The Healthy Steps for Young Children program was specifically designed to promote improvements in:
- The clinical capacity and effectiveness of pediatric primary care to better meet the needs of families with young children
- The knowledge, skills and confidence of mothers and fathers in their childrearing abilities
- The health and development of young children
Initially provided in 24 practices, Healthy Steps has now been offered in more than 47 sites, and thousands of children and families have received home visits and other services through the program. It has resulted in measurable benefits – in developmental screenings for young children, child and parent safety measures, more immunizations, and access to special services within and outside of the pediatric practice.
This progress occurred during challenging times in American health care with increasing health care costs, decreases in health care coverage, and tightening of private, state and federal budgets. This has been particularly true recently as resources have been shifting from human services to other priorities including national security and public safety. Despite this climate, both new practices and existing practices continue to seek ways to implement Healthy Steps.
Healthy Steps broke new ground both in its approach and in the range of families served. It emphasized normal child development in primary health care by adding specialists in child development – nurses, social workers, or in some instances, experts from the child development field – to pediatric practice sites in the United States that were selected for the program. The sites included HMO practices, hospital clinics, and private practices.
These child development specialists, called Healthy Steps Specialists, expanded the traditional services offered in pediatric and family practices to include:
Enhanced well child visits, conducted jointly or sequentially by
- The clinician and Healthy Steps Specialist
- Home visits
- A child development telephone information line
- Child development and family health checkups with developmental screening
- Written materials for parents that emphasize prevention and health promotion
- Parent groups offering social support and interactive learning
- Linkages to community resources
Through the Healthy Steps Specialists and these expanded services, Healthy Steps provided mothers and fathers with and opportunities to consult a trusted source on concerns regarding child health, behavior and development. It was designed to benefit all families – not just vulnerable subgroups. More than 5,000 families of many ethnic backgrounds across the socioeconomic spectrum received Healthy Steps services.