mail

© Copyright 2015 National Healthy Start Association

Saving Our Nation's Babies: The Impact of the Federal Healthy Start Initiative

Check our our 2nd Edition! It chronicles the birth of Healthy Start and NHSA and includes profiles and photographs from the federally-funded Healthy Start Initiatives.