Physical Health

A child’s health equates to how well a child thrives. A healthy body allows children to develop properly, play actively, and learn to their potential. We fund innovative programs and initiatives to help children get a healthy start.

As many of our youngest children now struggle with childhood obesity, FIRST 5 has continued to look for new and creative ways to educate children and families about nutrition and establish healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Water Bottle Refilling Stations

In order to decrease sugary beverage consumption, FIRST 5 has partnered with the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department on Water to Go – an effort that aims to install 100 water bottle refilling stations in locations throughout Santa Clara County by 2017.   As a part of this effort, FIRST 5 has installed stations in 20 Santa Clara County schools with on-site early childcare centers.  Additional stations have been funded at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and the Mineta San Jose International Airport.


water bottle refiling stations have been installed through Water to Go

Health Promotion

Through community outreach and education, FIRST 5 creates awareness of the importance of healthy habits, such as eating nutrition foods, consuming more water, and engaging in more physical activity.

In FY 2014/15,


parents and caregivers participated in community engagement efforts including the 10 Steps to a Healthier You! workshop and Sugar Savvy workshops.

Potter the Otter

In 2010, FIRST 5, in partnership with local community agencies, developed a strategic plan to combat the growing epidemic of obesity in our youngest children. One strategy was to engage children and families through a children’s book that highlighted a healthy lifestyle.


In 2011, FIRST 5 published “Potter the Otter: A Tale About Water,” a storybook which narrates the story of an otter who teaches his friends to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. The book also includes an educational component for parents and caregivers.

Since the launch of the book, hundreds of thousands of copies have been distributed by roughly 200 schools, hospitals, government agencies, and organizations throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. The book has now been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and French.

Due to the effectiveness of this strategy, FIRST 5 has developed a new Potter the Otter book, “Potter, Potter The Healthy Otter”, to address physical activity. FIRST 5 has also partnered with the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose to produce an on-going live-action play that brings Potter and his healthy messages to life.


FIRST 5 works closely with The Healthier Kids Foundation to fund vision, dental, and hearing screenings for children 0-5 throughout Santa Clara County.

Vision Screening

Vision contributes significantly to information acquisition in children, and the loss of vision interferes with a child’s optimal development and school readiness.  Early identification is a critical step in preventing these issues and ensuring healthy development.

FIRST 5 supports the Heathier Kids Foundation Vision First program which uses a high-tech digital optic scan camera to conduct vision screenings among children as young as six months in childcare, preschool, community-based, and school settings. These screenings detect vision problems and provide immediate follow-up care so that children and families can access corrective services.

8,448 children received vision screening in FY 14/15

Dental Screening

Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic childhood illness, and primary dental care is the most unmet children’s health need in California. Oral health diseases can affect children’s growth, speech development, nutritional intake, learning, and overall quality of life. Therefore, prevention, early identification, and treatment of tooth decay and other pediatric oral health concerns are critical.

FIRST 5 funds the Healthier Kids Foundation Dental First program which screens children under age 6 for undetected dental issues and assists them with accessing follow-up dental care.

Hearing Screening

Utilizing the latest in hearing screening equipment, the Healthier Kids Foundation Hearing First program screens children under age 3-6 for undetected hearing issues and assists them with accessing follow up auditory care. The goal is to identify youth most likely to have a hearing impairment that may interfere with development, communication, health and education.

For the youngest children, routine health care can make the difference between a strong beginning and a fragile start. This is particularly true for children living in poverty due to their increased likelihood of exposure to environmental toxins, inadequate housing and nutrition, and other economic hardships associated with compromised child development.

FIRST 5 is committed to ensuring that all children in the County receive access to free or low-cost comprehensive health insurance.

Health insurance outreach, referral, and support services are provided by FIRST 5 grantees The Health Trust and the Healthier Kids Foundation to enroll children in affordable health insurance, identify and secure a medical home provider, and ensure utilization of health services.

FIRST 5 also supports the Baby Gateway program which enrolls eligible newborns into Medi-Cal coverage before they leave the hospital, assigns them to a primary care provider, and educates mothers on well-baby care, and what to do if their baby becomes ill. The goal of Baby Gateway is to reinforce the importance of primary care during the baby’s first year of life and beyond and to reduce unnecessary emergency department visits for illnesses best treated in the pediatrician’s office.

FIRST 5 partners with the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) to provide compassionate and technologically advanced care for premature and other babies admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). These babies often require urgent medical attention immediately after birth.

FIRST 5 supports these infants and their families by investing in strategies such as life-saving, state of the art medical equipment (ex. Giraffe beds and software that helps physicians better explain complex medical procedures and diagnoses with bilingual parents), Family and Baby Advocacy services, breastfeeding support, genetic counseling.