Special Announcement: Healthy Start receives grant funding to combat racial disparities in breastfeeding

Rose-WebPosted February 26, 2016

While Sarasota County has a rising overall breastfeeding rate and multiple organizations offering affordable support, there are many gaps that need addressed, particularly racial disparities in breastfeeding. Thanks to a grant from NACCHO (National Association of County and City Health Officials) and a partnership with Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, we now have an opportunity to address these concerns.

Drop-in clinics and breastfeeding clubs will be held in currently underserved areas of our community. Located in the Sarasota Health Department, Newtown area, and North Port, these free support groups will be staffed by peer counselors, newly trained breastfeeding staff, and seasoned breastfeeding professionals for immediate help and support, as well as rapid referral. Training will be offered to provide the most up-to-date evidence-based education available for local professionals and family support workers.

Due to the increasing disparity in breastfeeding rates, an innovative, culturally relevant peer support program for African-American women will be implemented with continued support through Raising Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE). (If you are an African-American woman who is passionate about breastfeeding, click here to learn more about the ROSE Community Transformer Training!)

In addition, there will be ample opportunities to share best practices through a community workshop and sharing panel and bi-monthly meetings in our successful and well-established local breastfeeding taskforce, the Breastfeeding Advocates of Sarasota County. This cooperative effort will result in a cohesive, knowledgeable breastfeeding support available to the entire community, including areas that are at-risk and underserved.

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January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

PACTBirth defects are common, costly, and critical. Every 4½ minutes, a baby is born with a major birth defect in the United States. Become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month by joining the nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.

We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. However, we encourage all women to make healthy choices and adopt healthy habits to help lower their risk of having a baby born with a birth defect. This year we are encouraging all women to make a PACT for their own health and the family they may have one day.

Plan ahead

  • Get as healthy as you can before you get pregnant.
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Avoid harmful substances

  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
  • Be careful with harmful exposures at work and home.

Choose a healthy lifestyle

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, and healthy fats and oils.
  • Be physically active.
  • Work to get medical conditions like diabetes under control.

Talk to your healthcare provider

  • Get a medical checkup.
  • Discuss all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
  • Talk about your family medical history.

Women and their loved ones can participate in a PACT and take these important steps toward a healthy pregnancy. Share your own tips for healthy pregnancy using #LivingMyPACT on social media.

The National Birth Defects Prevention Network, in collaboration with many state and local organizations, are working together to raise awareness of birth defects and encourage women to make a PACT for prevention. Learn more about the effect you can have on birth defects at www.nbdpn.org/bdpm2016.php.

For more information on getting healthy before or between pregnancies, visit our Show Your Love page.

[From: National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN)]

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Press Release: Sarasota County Recognizes Infant Safe Sleep Month

For Immediate Release: October 9th, 2015

Sarasota County Recognizes Infant Safe Sleep Month

Safe Sleep Sarasota initiative aims to reduce child deaths due to unsafe sleep

Sarasota, FL – Unsafe sleep is the leading cause of death for children under the age of one in Florida. In 2014 over 130 Florida infants died as a result of unsafe sleep practices, including four in Sarasota County. In response to these deaths, The Safe Sleep Sarasota initiative, a collaboration of 13 different agencies, was created to address this issue and prevent future infant fatalities.

On Sept. 22, the Sarasota County Commission proclaimed October “Infant Safe Sleep Month,” in recognition of this problem and the collaborative effort local organizations have made to address it. Collaborative organizations include: The Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, Children First, Early Learning Coalition, Family Safety Alliance, Healthy Families / The Florida Center, Safe Children Coalition, The Sarasota Y, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Safe Kids, and the Child Protection Center.

Since the launch of the Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative in 2014, Sarasota County has reported only one fatality due to unsafe sleep conditions, a major decline from previous years.

“It is absolutely heart-wrenching to learn of each young, precious life lost to this tragically preventable cause,” says Shon Ewens, Executive Director for the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County. “We started seeing an increase in unsafe sleep and SUIDS [Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome] related deaths and knew we just had to do something about it.”

The initiative has three components: providing education to childcare sites, providing education to parents and the community at-large, and providing safe sleep kits to families in need. Since its relaunch, 53 child care sites have been trained in Safe Sleep practices. Each site then provided training for their staff and education for parents. Another 65 professionals (Child Protection Investigators, case workers, etc.) received training so they can provide up-to-date evidence-based education for their clients. More professional trainings are underway this month.

