All Head Start programs are awarded grants for a five-year project period. The Program Planning Cycle aligns with the five-year project period and includes a continuous cycle of planning, implementation, and evaluation. This cyclical approach to planning supports continuous quality improvement and quality outcomes for children and families. It is important for the health manager to facilitate planning, implementation, and evaluation efforts specific to comprehensive health services as part of the program’s overall program planning process.
Programs begin their five-year grant cycle with a comprehensive community assessment, which provides the program with essential data about families’ needs and the strengths and gaps in the communities they serve that affect the availability of resources for children, families, and staff. This information informs intentional and responsive goal setting. Updates to the community assessment should be made throughout the project period, ensuring the program is always leveraging the most current data to inform ongoing program planning and implementation.
Health services is an integral part of the community assessment, providing the program with data on issues such as the availability of health services and other resources; gaps in those services and resources; and prevalent or emerging community health issues, including physical, mental, oral, prenatal, nutrition, and environmental health issues.
Examples of specific health data include:
- Prevalence and accessibility of medical, oral, and mental health providers
- Access to nutritious foods and food deserts
- Access to community parks and other outdoor activity areas
- Fluoride levels in water
- Sources of potential lead exposure or other contaminants
Goals and Objectives
Head Start programs must establish long-term five-year goals and measurable objectives, and they must develop and implement action plans to achieve them. These goals and objectives are typically reviewed and updated annually and adjusted as needed.
HSPPS 45 CFR §1302.102(a) requires programs to establish program goals that include the following:
- Strategic long-term goals for ensuring programs are and remain responsive to community needs as identified in their community assessment.
- Goals for the provision of educational, health, nutritional, and family and community engagement program services as described in the program performance standards to further promote the school readiness of enrolled children.
- School readiness goals that are aligned with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five, state and tribal early learning standards, as appropriate, and requirements and expectations of schools Head Start children will attend.
- Effective health and safety practices to ensure children are safe at all times.
Policies and Procedures
Considering the program’s goals and objectives, as well as any federal mandates, local regulations, and best practices, the health manager, supported by other managers and key staff can establish health policies and procedures that ensure the effective management of health services in coordination with the program’s overall policies and procedures. Effective health policies and procedures direct the implementation of comprehensive health services to program participants.
Ongoing Monitoring and Continuous Improvement
Programs use ongoing monitoring and continuous improvement to measure program performance, identify areas of concern, make immediate program corrections, and generate reports. Ongoing monitoring and continuous improvement ensure effective implementation of the HSPPS and program goals and objectives through a systematic review of internal and external data.
Tips and Strategies for Program Planning
- The health manager can use key health data from the community assessment to propose goals and objectives that respond to health-related findings in the assessment.
- When developing health policies and procedures:
- Consider all mandates and regulations that apply to your Head Start program and community.
- Incorporate best practices where needed to supplement regulations.
- Engage the expertise of all stakeholders, including program staff, consultants, community health professionals, and families.
- Work with other program staff to ensure policies and procedures are coordinated across service areas and systems.
- When programs offer both Early Head Start services (that may include Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships and/or services to pregnant people) and Head Start services, work to develop policies that support a birth-to-5 approach to program services.
- Ensure policies have a clear rationale and procedures describe the required activities and relevant timelines. When developing policies and procedures, obtain input from the staff responsible for implementing them.
- Establish health-related internal ongoing monitoring procedures that:
- Allow collection of sufficient data to evaluate compliance with all health policies and procedures and health-related federal and local regulations and mandates.
- Include expectations for frequency of monitoring, monitoring tools to be used, and persons responsible.
- Have a process for tracking and completing corrective actions.
- Have a process for communicating ongoing monitoring results and corrective actions to all necessary stakeholders, including governing bodies, program leadership, and staff.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Audience: Health Professionals
Last Updated: July 28, 2023