August 25, 2014
To describe the characteristics, access, utilization, satisfaction, and outcomes of Healthy Start participants in eight selected sites, a survey of Healthy Start participants with infants ages 6–12-months-old at time of interview was conducted between October 2006 and January 2007. The response rate was 66% (n = 646), ranging from 37% in one site to >70% in seven sites. Healthy Start participants’ outcomes were compared to two national benchmarks. Healthy Start participants reported that they were satisfied with the program (>90% on five measures). Level of unmet need was 6% or less for most services, except for dental appointments (11%), housing (13%), and child care (11%). Infants had significantly better access to medical care than did their mothers, with higher rates of insurance coverage, medical homes, and checkups, and fewer unmet needs for health care. Healthy Start participants’ rates of ever breastfeeding (72%) and putting infants to sleep on their backs (70%) were at or near the Healthy People 2010 objectives, and considerably higher than rates among low-income mothers in the ECLS. The high rate of health education (>90%) may have contributed to these outcomes. Elimination of smoking among Healthy Start participants (46%) fell short of the Healthy People 2010 objective (99%). The low-birth weight (LBW) rate among Black Healthy Start participants (14%) was three times higher than the rate for Whites and Hispanics (5% each). Overall, the LBW rate in the eight sites (7.5%) was similar to the rate for low-income mothers in the ECLS, but both rates were above the Healthy People 2010 objective (5%). Challenges remain in reducing disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. Further attention to risk factors associated with LBW (especially smoking) may help close the gaps. The life course theory suggests that improved outcomes may require longer-term investments. Healthy Start’s emerging focus on interconception care has the potential to address longer-term needs of participants.