Additionally, the initiative has provided 75 safe sleep kits, including education on proper use, to 70 families who would otherwise not have a safe, designated place for their baby to sleep. Each safe sleep kit contains a
pack n’ play, crib sheet with a safe sleep message, Halo sleep sack, two pacifiers, and information about how to create a safe sleep environment for their infants. Funding for Safe Sleep Kits was provided by the Ruth DeLynn Emerging Needs Fund at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, as well as through private donations.

The newest strategy has been the addition of a Hospital Pledge for new moms who attend Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s discharge class. This includes a thorough Safe Sleep component. Families who sign the pledge will receive a certificate and educational materials.

The Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative was launched at a press conference on October 30, 2014 with Florida Surgeon General, Dr. John Armstrong, and Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, Mike Carroll, in attendance.

This program, including the safe sleep kits and education, is funded entirely by grants and donations. If you would like to learn more about the Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative, get involved, or make a donation, visit: http://healthystartsarasota.org/safe-sleep-sarasota-initiative/

# # #

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Ciera Coleman at 941-373-7070 ext. 303 or email at Ciera.coleman@healthystartsarasota.org.

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Client Success Story – Melanie


Melanie with Amani Rose

“2001, I was sitting a at a stop light. All of a sudden, I heard screeching tires and looked in my rear view mirror just in time to brace my hands on the steering wheel for impact. A 19 year old kid playing with his radio rear ended me doing 35 mph. Ouch. I did the normal routine of getting an x-ray, MRI, exam, etc. At the time I was working on Siesta Key at a great little resort, my high school sweetie/hubby and I owned our home, and we had a beautiful little girl named Alexis, who was 4 at the time. My husband was the finance director at dealership, and we loved going on cruises! (As a matter of fact we got married on a cruise ship!!)

Life was good. Pain was bad. We both went to the “pain management” doctor to see what we could do to “manage” our pain… [My husband] was prescribed pills right from the start. I chose to do the massage therapy, acupuncture and cortisone shots instead. After about a year, when my methods stopped being quite as effective, I asked him for one of his pills. I remember the day clearly. I was a wedding coordinator at the resort and had a HUGE wedding coming up that weekend, and still had TONS of “to-do’s” that were yet to be checked off. Not even thinking twice, I broke the pill in half, took half that morning and away I went. (Who has time to be in pain when you have a Bridezilla and her Mother to deal with right?!)

By noon I felt like Superwoman. No pain, no numb leg, no worries! By 5:00 I was starting to hurt, then I remembered I had the other half of the pill in my pocket! I was able to finish my day with NO pain, TONS of energy, picked my daughter up from my Mom’s house, went grocery shopping, cooked dinner and by 9pm I still felt great! All from ONE little pill…

This went on for months, and eventually I was able to get my own prescription for the same medications. I felt invincible. I could do it ALL and not feel the pain caused from that accident. Time went on. My husband went from Finance Director and changed fields to become a Realtor. Landed his first job selling million dollar homes. More vacations, more nice things, bigger house, nicer cars, boats, we had it all. In our eyes, we were living “The Dream”…What we didn’t realize, or maybe we weren’t ready to admit, is that our dependency on these pills had now become an addiction. Tolerance levels went up. [We] had to have more. So we went to another doctor to get more. Simple, right? Yes. But also very illegal.

Fast forward to 2008, I got pregnant with my now 6 year old son, Anthony. Still addicted to opiates. My beautiful little boy was born addicted as well. Of course, DCF stepped in and took him from me. I was so far gone in my addiction that I didn’t even WANT help. I felt like a piece of trash, that baby boy deserved better. And I couldn’t give him the life he deserved because of my addiction. Oh, did I mention my daughter was placed with my mother about a year prior to my son being born BECAUSE of my addiction? I couldn’t even stay clean long enough to complete my case plan. I had given up on life, I had no hope. Plenty of money, but NO HOPE. I had stopped going to church, my faith was at an all time low, right along with my self esteem. I didn’t have my kids, So what was the point of trying to get clean???

