[Partner Release] Healthy Start Coalitions Celebrate 30 years of Healthy Babies, Moms

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 | 

Sharing the Gift of Lifesaving Infant CPR this Holiday Season!

Healthy Start Coalitions Celebrate 30 years of Healthy Babies, Moms

TALLAHASSEE, FL, December 8 – In recognition of life-saving and life-changing improvements to the health of at-risk moms and babies in Florida, Florida’s Healthy Start Program is commemorating its 30th birthday with a series of statewide events.

In Leon County, the Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition celebrated their successful impact on infant life expectancy and the health of mothers with a press conference, a 30th birthday celebration and a demonstration of life-saving Infant CPR by Leon County EMS (LCEMS) paramedics earlier today. 

Healthy Start is a critical part of the umbrella and safety net for the maternal and child health system of care in Florida. Championed by then-Governor Lawton Chiles and First Lady Rhea Chiles, Healthy Start was officially created by the Florida Legislature in 1991 to address the alarming rates of infant mortality and precariously low birth weights in Florida, and to remove systemic barriers to prenatal and early childhood health care. Today, Florida’s 32 Healthy Start Coalitions are successfully implementing systems of prenatal care in every community, as well as providing services for postpartum women, young children up to the age of three and their families.

In Leon County, the Healthy Start Coalition works to launch a lifetime of health through an integrated system of care. The process starts with a universal risk screening.  This assessment is used throughout Florida and plays a crucial role in identifying families in need at the earliest point possible – from the first prenatal appointment through the delivery of the baby.  

According to the Capital Area Healthy Start Executive Director Chris Szorcsik, “Healthy Start works to connect with all local moms-to-be. Through a simple screening process, we determine what risk factors may be present, and how we can help – it’s an easy and highly effective process. Our services are provided at no cost, and run the full range – from providing emotional support and wellness counseling to hands-on home visits and other types of direct care, including our Infant CPR Training, we want to serve as a true safety net. And for our moms and babies who need it, we provide support and help for up to three full years.”

“Healthy Start has been a critical partner in the County’s mission to support and educate expecting parents on life-saving CPR techniques,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor. "We are compelled to invest in infant CPR to prevent tragedies like SIDS. All children should be able to look forward to the promise of a bright future, and County safety programs and our partners help make that possible.” 

According to Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long, “The collaborative partnerships between the County and our local nonprofits, such as the Capital Area Healthy Start, demonstrate the significant results we can achieve when we work together. With County paramedics training hundreds of new parents in infant CPR, we are meeting a critical need of our community and ensuring the County remains a wonderful place to live, work and play.” 

In her remarks, Audrey Moore, Chair of the Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition, said, “We are proud to salute the vital role that Leon County plays in creating a quality of life where families can flourish. From libraries and parks to special events for residents of all ages, Leon County is committed to supporting families. We’re also deeply grateful for our Florida Legislature, including the 2021 passage of Medicaid enhancements for postpartum care – a true milestone in Florida’s history of caring for moms and babies”.

According to Leon County Emergency Medical Services Chief Chad Abrams, “Leon County and EMS have worked with local partners such as the Capital Area Healthy Start to create high-quality safety programs, including the Infant CPR Training program, to help lessen infant mortality rates. We are proud to say that since 2017, Leon County EMS has trained nearly 500 residents in the critical skillset of performing infant CPR.” 

Since Healthy Start was created, more than 6.6-million babies have been born in Florida. One measure of Healthy Start’s success has been a 32-percent reduction of infant mortality during the last three decades of service.  If the death rate today remained the same as it was in 1991, 638 more babies would have died last year. That is the equivalent of approximately 30 kindergarten classes.

Last year[1]

  • 136,778 pregnant women completed the universal risk screening, and 198,489 infants were screened out of 207,730 infants born.
  • More than 129,000 pregnant women, 84,000 babies and their families received a service from Healthy Start in any of our programs.

 

Last year, the outcomes for pregnant women who received Healthy Start home visiting services per the model design* include[2]:

 

●        90% of babies were born full term (Florida average 89.4%)

●        Infant mortality rate was 2.77 per 1,000 live births (Florida average 6.0)

●        100% were screened for depression

●        84% of mothers who smoked quit or reduced their use

●        87% kept their postpartum visit

 

As noted by Cathy Timuta, Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, “These statistics represent dramatic improvement in the health of moms and babies – a vitally important outcome, particularly when considering the resources that are need to care for moms and babies with health challenges.  From increased full-term births to decreased infant mortality, Healthy Start is truly changing lives for the better. These outcomes are even more impressive when you consider that the Healthy Start program is designed to identify mothers and infants who are already at a higher risk for poor outcomes than the general population.”

Jack Levine, founder of 4Generations Institute and recipient of the 2020 Chiles Advocacy Award, is a staunch Healthy Start ally. “Prevention is the best medicine, at every stage of life. Florida’s pioneering Healthy Start program is proof positive that quality care during pregnancy and the early years of life not only saves lives, but is the most cost effective investment for avoiding later costs. Emotionally and economically, Healthy Start is a Florida success story.”

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Capital Area Healthy Start

Pictured Left to Right: Chief Chad Abrams, Leon County EMS; Jack Levine, Founder of the 4Generations Institute and recipient of the 2020 Chiles Advocacy Award; Major Sally Davis, Leon County EMS; Deputy Chief Darryl Hall, Leon County EMS; Chris Szorcsik, Executive Director of the Capital City Area Healthy Start Coaltion; Audrey Moore, Healthy Start Board Member; Cathy Timuta, CEO of the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions

About Healthy Start Florida.

The Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions develops and supports local systems of care to optimize the health of moms, babies and families. The Association is made up of 32 individual coalitions from across the state. Each coalition uses data and research to design a service delivery plan unique to their community. Together, we unite to have a collective impact toward better outcomes for Florida’s families. The Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition serves expectant mothers through a variety of no-cost health, safety, and wellness programs and initiatives, beginning with a risk assessment to determine areas of need.

 

About Leon County EMS 

Launched in December 2003, Leon County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), a department of Leon County Government, has provided the highest quality emergency care available and continues to enhance this vital community service. Nationally accredited and recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, EMS provides clinically superior, cost-effective emergency medical services and transport to the citizens and visitors of Leon County. Stay up to date with all things EMS by liking or following EMS on Facebook

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Chris Szorcsik, Executive Director

Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition

Email: Chris@capitalareahealthystart.org

Phone: 850-488-0288 ext. 101 or 952-292=5355

 

Mathieu Cavell, Community and Media Relations 

Leon County Government 

Email: cmr@leoncountyfl.gov

Phone: 850-606-5300 

 

Major Sally Davis

Leon County EMS

Email: DavisSal@leoncountyfl.gov

Phone: 850-321-8282

 

Lisa Nason

Sachs Media Group

Email: lnason@sachsmedia.com

Phone: 407-902-7342

 

* Model design is defined as a pregnant woman who entered Healthy Start home visiting before 28 gestational weeks and had at least 6 home visits.


[1] Healthy Start Executive Summaries, SFY 2020-2021 FL DOH accessed 09-27-2021

[2] Healthy Start Outcomes Report Post Covid (vs pre-COVID), Well Family System by Karen Chang, March 1, 2020 – February 28, 2021