Five Resources for New Head Start Health Managers

The importance of health management in early learning cannot be overstated. Children who are healthy and safe are more likely to develop the cognitive, social, and emotional skills they need to succeed in school and in life—and Head Start health managers play a crucial role!

To do their job effectively, they must be equipped with the foundational understandings of health and safety in their programs. They must be knowledgeable about the latest health trends and guidelines as well as the unique health needs of the community they serve. Teachers, children, parents, directors, kitchen staff, bus drivers, parents, and volunteers count on health managers to provide training, support, and screenings to ensure a safe environment for all.

Why is Health Management So Important?

According to NHSA’s 2021 Health Benchmark and Trends Report, respondents report that “the majority of families face environmental conditions that negatively affect their health and wellbeing.”

To address these obstacles, Head Start programs complete screenings in the program, provide transportation and translation, and find families’ medical and dental homes to ensure children receive critical care.

Knowing where to find resources to support families can be overwhelming for new health managers. Here are five tools—curated by Kristina Ellis, director of The Academy and a former health services manager, and Jackie Rivera, health administrator at Central Missouri Community Action, which can help support, develop, and strengthen the knowledge and skills new health managers need in their important work.

1. Head Start Health Services Competencies Professional Development Assessment

The Competencies Tool is a framework for identifying the critical attitudes, knowledge, and skills to implement effective health services. The 68 competencies are organized into four categories: Overarching Competencies, Child And Family Health Competencies, Engaging Families Competencies, Leadership Competencies. In the Professional Development Assessment (PDA), each competency has four levels of accomplishment along a continuum of strengths. Program directors, health managers, and health staff can use the PDA themselves and with the staff they supervise to promote successful performance and career development.

2. The Academy’s Health and Safety Courses

NHSA’s Health Services Essentials course is designed to support health managers and staff in developing the fundamental knowledge they need to meet the expectations of the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and support children and families on their path to a healthy future. The course covers requirements in physical and oral health, mental health, nutrition, disabilities, safety, and staff wellness.

Learners will walk away with concrete suggestions on how to ensure the HSPPS are met through well-child checks, vision and hearing screenings, dental exams, and more. They will also develop an understanding on how to support others in their role and to train teachers in supporting child safety and development through daily health checks, acute care, and classroom safety checks.

3. State and Tribal Child Care Requirements

In addition to being familiar with the HSPPS, every program should know their state and/or tribal child care requirements. You can visit the National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations to search and find national and state information about child care licensing regulations, agency policies, and requirements for licensed child care centers, family child care homes, and group child care homes. You can also view the Minimum Health and Safety Standards: A Guide for American Indian and Alaska Native Child Care and Development Fund Grantees. These two resources can help you ensure you are meeting the basic health and safety needs to remain a licensed child care facility.

4. MyPeers

MyPeers is a social platform for connecting, sharing, and collaborating with fellow early childhood professionals. It’s a great place for health managers to brainstorm, exchange ideas, and share resources with colleagues across the country. Health managers can join communities and workgroups dedicated to specific roles, topics, and regions. Take a moment and create a MyPeers account.

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you are a health manager, you will hear a lot of myths about health and safety practices. (Have you ever heard someone say the best way to get rid of lice is to put mayonnaise on your head?) Demystify your role by going straight to the source: the CDC is the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven service organization that protects the public’s health. For more than 70 years, they have put science into action to help children stay healthy so they can grow and learn.

We know health is at the center of whole child development. Being aware of these resources will help you to find where you can support the overall wellbeing of your children and their families.

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