Pregnant women to be given healthy food grant

Pregnant women are to be given a one-off payment of £120 to spend on wholesome food as a way of improving the health prospects of their unborn child, it has been revealed.

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Health Secretary Alan Johnson will announce the plan for a “Health in Pregnancy Grant” in a speech this week outlining plans to reduce health inequalities between the richest and poorest in England and Wales.

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The cash will be given to all mothers seven months into their pregnancy, accompanied by professional health advice on maintaining a balanced diet. Women will be encouraged to spend the money on fruit and vegetables.

But they are expected to be free to spend the cash as they see fit, even on unhealthy products like cigarettes and alcohol.

If every mother receives £120, The Observer estimated the initiative would cost £70-£80 million a year.

The Department of Health spokesman said: “It is something that would be put in place in conjunction with health professionals who already visit pregnant women with healthy diet advice.”

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “It is vital to improve public health but it can’t be done with one-off gimmicks. This proposal does not appear to result from evaluation of any pilot scheme.

“For the Government now to be talking about enhanced interventions with mothers in deprived areas is deeply hypocritical when the number of midwives hasn’t kept pace with the increase in births over the last five years.

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“A vital first step is to boost community midwife teams who can ensure that mothers get the right advice, screening and support from the first point at which they book in. Anything else must come after that.”

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