The Problem

The biggest barrier to an education is ill health.
HealthStart breaks down that barrier.

Thanks in part to the Millennium Development Goals, 90% of children in the developing world now have access to school, but malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, worms and other health issues stop those children from learning even if they make it to school. By tackling all of these issues, HealthStart means children actually get an education.

Read our report on HealthStart 2

Download HealthStart 2 report (PDF)

Order a free print copy


HealthStart 1, our pilot, saw school pass rates go from 40% - 87% in our two schools and proved the efficacy of a holistic and comprehensive approach to school health.

HealthStart 2, supported by Comic Relief, ran the programme in 25 schools from 2016-2018. We found that HealthStart could be delivered for less money and drive sustainable change - by strengthening systems within schools and engaging the whole community.

The Latest



The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

All the evidence points to the fact that when tackling health problems - you need to do them all. Just providing clean water, or malaria nets, or deworming tablets can help, but it can also exacerbate the other problems. You need to do a comprehensive intervention. The FRESH framework from the UN and WHO makes this very clear, but it’s also expensive and complicated. We wanted to prove that it can be done, and that it works.

With our partners in Kenya we ran a pilot in two schools, to 2,000 children, over three years. We tackled malaria, malnutrition, worms, diarrhoea and waterborne diseases. By tackling them all together we showed the impact can be huge. We’re building on that evidence now.

A few facts from the evidence linked to below:

  • In western Kenya, 16% of primary children are underweight, 17.1% experience wasting, 18.3% are stunted and 20% are anaemic (Freidman 2005). Iron deficiency results in brain abnormalities and impaired cognition (Jukes 2008).
  • Soil-transmitted helminth and schistosome rates are high in western Kenya and treatment improves attendance by 25% (Miguel 2004).
  • Malaria causes 4-10 million days of school absenteeism a year in Africa (Brooker 2000). A study of 30 primary schools in western Kenya found that IPT of malaria improves health and cognitive ability (Clarke 2008).
Attendance rates
up 15%
with HealthStart
down to 0.8%
with HealthStart

Where we work

Currently HealthStart is working in Western Kenya. We are applying for funding to scale the programme in other areas of Kenya and Sierra Leone.


One simple intervention (water/malaria nets/deworming tablets) doesn’t work - or if it does, it doesn’t last. We are determined to change the way health and education intertwine for good.

HealthStart works with schools, local government and the community to put in place a system that will have a sustainable impact on every pupil.

Systems strengthening

We work with each school to ensure they are embedding health services and teaching health skills. It’s the school that will deliver the services in the long term - so we need to work with them.

Community involvement

We set up health clubs within the schools for both children but also parents and other members of the community. Communities hold the school to account.

Health services

We help the schools ensure they get the malaria nets and deworming tablets they’ve been promised by the government. We work with each school to see what other services they need - nutritional supplements, clean water, sanitation and help find ways to deliver those sustainably.


It is essential we know what works and what doesn’t. We teach the schools to capture and share their results so that we can continue to learn and monitor which schools need further support.

How you can help

"These results are encouraging and demonstrate that complex schools health programmes can lead to positive gains in health, nutrition and importantly academic performance.

"There is a need for further evaluation of comprehensive school health interventions in poor communities."

- Archives of Disease in Childhood on HealthStart.


A monthly donation is the best way to help us fund HealthStart. We won’t tell you that your monthly donation of £100 saves 100 children. It’s not as simple as that. Read why we need core.

If you want to help us spread HealthStart and get rid of the barriers stopping children from getting an education, take a look at our Do something page and take your first step.