NHSA Initiative

The year of Whole Health

Supporting all aspects of health for Head Start children, families and staff


The Challenge

Programs need more resources to support children’s mental health needs, challenging behaviors, and many other aspects related broadly to health.


The REsponse

Each month during the Year of Whole Health, NHSA is sharing resources, webinars, and other tools dedicated to supporting a specific area of health that is important to the Head Start field.


The Goal

Our aim is to help improve the culture of health in Head Start programs, communities, and homes to support better outcomes for children and families.

Supporting Whole Health for Children, Families and Staff

The National Head Start Association is engaging in a new initiative during the 2018-2019 program year to support all aspects of health. This year-long campaign is bringing a renewed focus to specific areas of health, which were identified as priorities for the field through surveys and other outreach. NHSA is using this opportunity to share resources, webinars, and other tools to help promote and improve the health and wellbeing of Head Start children, families, and staff.

What is Whole Health?

Head Start values good health as the foundation of school readiness and child development. The Head Start model takes a Whole Child approach to health by providing comprehensive health services and support to children and families. Across the nation, Head Start programs are providing nearly a million children and their families a year with health services such as immunizations, dental, medical, and mental health, and nutritional services, and early identification of health problems.

Since the health of a child is impacted by the environment in which he or she grows and develops, the Head Start model also aims to promote the health of the child’s family, caregivers, and surrounding community.

The Year of Whole Health will reflect this holistic approach to wellness.

A Month-by-Month Focus

During the Year of Whole Health, each month is dedicated to a different health topic important to the Head Start field. Topic-specific webinars, blog posts, resources, and other tools are being provided each month to support programs in their efforts to improve the health and wellness of all children, family, and staff in Head Start. Follow #HealthyHeadStart on social media for the latest updates from NHSA about this initiative.

September: Supporting Children and Families Impacted by the Opioid Epidemic

In rural towns, inner-city neighborhoods, and everywhere in between, Head Start programs are utilizing their unique and influential position as a community-embedded provider of comprehensive services to treat children and families suffering from substance use disorders.

Every day, Head Start programs are using limited existing resources or outside funding to develop new and innovative models specifically targeted toward early childhood trauma related to opioid and substance abuse. NHSA will dedicate the month of September to sharing resources and supporting programs as they strive to help all children and families affected by substance abuse in general and opioid misuse specifically.

  • A Head Start on Treating Our Nation’s Opioid Epidemic” - Learn more about NHSA’s campaign to activate the full power of Head Start in responding to our nation’s opioid epidemic.

  • Webinar - Supporting Children and Families Impacted by the Opioid Epidemic; September 26th, 3-4pm ET. Register here to view the recording.

    • Join NHSA for this webinar and gain knowledge and resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), expert researchers in the field, National League of Cities (NLC), and Head Start program directors about the best strategies for supporting children and families impacted by the opioid epidemic.  

  • Stay tuned for more resources, including a blog post from our Year of Whole Health series on Medium.


If you have any questions about the Year of Whole Health Initiative or if you would like to share ideas for what you and your program would like to learn more about this year, please email Sarah Neil at sneil@nhsa.org.