Quality statement 6: Advice on Healthy Start food vouchers

Quality statement

Parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers are offered advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Rationale

Including more fruit and vegetables increases the nutrients in a diet and can help people to manage their body weight. Healthy diets rich in fruit and vegetables may also help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases. It is important that service providers such as local authorities, local health services and voluntary organisations provide advice to parents and carers to ensure that they use the food vouchers to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables their family eats. This may also help to reduce outcomes associated with poor nutrition.

Quality measures

Structure

Evidence of local arrangements to offer parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Data source: Local data collection.

Process

a) Proportion of 6–8 week health visitor appointments where parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers receive advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice is given on how to use the vouchers to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Denominator – the number of 6–8 week health visitor appointments where the parents and carers are receiving Healthy Start food vouchers.

Data source: Local data collection.

b) Proportion of 8–12 month developmental reviews where parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers receive advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice is given on how to use the vouchers to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Denominator – the number of 8–12 month developmental reviews where the parents and carers are receiving Healthy Start food vouchers.

Data source: Local data collection.

c) Proportion of 2‑ to 2‑and‑a‑half‑year health reviews where parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers receive advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice is given on how to use the vouchers to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Denominator – the number of 2‑ to 2‑and‑a‑half‑year health reviews where the parents and carers are receiving Healthy Start food vouchers.

Data source: Local data collection.

d) Proportion of vaccination appointments at age 3 years and 5 months to 4 years where parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers receive advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice is given on how to use the vouchers to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Denominator – the number of vaccination appointments at age 3 years and 5 months to 4 years where the parents and carers are receiving Healthy Start food vouchers.

Data source: Local data collection.

Outcome

a) Fruit and vegetable intake.

Data source: Public Health England and Food Standards Agency (2011–12) and local data collection.National diet and nutrition survey

b) Obesity.

Data source: Local data collection.

What the quality statement means for service providers, health and public health practitioners, and commissioners

Service providers (such as children's centres, local authorities, local strategic partnerships, local health services and voluntary organisations) ensure that they offer parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Health and public health practitioners ensure that they explain to parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers how they can use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

Commissioners (such as clinical commissioning groups, NHS England, local authorities and local businesses that fund or provide community projects) specify that services offer parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers advice on using them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet.

What the quality statement means for service users and carers

Parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers are offered advice on how to use their vouchers to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family's diet. Eating more fruit and vegetables will help to improve their health and help them to stay at a healthy weight, and it may reduce their family's risk of developing some illnesses.

Source guidance

Definitions of terms used in this quality statement

Healthy Start scheme

The Healthy Start scheme provides food vouchers and coupons for vitamin supplements to pregnant women, new mothers and parents and carers with young children (under 4 years) who are on low incomes and to all pregnant women aged under 18 years. It aims to improve health and access to a healthy diet for families on low incomes across the UK.

[Adapted from Healthy Start vouchers study: the views and experiences of parents, professionals and small retailers in England]

Healthy Start food vouchers

The Healthy Start food vouchers scheme is for families eligible for other means‑tested benefits and provides food vouchers to spend with local retailers. Pregnant women and parents and carers of children over 1 year and under 4 years get 1 voucher per week. Parents and carers of babies under 1 year get 2 vouchers per week. (See the Healthy Start website for more information).

The vouchers can be spent on:

  • pasteurised cow's milk

  • fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables (with no added ingredients), which can be whole or chopped, packaged or loose

  • cow's milk‑based infant formula milk suitable from birth.

[Adapted from the Healthy Start website and expert consensus]

Advice on how to use Healthy Start food vouchers

This is advice which includes, but is not limited to:

  • the shops, markets and local and community food delivery services where the vouchers can be used and how these can be accessed, for example, by public transport.

  • the types of food that the vouchers can be used to buy.

  • simple, healthy recipes using food bought with the vouchers, taking the family's circumstances into account, for example, their religion and culture, and the size of the family.

Advice can be given by primary and secondary healthcare professionals, public health nutritionists, dietitians and at children's centres, health centres, nursery schools and other community settings. It can be provided in a number of ways, including formal and informal group sessions and one‑to‑one discussions, and using practical cook and eat sessions, leaflets and online resources (for example, step‑by‑step cooking demonstrations). This advice can be given at any time, but particularly when eligibility for the Healthy Start food vouchers is established and then on an ongoing basis as needed.

[Expert consensus]

Equality and diversity considerations

The information given should be both age‑appropriate and culturally appropriate and sensitive to those who may have limited cooking skills and cooking equipment. It should also be accessible to people with additional needs such as physical, sensory or learning disabilities, and to people who do not speak or read English. Pregnant women, parents and carers should have access to an interpreter or advocate if needed.