New Data Tool Measures Health of Every Baby Born in California

The California Strong Start Index uses data collected at birth to understand the resources available to California’s babies and their families in any neighborhood, county, or census tract.

As California considers a raft of new early childhood investments, a new tool offers to provide information about the resources available to each of the nearly half a million babies born in the state every year.

With funding from the Heising-Simons Foundation, First 5 Association of California and Children’s Data Network launched the Strong Start Index with the goal of providing policymakers and service providers with more information about the resources available to children and families in every census tract in the state.

The Strong Start Index contains 12 variables that measure the conditions into which children are born, using data collected at birth. This includes indicators such as healthy birth weight, being born to parents with at least a high school diploma, and access to and receipt of timely prenatal care.

The index shows that these prenatal and early childhood resources vary widely across counties in the state, as well as across different neighborhoods in the same county or city.

“Using the Strong Start Index, we can understand in real time which neighborhoods need additional resources so we can ensure babies and young children get the services and informal supports they need during this critical time in their development,” said Moira Kenney, executive director of First 5 Association of California, in a press release.

The goal of the index is to aid agencies in making decisions about where and how to deliver services to young children and their mothers, a hot topic in Sacramento lately.

After promising greater public investments for children younger than age 3 on the campaign trail last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) made several notable investments to strengthen the health and well-being of young children last month. In his first budget proposal, Newsom called for increased investment in home visiting services for families in the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. He also proposed using $23 million to expand home visiting programs for families outside of the CalWORKs program, the first time the state has proposed support for this population, according to the California Budget and Policy Center.

His budget also included $7.5 million to support children in the Black Infant Health program, which looks to boost the health of African-American infants and mothers through case management and other support services.

Finally, his proposal sets aside $60 million for the state to provide screenings assessing the educational, social and emotional development of children under the age of 3.

Find the Strong Start Index here.



Learn more about the federal rule change to provide legal representation to children and parents involved in the child welfare system in our exclusive webinarA New Era of Funding Family Justice, with Leslie Heimov and Vivek Sankaran on Feb. 21st. Hosted by John Kelly, Editor-in-Chief for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 353 Articles
Jeremy is a West Coast-based senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at