Health Visitors are qualified nurses with specialist training in child development and health promotion. They visit every family with children under five and can advise on a wide range of topics including feeding, immunisation, children’s development and behaviour, and general family health issues.
Roles and Responsibilities
Many Health Visitors have specialist roles in breastfeeding, caring for children with disabilities, supporting mothers with postnatal depression or victims of domestic abuse.
They work with families in surgeries, clinics and Children’s Centre venues as well as within the home.
The Health Visiting teams work on a geographical basis but are also aligned to GP practices within the area. They have close working relationships with Children’s Centres, Multi Agency Teams and safeguarding staff and therefore much of their work is of a multi-agency nature.
Healthy Start is a UK-wide initiative which aims to improve the health of pregnant women and families on benefits or low incomes, by providing them with vouchers to spend on fruit and vegetables, cow’s milk and infant formula milk. The initiative is also underpinned by ongoing advice and information on subjects like breastfeeding and healthy eating.
The scheme also provides pregnant women, new mothers and young children on the scheme with free Healthy Start vitamins, which can help reduce the risk of health problems associated with vitamin deficiencies like rickets and Spina Bifida.
To qualify for the Healthy Start scheme, mothers-to-be have to be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, and have to be in receipt of one of the following benefits:
- Income support
- Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or
- Child Tax Credit* AND an annual family income of £16,190 or less in 2010/11
Pregnant women under 18 are also eligible, even if they do not get any of the above benefits or tax credits.
Eligible families across Shropshire County will need to have an initial application form signed by a health professional (usually a health visitor) before they can get their vouchers. Vouchers are then issued to families directly from Healthy Start every eight weeks.
Vitamin vouchers can be exchanged for free Healthy Start vitamins at a range of community pharmacists that are taking part in the scheme. Money off coupons towards fruit, vegetables (including plain, frozen fruit and vegetables) and milk can be used at participating local retailers (a full list of which can be found at www.healthystart.nhs.uk). Look out for the Healthy Start logo in shops and stores across Shropshire.
Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the scheme should speak with their Midwife, Health Visitor or ask at their local Sure Start Children’s Centre.
Alternatively, visit the Healthy Start website www.healthystart.nhs.uk or call Healthy Start directly on 0845 607 6823.