Healthy Start and Coalition celebrate 30 years

The Healthy Start program and Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition are celebrating a special milestone: 30 years!

In 1991, faced with an alarmingly high infant mortality rate, then-Governor Lawton Chiles and First Lady Rhea Chiles convened a group of community leaders and challenged them to build local coalitions to improve birth outcomes. The result was the landmark Healthy Start program. Chiles signed Healthy Start into law on June 4, 1991, and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition officially incorporated on November 18, 1991 to place control in the hands of the community, build systems of care and coordinate a diverse array of services on behalf of the highest-risk moms and babies.

Since the inception of the Coalition, more babies are now living to reach their first birthday. But while we have made significant strides in birth outcomes, there is still work to do until EVERY baby has a healthy start in life.

Meet one of our VERY FIRST Healthy Start babies, who is all grown up now, and find out how the program made a difference for her mother Cheryl!

About the Coalition

The Coalition is one of 32 that make up the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, an umbrella organization that develops and supports local systems of care to optimize the health of moms, babies and families. Together, the coalitions unite to have a collective impact toward better outcomes for Florida’s families.

The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition has served more than 200,000 families in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties since its formation – through Healthy Start and a myriad of programs and initiatives developed based on the diverse needs of the community.

The Coalition carries out its mission by:
• Assessing maternal and child health status and available services to pinpoint needs and gaps;
• Planning and implementing a comprehensive, quality system of Healthy Start services, including universal risk screening for pregnant women and newborns; prenatal and infant care; and care coordination and related services for at-risk women and infants;
• Increasing community awareness of maternal and child health issues; and
• Directing state and other resources to programs and services that address specific community needs.

The organization’s commitment to collaboration and to addressing infant mortality within a broader community context provides the foundation for its planning and program development efforts. The Coalition’s work centers on three key areas: saving babies, strengthening families and building communities.

About Healthy Start

Healthy Start program provides education, support and proven interventions to expecting and new families who are at-risk of a poor birth outcome or delay in development. The program focuses on common issues or conditions that occur during pregnancy or in infancy. Screening, offered by prenatal care providers and hospitals, helps to identify families that could benefit from the program.

Healthy Start services are free, voluntary and tailored to a woman based on her needs. Services include parenting and breastfeeding education, emotional support, smoking cessation and more.

Locally, Healthy Start services are provided through subcontracts with Children’s Home Society (Duval and St. Johns residents), the Florida Department of Health Baker County (Baker and Clay residents), Florida Department of Healthy Duval County, Florida Department of Health Nassau County, Inspire to Rise (Duval residents) and UF Health Jacksonville (Duval residents).