1st Five

Iowa's Healthy Mental Development Initiative

Building partnerships between physician practices and public service providers to better meet the developmental needs of all children during the first 5 years of life.

What is 1st Five?

Iowa's 1st Five Healthy Mental Development Initiative was designed to build partnerships between physician practices and public service providers to better meet the developmental needs of all children during the first 5 years of life. Medical providers are encouraged to use developmental screening tools during well child exams at ages identified by Bright Futures and the American Academy of Pediatrics. By using tools that screen for social-emotional, developmental, and family risk factors, providers are better able to identify children at risk for a variety of concerns. 1st Five then provides assistance to the child’s caregivers, helping them find resources to address the identified concerns.

How does 1st Five work?

When a parent takes a child to a medical provider for a well-child check-up, the provider will share information about child development, ask a series of questions about the child’s behavior, and have the parent fill out an age appropriate developmental screening tool called the Ages & Stages Questionnaire. If a concern is identified, the provider can make a referral to the 1st Five staff who will then contact the family and help them find resources that will address those concerns. 1st Five staff will follow up with the family to ensure that services are effectively meeting the needs of the child and family, and then close the loop by sharing this information with the referring provider. 1st Five services are free, voluntary, and confidential. When concerns are identified and addressed early in a child’s life, it creates an opportunity for the best possible outcome for both the child and the family.

Why 1st Five?

The foundations of healthy growth and development are set in the first five years of life. During these years, children develop a foundation of skills and abilities that they will use throughout their lives. These skills include intellectual, language, and motor abilities that prepare them to be intellectually inquisitive, self-confident, think critically, and be competent in using language. Critical social and emotional skills prepare children to understand others, manage their own behaviors and emotions, form relationships with other children and adults, communicate effectively and work cooperatively with others. These skills are necessary for success in school, in the workforce, and in all aspects of life. Without the use of developmental screening tools, only 30% of children with a developmental delay, and 20% of children with mental health issues are identified prior to school age. The use of developmental screening creates an opportunity for more children to have these needs addressed prior to kindergarten entry giving them a better chance to achieve their full potential.

The 1st Five years last a lifetime!

For more information on 1st Five


Developmental Screening

an easy, accurate way to assess a child's developmental skills.

Early detection and intervention for even a slight delay provides the best chance for the child to "catch up" in order to be ready for kindergarten when they reach school age.

Learn more about our Developmental Screening service ...