Vulnerable children in five areas of England are to benefit from a £215m lottery grant to tackle poor health and parental drug abuse and improve the long-term prospects of young people.
The Big Lottery Fund is to back projects in Lambeth, Southend, Nottingham, Blackpool and Bradford.
It said research showed a third of children in poorer areas were anaemic.
The funding will be used for initiatives to improve the life chances of 60,000 youngsters.
Announcing the cash grants, Dharmendra Kanani, the lottery fund's England director, said: "Parents want the best for their children and as a society we know that what happens in the first three years of life profoundly affects a child's future life chances.
"A poor start in life can affect your health, wellbeing, outlook on life and how you form relationships.
"Prevention matters more in the early years as we have a much greater understanding of what can and might improve the life chances of a future generation.
"That is why this investment is focusing on the three key areas of social and emotional development, nutrition, and language and communication development."
The lottery organisation said "a wealth of research" had shown 35% of toddlers from impoverished areas were anaemic and more than half of nursery-age children in disadvantaged areas had "a communication disorder".
It said that 10% of children entering school were obese and that for every £1 spent on early years education, £7 had to be spent to have the same impact in adolescence.
'What mothers want'
The projects will focus on local issues, such as in Bradford where efforts will be made to reduce midwives' workloads and combat high rates of infant mortality, domestic violence and child poverty.
Michaela Howells, of Bradford Trident, said a team of six midwives would be employed to work with 250 women in an area within the Bowling and Bakerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton wards.
She said: "We're looking to follow the principle of one-to-one midwife care - that's what the mothers want."
Money will also be invested in developing a "vulnerability checklist" to allow professionals to spot the signs of domestic violence and to employ more health visitors.
Bradford Trident has also secured a further £5m of funding from public sector partners.
In Nottingham the project will aim to tackle stress caused by family conflict, domestic abuse, parental substance abuse and parental health problems.
Nottingham CityCare Partnership said it planned to employ a team of "family mentors" and provide training to all staff and volunteers in contact with families.
Meanwhile, the scheme in Southend will try to transform maternity care and allow midwifery and health visiting services to be increased.
Elaine Hammans, commissioning and quality manager for early years at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said the funding would see the creation of "at least" 41 new, full-time positions and a £1m "centre of excellence, innovation and best practice".
She said: "It will be somewhere where parents and the community can come together with professionals and professionals can come together to plan, design and look at what works locally and what doesn't."
In Lambeth efforts will be made to increase breastfeeding rates and cut obesity among children and mothers, using a team of "community champions".
In Blackpool the funding will pay for projects across the wards of Claremont, Bloomfield, Talbot, Park, Brunswick, Victoria and Clifton.
Among the projects are plans for a centre for early child development and a proposal to create a "beach school" to give children the chance to learn and play on the town's beach.