Then it happened…..July 29, 2010…I woke up to the sun shining in my bedroom window, wiggled myself out of my hubby’s arms (he loved to snuggle!) got up to get a drink and when I walked back into my bedroom and looked at my husband, he was dead. Gone. I felt light headed and woozy. I think I screamed for his cousin (who lived with us at the time) and I don’t remember much else that day other than me begging the coroner to let him stay with me… I started bargaining with God, if he would just let Mark breathe I PROMISED to not touch another pill ever again, I had already lost my 2 babies, but now I lost the man I had been with for the last 22 YEARS of my life, my soulmate, my BEST FRIEND, my rock. Gone in a flash.

So tragedies like this would normally make someone open their eyes and see the light, right? Nope. Now I REALLY had nothing to live for. I tried to overdose many times after that horrific day. Every time I would write a goodbye letter to my kids, my family and then when I would wake up ALIVE the next morning I couldn’t believe it. GODS GOT JOKES!!!! I was supposed to die too..But I didn’t. I went to rehab after getting caught for doctor shopping. The Judge had mercy on me, since I had never been in ANY trouble before, he sentenced me to The Salvation Army rehab and 2 years probation. [I] completed rehab successfully, and the tools I learned there changed me for the better. But with only ONE MONTH left of probation, I violated by taking prescription pain pills for a dental issue. So I was sentenced to Drug Court. Fast forward to me getting pregnant while in drug court…

PREGNANT?? ME??? No, you must be mistaken. I’m almost 40 years old…That’s when I realized my purpose. It was there all along. My children. And now this blessing from God above (whom we call Amani Rose!)… Of course, because of my past with opiate addiction, DCF was alerted that I was pregnant. This time, I held my head high and proud, and GLADLY peed in that cup for them (which I had to do EVERY DAY for my ENTIRE pregnancy while in drug court anyway)… Because of the open DCF case, Healthy Start contacted me to see “how they could be of help” to me while I was pregnant.
Ohhhhh no…Everyone “knows” Healthy Start works hand in hand with DCF! I wanted nothing to do with them at first. Then I met Shavon. She explained her role in my pregnancy, how she could actually HELP me and my little family, and assured me that she had my and my unborn child’s best interests at heart. I was still leery….I prayed about it. I asked God to guide me in the right direction. The very next day I signed up as a client of Healthy Start! I had nothing to hide, and nothing to lose!! What harm could it do??? I did my research, I talked to other Moms who were also clients. I had such a GOOD feeling in my heart about Healthy Start. . Don’t forget, I was about 7 months pregnant at this point, living at my Dad’s house, with NO AC in August, no car, no job and nowhere to bring our baby home to!! Before I knew it, Shavon was helping me and my partner with getting funds to move into our own little place!!
It was EXACTLY the help we needed to get the ball rolling in a positive direction….We moved in, and 2 weeks later our beautiful 14lb 2oz baby girl was born!! Thanks to Healthy Start we had a HOME, a SAFE PLACE to bring our baby to!! It took a few weeks to get on our feet, but we were offered SO MANY incredible services through Healthy Start!! We were able to buy a minivan a few months after our daughter was born…Of course, our case with DCF was closed successfully and our family continues to thrive. EVERY chance I get, I explain Healthy Start’s mission, I explain what they have to offer, I try to educate every pregnant woman I know on ways Healthy Start can help her and her unborn baby! Even AFTER Amani was born, and came home (with a Mic-Key button due to not wanting to eat orally) Shavon came over to see if I needed breastfeeding assistance, or formula, or referrals to other agency’s for furniture and clothes…The list is endless. My gratitude is NEVER GOING TO END! I love Healthy Start and EVERYTHING it represents!!
Most recently I was able to explain to a very scared young pregnant woman who is battling addiction that HS can HELP her AND her unborn son. I gave her the number, I even drove her down to the office to meet with her counselor. I want every woman, every family to know EXACTLY what Healthy Start is and how wonderful they are!!!!
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Alcohol-and pregnancy: No safe amount; No safe time; No safe alcohol. Period.

Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. This September marks the first annual FASD Awareness Month.

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term used to cover the various effects that can occur when babies are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. This includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), the most well-known and serious result.

FASD effects can include behavioral, mental or learning disabilities, and birth defects, including facial deformities.

Any alcohol – regardless of the type, amount, or frequency – can lead to FASD.

Did you know?

