The Importance of Well-Child Health Care and a Medical Home [A Learning Activity]

Educating Head Start parents in the importance of securing a medical home for the care of their child is an important task for Head Start programs. This learning activity will help health and other program staff develop and improve their skills in this area and understand the concept of well-child health care. Requiring approximately 30-45 minutes to complete, the activity utilizes a series of questions for group discussion and a handout, which is included here.

The following is an excerpt from Well-Child Care: Making It Happen

For This Activity You Will Need
Points to Consider
Handout: Carlos Story

Purpose: This activity allows participants to develop skills in explaining the importance of well-child health care and linkage to a medical home to parents. Participants will develop strategies to help families overcome barriers to good medical care for their families. This activity is particularly helpful for family service workers and other staff members who are involved in enrolling children into Head Start.

For this activity you will need:

  • Handout: Carlos' Story, for each participant >

Step 1: Divide participants into pairs. Instruct them to find a partner to work with and read Handout A: Carlos' Story together.

Step 2: Ask participants to take a minute to reflect on their own experiences:

  • Have you ever put off getting health care for yourself or other family members? What were the reasons (e.g., you had other more important things on your mind, it was too expensive, or you were afraid)?
  • Has anyone ever told you that you were not taking the best care of your health? How did it make you feel?

Step 3: Return to the story and discuss the following questions:

  • What aspects of well-child health care and screening does Carlos need?
  • What may be some of the reasons that Carlos has not gotten the health care that he needs?
  • How might you encourage Carlos' family to complete the Head Start enrollment and health screening?
    • What might you say?
    • What else might you need to know?
    • Who else in the family, community, or program could help?
  • Given the fact that Carlos may not have received adequate health care, what might be the implications for the health care of other family members? How might you address this issue?

Points to Consider:

  • Well-child health care and screening are important for every child. They are especially important for children who have signs and symptoms that might indicate a health problem.
  • Early screening, diagnosis, treatment, and education can prevent or reduce pain and disability from health problems.
  • When working with the family, the health concerns should extend beyond the Head Start child to include siblings, parents, and other family members. For example:
    • Have the siblings received well-child health care and immunizations?
    • If the mother is pregnant, has she received pregnancy counseling and prenatal care?
  • When we promote health care and screening for Head Start children and families, we must try to understand and be sensitive to the individual families' attitudes, practices, and concerns.
  • Linking a family to a "medical home" best serves their needs by providing continuous, accessible medical care.

Handout: Carlos' Story

Carlos is a three-and-a-half year old who is enrolling in your Head Start program. Carlos lives with his 19-year-old mother and 18-month-old sister. Carlos' father, also a teenager, visits occasionally.

You are the Home Visitor enrolling Carlos in Head Start. During your visit with Carlos' mother, Maria, the following conversation takes place:

Maria: "I'm kind of nervous; it's the first time Carlos is going to school."
Home Visitor: "So, you have some concerns?"

Maria: "Yeah. Carlos...he's sort of slow. He doesn't talk or seem to understand much. We just kind of accept him that way."
Home Visitor: "Hmmm..."

Maria: "I've been reaching the end of my rope dealing with his temper tantrums, especially being pregnant and all."
Home Visitor: "I didn't know you were pregnant. Boy I'm sure that can be exhausting. Head Start may be able to help you with some of your concerns for Carlos. Does your family have a regular physician?

Maria: "No, I just take him to the emergency room for all his earaches-he gets them all winter."
Home Visitor: "Carlos will get the chance for a full medical check-up before school. There are some wonderful doctors at the local clinic who can see his little sister and give you prenatal care too.

Maria: "Yeah, but the kids aren't sick now-why do they need to go?"
Home Visitor: "By seeing a doctor on a regular basis, many illnesses can be prevented. Carlos may need special help for speaking and hearing and they can give it."

Maria: "But doctors scare me. All those shots will make my kids cry and they talk real fast at me in English. I get too embarrassed to say I can't understand them."
Home Visitor: "We can call the clinic and schedule the family with a Spanish-speaking doctor. Dr. Alma Hernandez can follow your children throughout their childhood and help you with your pregnancy. She has three children of her own and understands. I'll help you find the phone number in the phone book if you'd like..."

"The Importance of Well-Child Health Care and a Medical Home [A Learning Activity]." Well-Child Health Care: Making It Happen. Training Guides for the Head Start Learning Community. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 1998. English.

Last Reviewed: May 2009

Last Updated: February 20, 2015