By: Kathy Myer, RN, MSN
Since the creation of Florida’s 32 statewide Healthy Start Coalitions in 1991, our state’s infant mortality has dropped by 35 percent due in part to the program’s comprehensive approach to prenatal and infant care and education.
But now, Healthy Start funding is in jeopardy due to proposed budget cuts. The potential impact on our community would be significant, threatening at-risk families’ access to Healthy Start services such as education and support for families including infant care and safe sleep, pregnancy care and preparing for baby’s arrival, Screening and referrals for perinatal depression, substance abuse, child development, and much more.
In 2016-17, Healthy Start Brevard…
- Provided services to more than 5,000 at-risk moms and babies; services are provided through various community partnerships such as Children’s Home Society-Brevard and the Florida Department of Health-Brevard.
- Offered education to 90+ medical professionals and paraprofessionals on substance abuse. In addition, 23 educational sessions were conducted at OB offices, clinics and hospitals on Healthy Start.
- Delivered community engagement activities to women in Brevard.
– For example activities included: health fairs from Mims to Palm Bay, baby showers, community forums
- Performed over 250 outreach visits to educate on birth outcomes; distributing over 22,000 pieces of information on birth outcomes.
- Additionally, the Brevard Coalition participates in the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review, a program that works to reduce infant mortality by gathering data that helps understand fetal and infant deaths in the community. With this information, we can identify gaps in services and work toward improving infant mortality locally and around the state.
- Based on data from 2014-16 for Brevard: 1,271 babies were born low birth weight (below 2500 grams); 91 babies died before their first birthday; of those deaths, 14 were SUIDS (sudden unexpected infant death). Each one of those statistics are centennial indicators of the health of our community; therefore it is imperative to fully fund Healthy Start so they can continue to address these issues.
Healthy Start has had many success stories, but here is a quick example of one: … Upon finding out I was pregnant, I returned to Brevard to be near my family. I had absolutely no idea what resources were available to single moms. I filled out a HS form and received a phone call a few days later. After our first meeting, I felt so relieved. I had information about safe sleep, child development, a free pack n play, low cost car seats, and parenting classes where I could earn items for my baby. Every meeting after that was like a nice visit from a friend. I have had a wonderful experience with everyone at Healthy Start. They have also monitored my daughter’s development and made sure I was informed about my prenatal care. Thank you Healthy Start for helping me to become the best mother I can be…
Healthy Start is a cost-effective model that contributes to Florida’s better birth outcomes. Every dollar that the Florida Legislature invests in supporting Healthy Start has an incredible return on investment in costs saved from preventing death among infants and mothers by bridging the gap to prenatal care and education.
For additional information please visit www.healthystartbrevard.com
Kathy Myer, RN, MSN
Healthy Start Board Chairperson