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The German-wide network "Healthy Start Network" (Netzwerk Gesund ins Leben) is a constructive and continuous collaboration between all those with close contact to pregnant women and parents with infants or toddlers. The aim is to help create healthy family lives and support parents by providing them with uniform information on nutrition, physical activity and allergy prevention.

Papierfamilie in Hand

Why do we need a network?

The sooner the better: pregnancy and early childhood are decisive phases and strongly affect the health of mother and child – in the short, medium and long term! However, the birth of a child is often characterised by large uncertainties and by a flood of (partly contradictory) information. Young families need easy to understand information, which is close to their everyday life experiences and free from conflicts of interest.

That is why medical and scientific societies, professional organisations, and professionally oriented institutions are united in the German-wide network Healthy Start Network. A constructive and continuous cooperation between all actors with close contact to pregnant women and young families is indispensable in order to promote healthy lifestyles. The main aim of the network is to support pregnant women and young parents by providing uniform information on nutrition, physical activity and allergy prevention.

Our aims

  • Eltern küssen Baby
    Promotion of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and first three years of life (focus on healthy eating, physical activity and allergy prevention)
  • Uniform and easy-to-understand messages:
    Agreement on and dissemination of nationwide recommendations that are based on current scientific knowledge
  • Widespread competence:
    Establishing a nationwide communication network

The network publishes and regularly updates recommendations on nutrition and physical activity both in infants and young children and during pregnancy. The recommendations are based on the latest scientific knowledge. To disseminate them, the following activities are used: face-to-face trainings of health professionals, development and distribution of materials and resources such as leaflets, stickers, posters, apps, as well as extensive PR work.

What has the network achieved so far?

  • Recommendations: More than 70 % of the health professionals are aware of the recommendations. The level of consent with the recommendations is high (e.g. 73% with pregnancy recommendations in 2014)
  • Materials for parents: We reach more than 1.6 m parents per year with our materials (leaflets, stickers, apps) and via internet (data from 2016). More than 50% of the parents receive our media during individual contact with health professionals.
  • Training of health professionals: About 4,000 health professionals participated in our standardised one-day seminars. 65% rated the seminars as helpful for their everyday work, 58% considered the transferability into practice very likely. 7,700 attended workshops we gave at conferences and other events.

How are the network activities evaluated?

Process evaluation (focus: health professionals)

  • Recommendations (level of consent/agreement)
  • Training of professionals (participants' satisfaction, increase in knowledge)
  • Media (comprehensibility, usage/relevance for daily work, need for improvement)

Outcome evaluation (focus: pregnant women/young families)

  • Participation in scientific studies: What effect do network activities have on
    • increase in knowledge (short-term),
    • change of behaviour (medium-term),
    • and e.g. reduction of overweight/obesity (long-term)?

Healthy Start Network was established in 2009. It is part of the Federal Centre for Nutrition (Bundeszentrum für Ernährung, BZfE), under the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. It ist part of the National Action Plan IN FORM, Germany’s initiative to promote healthy diets and physical activity.

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Maria Flothkötter, Leitung Netzwerk Gesund ins Leben

Head of Healthy Start – Young Family Network

Maria Flothkötter

Phone +49 228 6845 5129


From Research to National Strategy Breastfeeding Promotion

Between 2017 and 2019, the project Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly systematically took stock of breastfeeding promotion in Germany. The project Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly was carried out at the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) by The Healthy Start – Young Family Network (Netzwerk Gesund ins Leben) at the Federal Centre for Nutrition (BZfE) and National Breastfeeding Committee at Max Rubner-Institut (MRI), in collaberation with Yale School of Public Health.

It analysed the strengths and weaknesses and revealed the need for a National Strategy for the Promotion of Breastfeeding, which is now under way.

Different aspects must be targeted to ensure the promotion of breastfeeding is a success. There are seven strategic fields:

  • evidence-based guidelines;
  • basic and advanced training and continued professional development;
  • prevention and healthcare structures; breastfeeding promotion by municipalities;
  • breastfeeding in the workplace;
  • the marketing of breast-milk substitutes;
  • and systematic breastfeeding monitoring.
  • Communication activities aimed at promoting breastfeeding are a cross-sectional task and have therefore been developed with reference to the recommendations from all seven strategic fields.

The National Strategy lays the foundation for a sustainable improvement of breastfeeding promotion in Germany. It sets out the vision of a breastfeeding-friendly country and presents possible ways to achieve this goal. To implement the Strategy, the Federal Government will rely on close cooperation with all actors that were actively involved in the participatory process. The Department of Child Nutrition at the Max Rubner-Institut will coordinate the implementation process of the National Strategy for the Promotion of Breastfeeding on behalf of the BMEL, while the Healthy Start – Young Family Network (Netzwerk Gesund ins Leben), located at the Federal Centre for Food and Nutrition (BZfE), will be in charge of the communication measures. The implementation will be flanked by an advisory body consisting of representatives from the political, administrative and scientific sectors as well as from associations and institutions.


Our international involvement European projects and initiatives

We are part of the European Public Health Nutrition Alliance (EPHNA).