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Establishing a Healthy Start with vitamins

The government's Healthy Start scheme provides pregnant women and families who qualify with vouchers to enable them to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, liquid cow's milk and infant formula milk, and coupons to obtain free Healthy Start vitamin supplements.

Healthy Start vitamins have been specifically developed to offer women and children the optimum combination of vitamins at the right time for them:

  • Healthy Start vitamin tablets for women contain C, D and folic acid.
  • Healthy Start children's vitamin drops contain A, C and D.

The case for taking folic acid both pre-conception and up until the 12th week of pregnancy is well established. There is also a growing body of evidence to support pregnant women and infants taking other vitamins, notably A (children only), C and D.1-3

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The role of the health professional
The vitamins are distributed via the NHS supply chain. PCTs and health boards across the UK are responsible for ensuring they are available locally and each trust is able to choose a distribution method that best meets local needs.

Healthy Start vitamins do not require a prescription, which means receptionists and other staff in health centres, GP practices, children's centres and individual client support workers can give these supplements out.  

Nurses providing advice on the scheme will need to:

  • Find out who coordinates Healthy Start vitamins in their PCT and what local arrangements are.
  • Browse the website for more information about vitamin products and call 0300 123 1002 to obtain Delivering Healthy Start - a guide for health professionals.
  • Encourage eligible women and families to apply for the scheme.
  • Sign part B of each individual's form to confirm eligibility and provide advice on healthy eating, breastfeeding and vitamin supplements.

For more information on the Healthy Start scheme, including vitamins, visit:

1. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Improving the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children in low-income households. London: NICE; 2008.
2. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Update on Vitamin D: Position statement by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition 2007. London: TSO; 2007.
3. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Review of Dietary Advice on Vitamin A; Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition 2005. London: TSO; 2005.
4. Gregory JR, Collins DL, Davies PS, Hughes JM, Clarke PC. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: children aged 11 1/2 to 41 1/2 years. London: HMSO; 1995.
5. Gregory J, Lowe S, Bates CJ, Prentice J, Jackson LV. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: young people aged 4 to 18 years. London: TSO; 2000.
6. Ruston D, Hoare J, Henderson L, Gregory J. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19 to 64 years. Volume 4. London: TSO; 2004.