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Head Start's Healthy Focus

Northern Panhandle Head Start sees each child having much potential to learn and grow. Serving over 571 children 0-5 years old and their families in the 5 northern panhandle counties annually, Head Start makes a difference in the lives of young children and their families. From it’s initiation in 1965, designed to help end poverty by providing low-income preschool children and their families across the United States with a program that would meet health and nutritional needs, Head Start has continued to expand and improve. In the “Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007” Congress made significant revisions and authorized Head Start through September 30, 2012.
In order to be able to learn, children must be healthy. Each Head Start Program follows a local design and is advised by community members who make up the local Board of Directors and Councils. Physicals done within the last year of children entering the classroom will be accepted.  A Head Start requirement is that all children have age-appropriate physicals as recommended by the WV Health Check Program-Preventive Health Screen. This means that to a regular Head Start student (3-5 years old), an annual check up by their health care provider is needed to stay current. For Early Head Start children (birth to age three) regular exams of 2 month, 4 month, 6 month, 9 month, 1 year, 15 month, 18 month, 2 year and 30 month screenings are needed to assure the child remains healthy and up to date on immunizations. Shot records must also be submitted prior to entering the Head Start Programs. The immunizations can be done at the child’s health care provider or at the local Health Department.
Other health screens as hemoglobin, to rule out anemia or lack of iron, hearing screenings, vision screenings, and lead levels to assure that side effects of lead do not cause developmental delays are encouraged for all children.
Keeping with Head Start health focus, children are also required to have dental exams every 6 months. Any treatment recommended must also be done to enable the child to eat and focus on learning. Proper nutrition is needed for growth and development so much time is spent assuring that meals are appealing and offer children many choices that they may not experience otherwise. Cooking experiences are offered to Early Head Start home based program and children learn to make healthy foods in Head Start classrooms on a regular basis.
Through the statewide CHOOSY (Choose Healthy Options Often and Start Young) program the children have fun learning about healthy choices, exercise, and dental care. Choosy Kids, LLC is a company devoted to promoting healthy, active lifestyles. It was founded on the belief that healthy preferences for food choices and physical activity can be developed early in life. Choosy Kids honors the role that Parents, Early Educators, and Health Providers play in helping children develop healthy preferences.
The CHOOSY goals are to prevent childhood obesity, encourage healthy decision making, supply consistent health messages, and facilitate movement and nutrition experiences of young children. CHOOSY helps to promote healthy messages and behaviors in homes, child care centers, agencies and schools.
More information about CHOOSY can be obtained on their website.