  • FASD affects 1 in 100 infants born each year – more than autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, and sudden infant death syndrome combined.
  • The US spends and estimated $5.4 billion each year treating FAS alone.
  • Each year, as many as 40,000 babies are born with FASD.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are not curable, but they are 100% preventable. Choose not to drink if you are pregnant, or suspect you are. Alcohol causes the most serious long-term effects of all substances misused or abused during pregnancy.


  • No amount of alcohol has been proven “safe” for your baby.
  • There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.
  • If you are drinking alcohol, take proper steps to prevent pregnancy.

Did you use alcohol or drugs during pregnancy?

You are not alone. Join the Circle of Hope/Birth Mother’s Network (COH/BMN), a network of women who used alcohol or drugs during pregnancy and may have a child with FASD.  The women of the Circle of Hope support one another in recovery and through the challenges of parenting a child with FASD.

For more information about the Circle of Hope, visit: http://www.nofas.org/circleofhope/.

For more information about FASD and alcohol use during pregnancy go to: www.nofas.org.

If you are pregnant and using alcohol, contact the Healthy Start Program today for free, confidential support! 941-861-2905

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Client Success Story: Meagan McMullem

Posted August 31, 2015

“An unplanned pregnancy is a challenge in it self. When you add to that raising two older children (one of which was diagnosed with autism) and a lack of a true support system, you panic! I was embarrassed that I had found myself in this position. However, I was willing to embrace the challenge and come out stronger.

This pregnancy was met with many obstacles including the emotional death of my Dad to pancreatic cancer. For awhile I lost focus of the bright side. I was already struggling. How was I going to make this happen? How was I going to hold it all together? Am I making the right choice or being selfish?

Luckily, for me, I had [my Healthy Start Care Coordinator] Jennifer! Jennifer could walk into my home visits and completely turn things around. She had an uncanny ability to get me back on track. Slowly mounds of pressure were relieved. Somehow every time she would give me a lead they worked out, which is not common for me.

I was also connected with [Healthy Start Counselor] Chip. An amazing man who could bring me down a few levels. He talked me thru the night my Dad passed and allowed for frequent “check ins”. I found a breast feeding class in which I earned a pack and play. There were also countless social service organizations that I was able to establish assistance with.

Let me not forget, the use of a maternity photo on the front cover of Healthy Start brochures which are recognized around the area. Rather than boast about it sighting these brochures reminds me that I represent the good that comes from Healthy Start. My struggle, my hour of need, is used to bring hope to other mothers who feel overwhelmed during pregnancy. Those who chose to hold themselves accountable but just need the opportunity for a support system to shine it’s light. I see the brochures and I am humbled. My struggle is real but how I proceed to handle it is being observed. I’m a role model for those who too seek out the support of healthy start.

I’m reminded of a quote from my Dad which I have taken as his greatest lesson, “The way to find success is to give up yourself and give to others. . . . Go out of your way to benefit your fellow man, and the return is phenomenal.”. I live every day with this concept close to my heart!” – Meagan McMullem

Meagan was photographed by local Photographer, Peter Acker, and featured in the Healthy Start Coalition’s new “Guide to Programs” brochure.

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Client Success Story: Tiffany – Smoke free and giving her baby a Healthy Start!

Tiffany2015Posted August 24, 2015

“Life is difficult”. This quote from psychologist M. Scott Peck might sound like a huge understatement to a young woman struggling through her teen years but it was true for 25 year old Tiffany. Pregnant at 18 years old, and needing but not getting adequate guidance at home, she was seeking comfort where she could find it.
“I started smoking around age 15,” she says. At that age most young smokers see only the illusion of a cigarette’s lure. Never do they really confront the reality that, among other truths, cigarette smoking is the #1 preventable cause of death in our country. “I tried to quit but it never worked! I’d start up again in a couple of days.” Then came her entrance into using drugs.
In February of 2015 she came to the Mothers and Infants program at First Step of Sarasota County. Pregnant again, and smoking, she would need to learn more about the hazards of smoking and learn some new and powerful techniques to manage cravings and emotional triggers if she was to truly conquer her addictions.
Chip Schaaff is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who is in his 20th year of working with the Healthy Start Program of Sarasota County. In the past, he provided mental health counseling as well as smoking cessation to Healthy Start clients. As a result of financial cut-backs at the state level, however, he no longer can provide the counseling so many of his Healthy Start mothers need, but he does continue smoking cessation and relapse prevention to pregnant women and new mothers.
“Tiffany was a good example of a woman who wanted to do the right thing for her baby but didn’t know how,” he said. “The first step is always to provide education about the harmful effects of smoking to all parts of the body and especially to fetal development.” But knowing the facts is not usually enough to change behavior; how to manage the physical triggers such as stress or cravings also needs to be learned.

