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An exploration of the statutory Healthy Start vitamin supplementation scheme in North West England

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Barbara Hanratty



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022. The Author(s). BACKGROUND: Government nutritional welfare support from the English 'Healthy Start' scheme is targeted at low-income pregnant women and preschool children, but take-up of its free food vouchers is much better than its free vitamin vouchers. While universal implementation probably requires a more extensive scheme to be cost-effective, the everyday experience of different ways of receiving or facilitating Healthy Start, especially via children's centres, also requires further evidence. This study therefore aimed to explore (in the context of low take-up levels) perceptions of mothers, health professionals, and commissioners about Healthy Start vitamin and food voucher take-up and compare experiences in a targeted and a universal implementation-area for those vitamins. METHODS: Informed by quantitative analysis of take-up data, qualitative analysis focused on 42 semi-structured interviews with potentially eligible mothers and healthcare staff (and commissioners), purposively sampled via children's centres in a similarly deprived universal and a targeted implementation-area of North West England. RESULTS: While good food voucher take-up appeared to relate to clear presentation, messaging, practicality, and monetary (albeit low) value, poor vitamin take-up appeared to relate to overcomplicated procedures and overreliance on underfunded centres, organizational goodwill, and families' resilience. CONCLUSION: Higher 'universal' vitamin take-up may well have reflected fewer barriers when it became everyone's business to be vitamin-aware. Substantive Healthy Start reform in England (not just cosmetic tinkering) is long overdue. Our study highlights that 'policy, politics, and problem' should be aligned to reach considerable unmet need.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Moonan M, Maudsley G, Hanratty B, Whitehead M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Public Health

Year: 2022

Volume: 22

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 24/02/2022

Acceptance date: 31/01/2022

Date deposited: 01/04/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2458

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s12889-022-12704-0

PubMed id: 35209874


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