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Prenatal care

UK's "Healthy Start" program to provide fruits, vegetables and nutritional supplements to poor, expectant mothers

Monday, November 27, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: prenatal care, infant nutrition, pregnant mothers


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(NewsTarget) The U.K. Department of Health recently unveiled its new "Healthy Start" program, which will provide pregnant women and toddlers from low-income families with free fruit and vegetables.

For families with children between 1 and 4 years old, the U.K. government will provide vouchers worth 2 pounds and 80 pence (about $5.40) every week with which to purchase fruit, vegetables and baby formula. According to the official web site, the value of the vouchers will be adjusted periodically to keep up with any changes in market price of the covered foods.

Women qualify for the program as soon as they are 10 weeks pregnant, and mothers with children younger than 1 year old will receive two vouchers per week. The program will also be available to all mothers younger than 18 (once they are ten weeks pregnant), as research has shown that demographic is nutritionally vulnerable and more likely to have babies with low birth weights.

Along with food and formula, voucher holders will also be able to purchase vitamin supplements at the more than 20,000 participating businesses, and health professionals will be available to participants to provide advice about healthy eating and breastfeeding.

"Poor diet can have a real impact on people's health," said Public Health Minister Caroline Flint. "We want people to have the best possible opportunity to eat healthily.

"This new scheme will not only provide greater choice of healthy food, but will also mean that children can get milk and fresh fruit and vegetables from the cradle up, helping to give them the best possible start in life," she said.

The new program -- which was piloted in Devon, U.K. and will cover more than 500,000 low-income families -- will replace the current Welfare Food Scheme, which was originally implemented during World War II to guard children's health while supplies were rationed.

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