Tiffany began to accept new information that was presented and to use new techniques to manage her emotions and her thinking. She learned deep breathing – sometimes called the “relaxation response” – and additional ways to focus her mind with mindful meditation. Tiffany shared, “I honestly used the meditating technique I learned in [Chip’s] class during my C-section. I was there alone because I went into labor early so I went to a calm state where I have honestly never been more relaxed. I almost fell asleep and then I heard my baby cry!”
Now, Tiffany has been smoke-free for 4 months and she is successfully breastfeeding her 1 month old daughter. Fear of what smoking could have done and where her life might have gone is replaced by something new and wonderful: confidence in herself and hope for her future.

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Thanks for the Mammaries!

This post is part of our 2nd Annual Breastfeeding Blog Hop! Please visit the other participating blogs for more perspectives on breastfeeding. Links are provided at the bottom of our post.


Every August we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week (1st-7th of August). We have a lot of fun, free activities throughout Sarasota County: Latch-On Sarasota, our Door Decorating Contest, breastfeeding displays, bake-offs, photo shoots, gatherings, and more.


What I love about this month is all the positivity and encouragement, the impactful stories that come from the moms we’ve helped. Sometimes we get so focused on how far we need to go, we forget how far we’ve come.

We’ve seen a lot of changes in breastfeeding over the last 11 years in Sarasota County.  According to Florida Charts in 2004 only 67% of moms breastfed at all. Compare that to a decade later (latest stats are for 2014) where we sit at 86.7%. That’s a HUGE change in a decade.



It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. There were highs and lows. While Sarasota County has remained ahead of the state average, we experienced a significant decline in 2010. Breastfeeding initiation plummeted from a recorded high of 85% to just under 82%. The recovery was gradual but we did it, although it took four years to make it back over that hump.



We’ve also seen our businesses change the way they support their employees. In 2008, only 11% of employed moms said they were allowed to breastfeed or pump at work. With the adoption of a federal workplace breastfeeding law in 2010, that number rocketed to 50% by 2011, and finally to 62% by 2014.


How was all of this accomplished?


In October of 2009 the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County saw the need for action and rebirthed the Breastfeeding Advocates of Sarasota County (BASC). This taskforce includes organizations and individuals throughout our county – anyone and everyone who had anything to do with pregnant women and breastfeeding are welcome.

We’ve faithfully met every other month since – with an extra meeting thrown in for National Breastfeeding Month planning. Members (past and current) include: the Healthy Start Coalition, Healthy Start Program, Save My Life Program, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Florida  Department of Health, Birthways Family Birthing Center, Rosemary Birthing Home, La Leche League, Lactation Love, Suncoast Lactation, private lactation providers, private citizens, students, pediatricians, area childcare providers, and other businesses. Whew!

Our goal – to provide seamless support for breastfeeding moms from birth until weaning and to normalize breastfeeding in our community. We celebrate our achievements and work together to find solutions to our community’s problems.


Each and every year we’ve proven that Sarasota County has what works: a team, a community that encourages others, and that works together to make sure our most vulnerable citizens have a healthy start. We have a long way to go, but with a dedicated group continually striving to overcome obstacles we’ve got a great foundation.



Interested in joining this fabulous taskforce? Visit us at our website, Facbeook page, or contact Jamee.thumm@healthystartsarasota.org.



A blog hop is a series of connected blogs all discussing the same topic, in this case breastfeeding in celebration of National Breastfeeding Month. Below our blog post you’ll see links to other participating blogs (not affiliated with the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County). Click the links and see what others have to say.

*The ideas and comments expressed are those of the writers, not necessarily the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County’s.

Do Your Best Sanctuary [DYBS]

Butterfly Birth

Castles & Fairy Tales

In Patti’s Imagination

Maiden to Mother

J. Nichole Parkins


References: http://www.floridacharts.com/charts/default.aspx; Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County Breastfeeding Survey 2008, 2011, 2014; http://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/.

