Dear Editor,

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, threating 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.

Chipola Healthy Start Coalition covers Calhoun, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington Counties. In each of these counties there are childbirth, Car seat safety, and Safe Sleep Classes offered through their local Healthy Start program.

Chipola Healthy Start has had a combined baby shower for all counties for the last 4 years. The event had grown to over 700 people, it became so big that each of the Healthy Start programs are now sponsoring their own baby shower for their area.

In the 16-17- year Chipola Healthy Start served 1,138 clients over our five county area with 26,627 services provided for the year, which averaged to be 23 services per client. The services provided were such as parenting, smoking cessation, childbirth, breastfeeding, etc. all which help reduce the infant mortality rate and improve birth outcomes.

Our local Coalition participates in the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review, a program that works to reduce infant mortality by gathering data that helps us understand fetal and infant deaths in our community.

With this information, we can identify gaps in services and work toward improving infant mortality locally and around the state.

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.

Chephus Granberry, Board Chair for Chipola Healthy Start

Marianna, Florida