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Healthy Steps: Preventive Care for Young Children

Healthy Steps for Young Children is a national initiative aimed at enhancing the quality of preventive health care for infants and toddlers. Established with Commonwealth Fund support, the program emphasizes a close relationship between health care professionals and parents in addressing the physical, emotional, and intellectual development of children from birth to age 3. 

Organizations: The Commonwealth Fund; Boston University School of Medicine; American Academy of Pediatrics; Healthy Steps National Advisory Committee

Target Populations: Parent of infants and toddlers; health professionals

The Issue: Applying lessons drawn from new evidence and analysis about child behavior and development in medical practices is often challenging. There has not been a standardized approach to providing clinicians and parents with current information about the first three years of life.

The Intervention: Healthy Steps is an evidence-based model that provides high quality preventive and developmental services to young children.

Established in 1994 with Commonwealth Fund support, Healthy Steps now partners with many funders and pediatric and family practice sites across the country. Each Healthy Steps team at a given practice includes a team member—the Healthy Steps Specialist—who is trained in child development. The Healthy Steps Specialist is often a nurse, child development specialist, or social worker already working in the practice.

The Healthy Steps program developed detailed child development resources for parents and health professionals in English and Spanish. A number of these materials are now available free of charge on the Fund's Web site. These materials include:

  • LINK Letters, which prepare parents for well-child visits.
  • Parent Prompt sheets, which provide guidance on critical developmental issues so that parents are "prompted" to ask the right question at well-child visits.
  • Parent Handouts, which cover a wide range of medical, developmental, and practical issues, from baby-proofing the home to coping with toddlers' fears.
  • Health and Development Records, which can be used to document children's growth and development.
  • Quick Check Sheets, which provide guidance to clinicians on developmental and behavioral issues.


For More Information: Additional materials, including information for practices interested in becoming participating Healthy Steps sites, are available at Health care providers may also contact Michael Barth, Healthy Steps National Director, ICF Consulting, 9300 Lee Hwy., Fairfax, VA 22031; [email protected]; phone: 703-934-3090.

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