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Healthy Start

The Healthy Start Initiative, a community-driven demonstration project begun in 1991, is the largest federal public health program dedicated to improving the health of mothers and infants in high-risk communities in the United States. Its original goal was to reduce infant mortality by 50 percent through community-driven strategies that provided direct, innovative prenatal services and health system service changes. Permanently authorized through the Children's Health Act of 2000 (PL 106-310), the Healthy Start Initiative is involved in over ninety communities and focuses on three programs:

  1. Assuring access to and use of comprehensive services for Healthy Start participants through direct safety net services involving outreach, case management, and health education.
  2. Strengthening local health systems through development and implementation of a biannual system development plan.
  3. Bringing a consumer/community voice to improve maternal and infant health through the use of local consortia.

In addition, the Healthy Start Initiative has now broadened its developmental focus to address the health of mothers and infants from conception through two years postpartum, including attention to maternal depression and interconceptional health. This newer focus should help better integrate public health pregnancy and birth outcome oriented programs with child and parent development programs, which often serve the same families.


Healthy Start National Resource Center (HSNRC). In the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health (NCEMCH) [web site]. Arlington, Virginia, 2001. Available from http://www.healthystart.net; INTERNET.

Milton Kotelchuck

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 4