Physical Health

Children must be healthy to learn. Head Start and Early Head Start programs work with families and children, helping them understand how to achieve and maintain optimum physical health. This includes:

  • Linking families with a medical home
  • Ensuring all enrollees receive developmental, sensory, and behavioral screening
  • Ensuring all enrollees receive well-child physical examinations based on their state's Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) schedule

If concerns are found, families are supported in obtaining further evaluations, treatment, and any follow-up recommended by the medical professional. Daily health checks by classroom staff and ongoing conversations with parents help programs to individualize health-related services and education for each child.

To learn more about requirements in Head Start and related evidence-based recommendations for early care and education settings, review Compliance with Care: A Crosswalk Between the Head Start Program Performance Standards and Caring for Our Children, 3rd Edition.

Ongoing Source of Continuous, Accessible Care or Medical Home

Screening, Assessment, Treatment, and Follow-Up

Programs must obtain from a health care professional a determination that each child is up-to-date on a schedule of age-appropriate preventive and primary health care, including medical, dental, and mental health. The schedule must incorporate the requirements of well-child care within EPSDT and the latest immunizations schedule recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state, tribal, and local authorities. See the screening, assessment, treatment, and follow-up resources below to help you with these tasks.

OHS Resources

OHS Learning Activities, Podcasts, Newsletters and Webinars

Additional Resources

Preventing and Managing Communicable Conditions

Many harmful conditions can be prevented by immunizations, also called vaccines. However, the spread of communicable conditions is still common in child care settings. Children naturally explore their environment by touching and putting things in their mouths. They are in close contact with peers and caregivers. Those caregivers—busy wiping noses, diapering, preparing meals or snacks, and tending to injuries—may need new strategies for maintaining good hygiene.

The spread of communicable conditions has a big impact on the health and well-being of children, families, and staff. Consider watching the video, Managing Infectious Disease in Head Start. Learn how to identify and manage common conditions. Find useful information for early childhood programs and families.


Tip Sheets

Resources on Other Common Communicable Conditions

Individual Wellness Plans

An important requirement of Head Start and Early Head Start health services is planning to meet the needs of the individual child. Programs aim to individualize services for all children and families from comprehensive screening and ongoing observation to education strategies. The resources below provide health managers, disability coordinators, program staff, and community health providers with a variety of strategies to support individualization in health services.

OHS Resources

OHS Learning Activities, Podcasts, Newsletters, and Webinars

Additional Resources

Family Education Activities and Resources

Policies and Procedures

Programs are required to develop, implement, evaluate, and revise policies and procedures. The following resources, in addition to many of the links above, are designed to assist in these efforts.

OHS Resources

OHS Learning Activities, Podcasts, Newsletters, and Webinars

Last Reviewed: March 2017

Last Updated: March 9, 2017