Ensuring your child has proper health care and nutrition during the critical early years of her life is incredibly important. This can lead to better performance in school, greater enjoyment of daily life and can decrease the risk of health issues later in life.
Learn about the many initiatives and programs available in DC to promote and improve the health of infants, young children and their families.
- Health Care Coverage
- Dental Health
- Physical Health and Fitness
- Mental Health and Development
- Lead Free and Healthy Homes
The health and well-being of infants and young children is closely tied to the health of their moms and families, including during pregnancy. Check out the DC Healthy Start Project, which offers free services to pregnant and parenting mothers and fathers in various wards throughout the District. Learn about home visiting services offered by the Department of Health.
Health Care Coverage
Having health care coverage helps ensure that children and families receive routine, preventative and emergency care. In DC, children and families without health insurance who meet other eligibility requirements may be eligible for Medicaid, Healthy Families DC or DC Healthcare Alliance.
HealthCheck check-ups are FREE from birth up to 21 years of age if you have Medicaid/Healthy Families DC. If your doctor finds any problems during a check-up, your child will also get free treatment.
Immunizations and vaccines are a very important way that we keep our children healthy. The District supports proper immunization for all children. Find out why the Centers for Disease Control say it’s important to immunize and what immunizations children need and when.
If your child or a child you know needs to be vaccinated but may have trouble paying, check out the DC Department of Health Vaccinations for Children Program. This program provides free vaccines to eligible children. Learn about how to recieve medical services such as vaccines through your pediatrician.
It is very important that your young child has a healthy mouth, even before he grows his first tooth. Dental health, keeping your child's teeth, gums and mouth healthy and clean, is an important part of healthy, early childhood development. Learn about the kinds of dental care young children need by exploring the DC HealthCheck Oral Health Guidance.
DC has a School Based Oral Health Program that is operated by the Department of Health. The Program provides preventive oral health services to eligible students at DC Public Schools, DC Public Charter Schools and Head Start and Early Childhood Learning and Development Centers.
DC HealthCheck provides free dental services to children up to 21 years of age. Call your dentist or contact the Dental HelpLine: 1-866-758-6807.
Physical Health and Fitness
Establishing good habits such as seeing the doctor regularly, brushing teeth, eating well and keeping active are an essential part of setting young children on a healthy path. It’s never too early or too late to support better physical health and fitness of our children! Check out WIC, a special nutrition program for pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children up to age 5 who meet eligibility requirements and find a DC park, playground or pool near you. The DC Department of Parks and Recreation is partnering with the Department of General Services to improve playgrounds in the city through Play DC.
Schools in the District of Columbia have also shown their commitment to physical fitness. For example, Instant Recess is a program some D.C. schools are trying out as a new way to keep kids active and healthy. In collaboration with George Washington University and the D.C. Academy of Pediatrics, the D. C. Department of Health is also developing ways to encourage pediatricians to "prescribe" visits to neighborhood parks for their patients.
Learn more about what children need for a Healthy Start.
Finding out that a child has a developmental delay or health concern as soon as possible is linked to more positive development and better outcomes for children. For example, identifying permanent childhood hearing impairments by two weeks of age instead of waiting until 9 months of age leads to better social development, motor skills and quality of life.
Mental Health and Development
Not only can the mental health of parents and caretakers affect a child’s well-being, but young children can also become depressed or suffer from other mental health challenges. The DC Department of Mental Health offers referrals, along with access to mental health services for parents, families and children. In addition, the Department of Mental Health produces a useful list of local mental health providers.
Project LAUNCH brings local child-serving agencies together to provide comprehensive support for early childhood health and mental health, while DC’s School Based Mental Health Program specializes in early intervention for children in school settings.
Need help? Call the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week DC Access Help Line at 1(888)7WE-HELP or 1-888-793-4357. This help line is staffed by certified mental health professionals who can provide access to emergency psychiatric care. The Access Helpline can work with the mobile crisis team to help adults and children in a psychiatric or emotional crisis and cannot travel to receive mental health services. Young people can also call the Access Helpline for help dealing with family, death, school, drugs, gangs and violence.
Proper nutrition is important during all phases of a child's life—from eating well when pregnant through early childhood, to adolescence and adulthood. A nutritious start prepares a child for a healthy life. Learn more about what children need to eat to stay healthy and explore the programs DC offers to help families meet their nutritional needs, such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC, a special program for pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children up to age 5 that meet eligibility requirements.
Lead Free and Healthy Homes
Everyone wants to live in a safe home. However, sometimes environmental issues in our homes can make us and our families ill. For example, lead-based paint, mold, chemicals and bugs can all make our homes unhealthy.
To make your home safer, visit the Lead Safe and Healthy Homes Hub and view resources about lead poisoning, mold and mildew poisoning, asthma triggers and other potentially dangerous hazards in the home.
Check out the Every Child. Twice by Two. Campaign to learn how and why children need to be tested for lead exposure.