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3 Simple Things You Can Do To Keep Your Child Safe in the Heat

Published July 17, 2015:

As temperatures soar so does the risk of heatstroke. Infants and children are especially at risk, as their body temperature can increase 3-5 times as fast as an adult. In as little as 10 minutes a car’s interior can heat up to deadly levels – even with the windows cracked 2 inches.

Every 8 days, on average, a child dies from heat stroke in a vehicle. What makes this especially tragic is that these deaths are preventable.

Remember to ACT to prevent heatstroke in cars:

AVOID In this hectic day and age we often find ourselves rushing from one activity to another. Make it a part of your everyday routine to take a second to double check your car. Account for all children in your care. Never leave a child alone in a vehicle – even if it’s a quick stop. Always keep your doors locked to prevent kids from getting in on their own.

CREATE REMINDERS: Find ways to remind yourself to make sure a child is never left behind in a vehicle. Place a purse or cellphone in the backseat. A stuffed animal in your view to help remind you that your child is in the carseat.

TAKE ACTION: Call 911 or your local emergency center if you see a child alone in a hot car. If the child appears to be in distress due to the heat, please get the child out of the vehicle quickly and cool them down.

Tragedies like these are completely preventable. We can all work together to keep kids safe from heatstroke. To learn more about preventing heatstroke in cars check out:

Resources: http://www.safekids.org/heatstroke; https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ecd/look_before_you_lock_tips_july_2014_english.pdf; http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ecd/interagency-projects/look-before-you-lock; http://www.safercar.gov/parents/InandAroundtheCar/heatstroke.htm;

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Can Healthy Start help you?

Tara Tomlinson PhotographyCongratulations on your pregnancy or new baby!

Healthy Start is here to provide professional, confidential services to help you and your baby, at no cost to you.

At your first prenatal visit, you will be given a Healthy Start screening form. Even if you are not referred to Healthy Start by your doctor, midwife, or birthing center, you and your baby may still be eligible for free classes and services.

If you live in Sarasota County and are pregnant or have a baby under 3 years old, you may be eligible for Healthy Start.

Some of the services available are:

  • Childbirth Education
  • Breastfeeding Education and Support
  • Parenting Education
  • Infant & Child CPR
  • Support for Quitting Smoking
  • Counseling / Therapy
  • Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga
  • Developmental Screenings
  • Referrals to Community Resources
  • And more!

Healthy-Start-Program-LogoCall us today to learn more!

  • Healthy Start Program: (941) 861-2905
  • Healthy Start Coalition: (941) 373-7070
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Press Release: The 21st Annual Sarasota Community Baby Shower


Healthy Start Coalition and Kiwanis Club of Sarasota sponsor

“The 21st Annual Community Baby Shower”

Free Event that Supports New Moms and Families this Saturday at the Boys and Girls Club

Sarasota – Saturday, May 16, 2015:

Calling all pregnant women, new moms, and their families! The 21st Annual Sarasota Community Baby Shower is this Saturday!

On Saturday, May 16th from 10:00 am – 12:00 p.m., The Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County is partnering with the Kiwanis Club of Sarasota to present the 21st Annual Sarasota Community Baby Shower. All local pregnant women and new families (with infants up to 1 year old) are invited to this fun and FREE event, held at the Lee Wetherington Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota, 3100 Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

This event is held annually to provide education, support, and gifts to pregnant women and new families. Exhibitors from more than 25 local health organizations will provide information and giveaways to attendees. Dozens of raffle and door prizes will be given away throughout the morning, including pack-and-plays, high-chairs, and strollers, donated by the Kiwanis Club of Sarasota. Guests will enjoy healthy snacks and refreshments sponsored by Whole Foods Market, and a Photo booth sponsored by MyDJ Entertainment.

“The Community Baby Shower is a great way for pregnant women and new families to find out about all of the great local support available to them” said event organizer, Ciera Coleman. “It’s truly a one-stop shop for local resources, organizations, and businesses that help pregnant women and new families in our community.”

Activities will be available for children, including face-painting by Erin Ernst, and a Kid’s Area sponsored by Children’s World of Sarasota. A “Diaper Derby” race will be held for crawling infants, with the winners receiving a generous supply of diapers donated by Whole Foods Market.

