The Healthy Start Program - Improving the Lives of America's At-Risk Pregnant Women and Their Babies

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What if we told you there's a Federal government program that reaches thousands of America's most disadvantaged people, dramatically improves access to essential pre-natal health care, and, quite probably, saves taxpayers at least as much as it spends every year? You'd probably say "Tell me more!". The program is called Healthy Start and it's funded and administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Becoming pregnant introduced me to a supportive program called Healthy Start and, most importantly, to an amazing friend, Lori, the Healthy Start nurse. With this program, I became a mother with knowledge to help my babies grow healthy and strong.

    Healthy Start focuses on reaching at-risk pregnant women and providing access to pre-natal care, counseling, education, coaching, and encouragement. Research has repeatedly shown that these at-risk pregnancies often result in premature births, low birth weight infants, and numerous complications for both the mother and newborn. Healthy Start teaches "moms-to-be" about the importance of good nutrition, the need to eliminate cigarette and alcohol consumption, and other key lifestyle changes that dramatically improve the odds of a healthy infant at birth. The costs of health care alone for a significantly premature infant can exceed $1 million in the first few months of life. Low birth weight babies have substantially greater health problems as well as a greater risk of delayed learning. Reducing these and other consequences by changing the behaviors of the mother during their pregnancies can result in substantial cost savings, making Healthy Start a program that may, in fact, pay for itself.

Once a child is born, Healthy Start promotes breastfeeding as research has shown that it can significantly benefit both infant and mother. Breastfeeding provides nutritional advantages as well as bonding time for mother and child. Here again, the improved outcomes are physical as well and emotional for both mother and her infant.

The total annual budget for the Healthy Start program is just over $100 million, an amount about equal to what the federal government spends every 20 minutes of every hour of every day. The return on this investment in Healthy Start is nothing short of extraordinary. For example, the state of Maryland estimates it saves at least $7 million annually thanks to the results of Healthy Start.

There are nearly 100 Healthy Start program operating across the U.S., most serving lower income and/or minority populations including six that specifically address the needs of Native American and Native Hawaiian communities. These communities face some of the greatest challenges due to high levels of unemployment and poverty as well as geographic dispersion. Infant mortality rates among Native American and Native Hawaiian communities are two to three times higher than for White Americans.

Rick Haverkate, Director of Public Health for the Michigan Inter-Tribal Council, a consortium of Native American tribes in Michigan, said, "Healthy Start's community-based maternal and child health care model is succeeding where other programs have failed with Native populations. Healthy Start is uniquely positioned to address racial and ethnic disparities experienced by Native people, to support the development of innovative, holistic and culturally appropriate strategies to address risky behaviors, and to put Native people at the helm of educating the public - all of this from the grass-roots, community level. In addition, Healthy Start programs seek to combat racism, discrimination, and unequal treatment, and as such, are agents of social justice within health care arenas."

Mary Beth Badura, Director of the HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau, notes 'Healthy Start is a truly effective program that brings resources directly to the people who need them. The program reaches over 80,000 pregnant women each year in 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Many of the women we serve are young, alone, and scared. Their Healthy Start contact is a lifeline during a time of need. The ability of the program to reach so many at-risk pregnant women significantly improves the chances that these women can have healthy babies that get a great start on growing up healthy, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That good start gives these youngest Americans a much better chance to be lead successful and productive lives."

Traci Karaja is a participant in Healthy Start who lives in the Hannahville Indian Community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. "Becoming pregnant introduced me to a supportive program called Healthy Start and, most importantly, to an amazing friend, Lori, the Healthy Start nurse. With this program, I became a mother with knowledge to help my babies grow healthy and strong."

For more information on how Healthy Start is changing lives for the better in your community, a list of Healthy Start programs is provided below. Please contact the individuals listed or Peggy Sanchez Mills, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Healthy Start Association at (202) 296-2195.

Alabama

Birmingham - Birmingham Healthy Start - Rickey Green (205) 324-4133

Mobile - Mobile Teen Center - Kelly Warren (251) 694-5039

Arkansas

Mississippi County - Mississippi County Healthy Start Initiative - Maria Towery (870) 776-1054

Arizona

Phoenix - South Phoenix Healthy Start - Lisa Derrick (602) 304-1166

California

San Leandro - Alameda County Healthy Start - Dani Taylor - (510) 618-2080

Fresno - Babies First - Sandra Arakelian - (559) 445-2746

Compton - Shields for Families Healthy Start - Charlene Smith - (310) 668-9091 x106

Colorado

Aurora - The Healthy Start Project - Debbie Kunkel - (303) 695-1670 x111

Connecticut

New Haven - New Haven Healthy Start - (203) 777-2387 x219

District of Columbia

DC Healthy Start Wards 5&6 - Diane Davis - (202) 698-0772

Healthy Families healthy Start - Laura Charles-Horne - (202) 420-7104

Florida

Jacksonville - The Magnolia Project - Rhonda Brown - (904) 924-1570 x12

St. Petersburg - Pinellas Healthy Start - (727) 824-6900 x11249

Boynton Beach - Boynton Beach Healthy Start - Kim Bradley (561) 70-7000 x2216

Tallahassee - Gadsden Healthy Start - Maurine Jones - (850) 577-1421

Tampa - Central Hillsborough Healthy Start - Estrellita "Lo" Berry - (813) 974-0312

Georgia

Augusta - Augusta Partnership for Children , Inc. - Robettea McKenzie (706) 721-1040

Augusta - Enterprise Community Healthy Start Sandra Pittman (706) 721-8311

Atlanta - Atlanta Healthy Start - Jemea Smith (404) 688-9202 x19

Dublin - Heart of Georgia Healthy Start - Margaret Turner (478) 274-7616

Hawaii

Honolulu - Big Island Disparities Project - Althea Momi Kamau (808) 733-4044

Illinois

Chicago - Chicago Healthy Start - Jerry Wynn - (312) 793-4662

Chicago - Greater Englewood Healthy Start - April Watkins (312) 745-1309

Chicago - Healthy Start Southeast Chicago - George Smith - (708) 841-9515 x2234

Chicago - Westside Healthy Start - Marsha Herring - (773) 257-2425

Chicago Heights - Aunt Martha's Healthy Start - Alice Sartore - (708) 754-1044

East St Louis - East Saint Louis Healthy Start - Paula Brodie (618) 271-2503

Indiana

Indianapolis - Indianapolis Healthy Start - Yvonne Beasley - (317) 221-2312

Hammond - Northwest Indiana Healthy Start - Rise Ross Ratney - (219) 989-3939

Iowa

Des Moines - Des Moines Healthy Start Project - Darby Taylor - (515) 557-9012

Kansas

Wichita - Northeast Wichita Healthy Start Initiative - Susan Wilson - (316) 660-7386

Kentucky

Louisville - Louisville Metro Healthy Start - Ryan Irvine - (502) 574-5275

Williamsburg - Voices of Appalachia Healthy Start - Peggy Henderson - (606) 549-9296

Louisiana

Baton Rouge - Family Road Healthy Start - