Health Manager Orientation Guide

Medical Homes and Well-Child Checkups

A doctor looking at a child's ear with a light.Health insurance doesn’t remove every barrier to care, but it does enable children and families to access well-child care and get timely diagnosis and treatment of health concerns. Because Head Start programs serve low-income families, most children are eligible for health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Programs can help families navigate these health systems to get insurance. Many state Medicaid programs cover people who earn up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

In addition to health insurance, Head Start programs can help families find continuous, accessible care from a health care professional who keeps the child’s ongoing health record and is not only available for emergency or urgent care. A main point of care is known as a medical home. Programs can work with the medical home to connect families to specialists, housing assistance, mental health or substance use disorder treatment, and more. The medical home is especially important for providing well-child care.

Growth and development occur rapidly during the first years of childhood, so infants and toddlers need more frequent well-child visits than older children. Every well-child visit includes a physical exam to check growth and development and identify any issues. During each exam, the health care provider will check the child’s height, weight, and other health factors depending on age. Hearing, vision, and other screening procedures will be part of some visits.

Well-child visits focus on the health and wellness of children. Children who are not sick should still see their health care provider as scheduled. During the visit, the health care provider may give age-appropriate information regarding sleep, safety, childhood diseases, family relationships, access to services, and what to expect as the child grows. Head Start programs can help families prepare for and attend well-child visits on the appropriate schedule. Check your state’s EPSDT for the recommended ages for each visit.

Tips and Strategies for Supporting Well-Child Checkups

  • Help families understand how to get health insurance and give information about private and public health insurance and when to enroll.
  • Help families navigate through health systems to meet the health needs of their children.
  • Build family health literacy to help families be health champions for their children.
  • Learn about each child, their family, and their community to develop health services that address each child’s individual needs.
  • Set up partnerships with local schools and early childhood programs to exchange health information and support healthy transitions between settings, including kindergarten.