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Searching out health needs and stimulating clients’ awareness of health needs are two key principles of health visiting practice However, there is little empirically based knowledge of how health visitors carry out these functions in their daily work The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse health visitors’ work in searching for health needs and promoting clients’ awareness and actions in response to professionally identified needs Forty-five health visitors were interviewed by means of semi-structured, conversational interviews Findings identified that searching for health needs occurred in four types of situations These were needs that were (a) client initiated, (b) easily seen, (c)‘opened up’ by the health visitor, and (d) suspected and hidden Several processes were involved in searching for needs and stimulating clients’ awareness and actions, including questioning, using illustrations from other client situations, normalizing, assigning homework, assessing and intervening while searching, and responding to cues Timing played an important part in when and how interventions to search out needs occurred This study contributes to our understanding of how health visitors work in the community to promote individual and family health