Helping families get a healthy start in life
Pregnant women and families with a child under the age of four are being encouraged to sign up for free vouchers which can be swapped for healthy food, milk and vitamins.
Healthy Start is a national NHS scheme which gives vouchers to families who are on income support, income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance or Child Tax Credit with an income less than £16,190 a year. All pregnant women younger than 18 also qualify, whether or not they are on benefits.
Healthy Start vouchers are sent to eligible women every four weeks and can be spent on fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, milk and infant formula milk in approximately 50 participating shops and greengrocers across Medway.
Healthy Start vitamin coupons are sent to eligible women and children every eight weeks. These can be exchanged for free vitamin supplements. Vitamins are available from all children’s centres in Medway, baby clinics, the Supporting Young Parents team and the Family Nurse Partnership.
While approximately 75 per cent of vouchers are exchanged for food and milk, less than 10 per cent are exchanged for free child or mother vitamin supplements. Medway’s Healthy Weight Team is working with health visitors and children’s centres to raise awareness of the free vitamin supplements and where they can be claimed.
Vitamins are usually consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet but additional amounts may be required during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as for young children. Healthy Start vitamins contain the appropriate amounts of the recommended vitamins for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children aged from six months to five years. Healthy Start women’s vitamin tablets contain folic acid and vitamins C and D. The children’s vitamin drops contains vitamins A, C and D.
Medway’s Director of Public Health Dr Alison Barnett said: “Healthy Start helps give families the very best start in life.
“People are more likely to continue eating healthy food throughout their life if they start when they are a child.
“We want lots more people who use Healthy Start to claim their free vitamin supplements for themselves and their children to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need. Vitamin A helps children with their growth, eyesight and healthy skin; Vitamin C is important for general health, the immune system and to help absorb iron and vitamin D helps make bones stronger.
“Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may not be getting enough vitamin D and folic acid, which is important for both their health and their baby’s.”
Families should speak to their health visitor or children’s centre to see if they qualify for Healthy Start vouchers.
Visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk or phone 01634 331054 for more information.