PHRC Phase 1 (2005-2011) projects – Projects related to diet and obesity

B5-06: Scoping review on evaluation of Healthy Start

Principal investigator

Mary Renfrew, York, in collaboration with Catherine Law, UCL


Poverty predisposes childbearing women and children to poor nutritional

and health outcomes, and to related health behaviours such as smoking. A

range of adverse health, developmental and education outcomes may

result, with short and long term consequences for maternal, infant,

child and ultimately, adult health. Food support programmes for low

income pregnant and postnatal women, babies and children are intended to

improve nutrition and reduce these adverse outcomes. In England, the

longstanding Welfare Food Scheme (WFS) has been replaced by Healthy

Start, a revised programme intended to address several of the problems

of the WFS. The incoming Healthy Start scheme has several elements, the

main one of which is food vouchers for fruit and vegetables, or formula

milk for bottle fed babies. The evidence base for food support

programmes is weak, but suggests that they are unlikely to have an

impact on headline indicators such as low birth weight; other benefits,

such as increase in mean birth weight and maternal weight, and an

improvement in maternal diet, may result.

Aims, methods and contribution

The aim of this project was to advise DH on approaches to monitoring and evaluation of longer-term health and social outcomes of the Healthy Start scheme, including establishment of baseline data. The work will include: scoping outcomes of interest that are plausible, measurable and feasible; identifying sources of existing relevant data; examining whether analysis of these data is possible at the level of women/children eligible for Healthy Start; establishing baseline data from existing datasets; critiquing existing relevant data collection tools; and finally, identifying options for evaluation.

September 2006 - May 2007 (9 months)