For quotes and more information, please contact Ciera Coleman, Event Organizer, at (941) 373-7070 ext. 303.

Contact: Ciera Coleman

Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County

Phone: (941) 373-7070 x 303

Email: Ciera.Coleman@healthystartsarasota.org

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Text4Baby launches a new FREE app!

Published February 20th, 2015


We are excited to announce that Text4baby has launched an app!

The Text4baby app makes it even easier for moms to get critical health and safety information to keep both themselves and their babies healthy. As a complementary tool to Text4baby text messages, the free app offers additional content and interactive features that enhance the overall Text4baby experience. Using their app, moms can look forward to:

  • A weekly planning list of medical, developmental and lifestyle calendar items.
  • Polls that allow participants to compare themselves to other moms on topics such as pregnancy symptoms, infant development and emotional experiences.
  • Appointment reminders that are set up through the application itself and received through the text message service.
  • Helpful health hotlines and community resources.

The free Text4baby app is available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores – download today!

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Client Success Story: Brittney and baby Breiel

HSVW-226“My name is Brittney and I am a mother of a healthy 8 month old baby girl, by the name of Breiel. I was the 3rd of 5 children, the last girl. This past February I gave birth to my daughter. I was 21 and scared and lost. I had no idea what I was going to do. I always was the one that said I was never going to have kids, but now I got a blessing. I would always hear about the great help and care that was provided from the “Save My Life” Program, but I never understood it until I became pregnant and decided to attend. I am so thankful that I did go and reach out for help. I had the best support through my whole 9 months. I learned so much that was important and I made sure I was using every piece of information I was given. I came to “Save My Life” to make sure I had a happy, healthy baby, and I do! I would like to say Thank you to every person involved in the Save My Life Program and let them know that is really is a life saver.”

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Is Healthy Start for you? Healthy Start Eligibility FAQs

Are you interested in Healthy Start but you don’t know if you are eligible?

We provide free, confidential, professional help and support for pregnant women and new families regardless of income or insurance status.

There are THREE ways to get into Healthy Start:

  1. Screening IniStock_000007096555XSmall

At your first appointment with your doctor or midwife, you will be offered the Healthy Start Prenatal Screen. It’s a quick and simple form with 16 questions. After your baby is born your hospital, birthing center, or midwife will offer you a similar screen the Healthy Start Infant Screen.

Your doctor or midwife will add up your score and let you know what it is. If your score is high (6 or over for prenatal, 4 or over for infant) you will be offered a referral to Healthy Start.

What does this mean?

It means that according to your answers you or your baby could benefit from FREE services that Healthy Start offers. All of our services are high quality and offered by trained professionals. Participation is voluntary, you can change your mind at any time.

  1. Referral

If you do not have a high score on your screen you may still be eligible for FREE, high quality services through Healthy Start. Your doctor, midwife, or other health professional, can refer you for confidential Healthy Start Services. Ask them if we can help you!

  1. Contacting Us

Even if you do not have a high score on the screen and are not eligible through your doctor or midwife, you can still contact us! We can answer your questions about Healthy Start or discuss your eligibility for services. Call us at 941-861-2905 to talk to someone who can confidentially discuss your needs.

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Job Posting: Contract and Quality Assurance Manager



Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County
1750 17th Street, Building A
Sarasota, FL 34234

Job Summary:

The Contract / Quality Assurance Manager of the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County procures and manages all contracts for Healthy Start Care Coordination, MomCare, FIMR, and Wraparound Service Contracts as well as Quality Assurance.  The position requires a detail-oriented individual with a Bachelor’s (required) or Master’s Degree (preferred) who has at least three years experience in:  Maternal-Child Health; Quality Assurance and Improvement; and Contract Management, Compliance and Budgeting.

This professional should be able to form strong professional relationships with sub-contracted service providers and have excellent

communication and organizational skills.  Proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel is required.

This position is a full-time exempt position includes Health Benefits. The Contract / QA Manager reports directly to the Executive Director.

Agency Description:

The Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, Inc., a non-profit, community-based coalition established in 1997, has a mission to improve the Health and well-being of pregnant women, Infants, and young children.

To Apply for This Position:

Send cover letter, resume, references, and salary requirements to shon.ewens@healthystartsarasota.org

“Our Mission is to Improve the Health and Well-being of
Pregnant Women, Infants, and Young Children.”

