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Let’s Get Behind Healthy Start Coalition’s “Save My Life” Program

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Dr. HillSafe motherhood is more than just two words. It is a goal for every provider who cares for women and children in Sarasota. It is a desire of every pregnant woman or would be pregnant woman as well. There are many proponents of safe motherhood, but Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County has a long history of providing the means to this end of safe motherhood. Through them, patients, midwives, obstetricians and others can look forward to and achieve safe motherhood.

Chronic stress affects the health of women of all races who are in their childbearing years or who are pregnant. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of adequate coping skills and the use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs all cause significant problems for any pregnant woman and prevent many from having a safe pregnancy. Chronic stress can also affect parenting through a lack of bonding, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and reduced attention to childhood needs for love, security and early education in that age.

I know and have seen that African-Americans are at a greater risk than whites for health problems resulting from chronic stress and its effects. In general, a disproportionate number of African-American infants suffer from health disparities. The fetal death rates are 2-4 times as high as whites. Prematurity rates are above one and half times as high. Low birth weights are almost twice as high and infant death rates are three times as high. All of these disproportionate numbers decrease the chances of safe motherhood and are the concern of Healthy Start. Early intervention to begin reversing this cycle must begin and does begin at Healthy Start prior to pregnancy and continues throughout and after pregnancy.

The Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County is a leader in providing specialized case management, education and counseling for pregnant women and infants who are at high risk for poor health and birth incomes. Its mission is to improve the health and well being of all of Sarasota’s pregnant women, infants and young children, and every day they are reaching out to the community to achieve that mission. They find ways to accomplish their goals whether they are raising enough money to improve the health of pregnant woman or that of their newborns. We are a far stronger community because of Healthy Start and what it does to help promote safe motherhood in this County.

The Healthy Start Coalition also has a special relevant program called Save My Children for African-American woman in Newtown since 2008. The Save My Life Program is designed to address racial disparity in birth outcomes. This program offers small group and individual classes on the importance of health during childbearing years and during pregnancy, stress reduction, childbirth education, breast feeding education, in-home support for breastfeeding and safe sleep practices for infants called Back to Back for a Safe Sleep.” Outreach efforts, education and classes are offered by the only African-American childbirth educator in Sarasota County, who is trusted and well known in the community. Funding for this vital program comes from donations and grants, both of which are currently threatened and set to expire in February of this year. After three and one half successful years, this program will end in the spring of 2012 without additional needed funding.

Beginning Jan. 15, an anonymous donor has offered a challenge grant of $10,000. If $5,000 is raised from the community before Feb. 15, the donor will match it with another $5,000. Through this effort, we can continue the needed work of Healthy Start Coalition at Sarasota County to help pregnant woman who lack transportation get to important prenatal care appointments. Lack of transportation prevents many women from attending prenatal check-ups. Unfortunately, this may increase the risk of miscarriage, complications, premature delivery, low birth weight and future development delays for the babies.

On Thursday, Jan. 26, from 6 to 9 p.m., Sarasota Architectural Salvage will host the third annual "An Evening for Healthy Start" fundraiser to benefit the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County and this counties mothers and babies. As a community, we can all do something about their funding on that day. This event will help make possible for the Healthy Start Coalition to continue to fulfill its missions. Let’s meet the challenge.

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