Health and Disabilities Services in Early Head Start: Are Families Getting Needed Health Care Services?
Researchers examined the health status, safety, and health care of participating children and families, finding that most children were in excellent or very good health. However, the youngest children were most vulnerable. Parental reports of the percentage of children in fair or poor health declined from 17 percent at 14 months to 8 percent at 36 months of age. Program children were more likely than low-income children nationally to have health insurance. Early Head Start had small but statistically significant favorable impacts on the percentage of children who visited a doctor for treatment of illness, were immunized, and were hospitalized for accident or injury. Overall, the incidence of asthma and respiratory problems was relatively high, as was exposure to household smoking. In terms of children with disabilities, programs are required to make at least 10 percent of their spaces available to them; staff reported that 13 percent of children had been identified as eligible for Part C early intervention services by the time they left the program. In the area of safety, most parents implemented important precautions but needed more information on poison control measures. Although almost all parents used car seats when children were infants, fewer did so when their children were toddlers.