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Smoking and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can come with challenges.

Often that challenge is quitting smoking. But why is it so important to quit?

There are over 2,000 chemicals in every puff of a cigarette. Each puff you smoke exposes your unborn baby to these chemicals. The amount of oxygen and nutrients your baby receives is lowered, which can cause problems.

Smoking increases your risk of:

  • Having a baby born too soon or too small
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Having a baby with health, learning, or behavioral problems

Keep in mind.

It’s never too early to quit. Almost half of all pregnancies are not planned. Most pregnancies are not discovered until you are 6-12 weeks along, old enough for some organs to begin forming.

Second-hand smoke, the smoke exhaled by smokers and off the burning end of a cigarette, is dangerous to you and your unborn baby. Second-hand smoke contains 4,000 chemical, 60 of which are known to cause cancer. Exposure to second-hand smoke can cause health problems in you AND your unborn baby.

No amount of smoking is “safe”.

There is FREE help to quit. If you are pregnant and you need help quitting, contact Healthy Start at 941-861-2905 to get help.

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Do you smoke? Healthy Start can help you quit.

We all want our babies to be healthy. Smoking during pregnancy is not only bad for your health, but also bad for your baby’s health. Chemicals in cigarettes and e-cigarettes can cause babies to be born too soon, too small, or have other problems. Smoking around infants and young children is also unhealthy and can cause them to get sick more often, especially colds and breathing problems. Choosing not to smoke is one of the healthiest decisions you can make for you and your children.

Healthy Start offers FREE confidential and professional support to help you quit smoking! If your partner smokes or uses e-cigarettes, we can help him quit too. If you are pregnant or have young children and need help quitting, you are able to receive free services. It doesn’t matter what type of insurance you have – even if you have no insurance – you are still eligible for help. Please contact us at 941-861-2912 to sign up or get more information.

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SAS Sponsorship

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Breastfeeding in Sarasota

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding Week Blog Hop where we connect with blogs throughout our community all discussing one of our favorite topics: breastfeeding. At the bottom of our post you will find a variety of links for participating blogs, each covering a different aspect of breastfeeding.


Just in time for World Breastfeeding Week (August 1st – 7th), the Centers for Disease Control released the 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card. This annual report shows breastfeeding rates by state for various indicators including at specific points in time, number of support personnel, state child care regulations, supplementation, and more. While this report shows a general increase in rates throughout the US and Florida, rates for our state fall behind national averages for most areas. Locally the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, Inc. conducts a semi-annual Breastfeeding Survey. The results show that Sarasota County exceeds Florida and US rates for each indicator measured. Eighty-eight percent of Sarasota County moms are breastfeeding, while the rate for Florida is 77%, and the US is 79%.

Why is this? The answer is as complex as the question is simple. Breastfeeding is a community effort; moms and babies do not live in isolation. The community must support breastfeeding in order for breastfeeding rates to rise and Sarasota County does an outstanding job. From our birthing centers and hospital, to support groups and agencies, we have a variety of support available – most at no or little cost!

Another way is through the Breastfeeding Advocates of Sarasota County (BASC), an active taskforce of breastfeeding professionals, local healthcare providers, and community members. This group works to ensure that there are no gaps in the system of care that breastfeeding mothers receive and, if there are, they work to find solutions to these issues.

If would like more information on free breastfeeding support, BASC, or to find out what you can do to support breastfeeding in our community, please contact the Healthy Start Coalition at 941.373.7070 or email Jamee.thumm@healthystartsarasota.org.

The 2014 Breastfeeding Survey of Sarasota County will be available on our website once the report has been compiled. For more information on the CDC’s 2014 Breastfeeding Report please go to: http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2014breastfeedingreportcard.pdf


Please visit our partnering blogs for the World Breastfeeding Week Blog Hop!

Butterfly Birth www.butterflybirth.com

The Kelly Twins: From Pregnancy to Insanity http://thekelleytwins.blogspot.com/2014/07/world-breastfeeding-week-and-pump-gets.html

Knight Party of 4 http://knightpartyof4.tumblr.com/

Diary of a Lactation Failure http://diaryofalactationfailure.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-sweet-spot.html?m=1


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Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

World Breastfeeding Week 2014

World Breastfeeding Week 2014

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