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Office of Women's Health

Health Start Program

The Health Start Program turns 20. Learn more about the program's accomplishments over the last 20 years.

What is the Health Start Program?

The Health Start Program utilizes community health workers to provide education, support, and advocacy services to pregnant/postpartum women and their families in targeted communities across the state. The community health workers live in and reflect the ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic characteristics of the communities they serve. Families receive home visits and case management with oversight by nurses and social workers, through the enrolled child's second year of life. Pregnant women are connected to prenatal care providers and receive on-going education about fetal development and health behaviors that can impact birth outcomes. Mothers are screened for post partum depression and receive information regarding interconception health. Clients are referred to various services as needed and assistance with accessing those services. The community health workers educate parents about child development, immunizations, home safety and vehicle safety. The community health workers also screen each child on a periodic basis using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire to identify potential developmental delays and refer the family to the appropriate provider. Health Start community health workers acquire new skills and knowledge on an on-going basis to ensure they are providing the most accurate information.

Why is this program needed?

To address health, environmental and stress factors that can impact birth outcomes and the development of infants and children. We know low birth weight babies are 40 times more likely to die in the first month of life, and are at greater risk for long-term health and developmental problems. It is recommended that all pregnant women receive early prenatal care starting in the first trimester because of the potential health benefits for both mothers and infants. Research has shown that inadequate prenatal care has been associated with increased risk for low birth weight, prematurity, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.

What are the goals of the program?

  • To prevent low birth weight in infants
  • Increase care for high-risk pregnant women
  • To ensure that every program child is appropriately immunized and has a medical home.
  • To provide health education to pregnant/postpartum women and their families on topics ranging from prenatal care, parenting, preconception/interconception education, breast feeding and well childcare to safety, and other issues
  • To screen for early identification of developmental delays and make appropriate referrals for treatment

What has the program achieved?

During FY2011, 43 community health workers enrolled 3,770 prenatal and post partum women. They completed 12,478 visits and classes, averaging 3.3 encounters per client.

Of the 1,468 clients who enrolled in the program prenatally, 41% were in their first trimester; 30% were in their second trimester of pregnancy.

Health Start served clients ranging from 10 - 66 years old. The average age of the clients served was 25 years.

The most common resources that prenatal clients were referred to were WIC, prenatal care, and AHCCCS, family planning, and breast feeding. The most common resources referred to during follow-up visits were family planning, immunizations, primary health care, adult education, and WIC. The Health Start Program has successfully implemented prenatal alcohol screening and brief intervention with all enrolled prenatal clients in an effort to reduce alcohol exposed pregnancies and therefore reduce the range of effects associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Over 2,600 pregnant women have been screened for alcohol use since 2008, and of those screened, 23% have screened at risk.


  • SafeHome/SafeChild Pilot Safety Program
  • Certification of all community health workers as seat belt/car seat instructors, breast feeding specialists.