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How Head Start promotes health and wellness among preschool-aged children

With the 2023-2024 school year about to begin, Step Forward’s Head Start program is gearing up to once again make a profound impact on the lives of children and families.

Head Start, the largest federally funded preschool program in the country, serves more than a million children ages 3-5 nationwide. The program offers a holistic approach to help ensure every child is prepared to enter kindergarten.


“At Head Start, we understand that a child’s success is deeply intertwined with the wellbeing of their entire family,” Michael Webb, one of Step Forward’s Family Service Workers, said. “We don’t just serve the child; we serve the whole family. We provide a supportive and inclusive environment. We empower parents to be engaged with their child’s development. We offer resources, guidance, and a network of support to help families navigate any challenges and achieve their goals. By uplifting and strengthening the family unit, we create a solid foundation for the child’s lifelong success and wellbeing.”

A child receives a vision screening

Head Start believes that nurturing the whole child – not just their minds, but also their bodies and spirits as well – is crucial. It is why Step Forward’s health assistants are gearing up for a busy year to provide vision and hearing screenings. The agency also collaborates with Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine to provide medical and dental checkups.


“A child’s education is critical, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle,” Felisha Arnold, Step Forward’s Health Aide, explained. “Our focus extends beyond the classroom. By providing essential health services and nutritious meals and by fostering emotional wellbeing, Head Start can lay the groundwork for a brighter future, where every child can thrive and flourish.”


Between 2021 and 2022, Step Forward confirmed 913 Early Head Start and Head Start students received dental assistance. More than 1,300 Early Head Start and Head Start students received physical checkups. A similar number of students were able to catch up on immunizations.


“Vaccinations have proven to be one of the most effective means of preventing serious and potentially life-threatening diseases,” Arnold said. “Head Start helps ensure that each child is up to date with their immunizations, safeguarding not only their individual health but also contributing to the overall public health of our program and community.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 80-percent of children in the United States have their Combined 7 Vaccine Series by the time they are 24 months old. The organization’s state-by-state coverage map shows about 65-percent of children 0-24 months old are up to date on their vaccines.

A child receives her immunization

The CDC claims at least four million deaths are prevented by childhood vaccination every year. The organization estimates that by 2030, the measles vaccine will save nearly 19 million lives and the Hepatitis B vaccine could save 14 million lives.


Forms for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year are posted on Step Forward’s Head Start Parent Corner. The calendar for upcoming site visits will be published once the schedule is made available. Services will be provided at no cost to Early Head Start and Head Start children.


By providing medical and dental services, Head Start continues to address health disparities that can disproportionately affect vulnerable communities. For families facing financial challenges, Head Start may become a lifeline, ensuring that their children receive the same level of care as their more affluent peers. By instilling healthy habits from an early age, the program hopes to prevent potential health issues and foster a strong foundation for lifelong wellbeing.


“By fostering healthy habits like medical and dental checkups from the start, we equip young children with the tools to lead fulfilling lives and become resilient adults,” Webb said. “Prioritizing health and wellness empowers our young children to explore the world with all of their energy, curiosity and joy. As caregivers and educators, we can help ensure they success academically, but also develop into happy, confident, thriving and health individuals.”


Give your child a Head Start and enroll today! Click here. Step Forward Head Start is hiring! The agency is offering a sign-on bonus of $1,000 for full time employees and $500 for part-time employees. Positions include teachers, family service workers, nutrition aides and more. Step Forward Head Start is looking for education staff passionate about preparing young students for the future and helping them develop a love for learning early. Take a step toward a new fulfilling career today! Learn more and apply to open positions here.



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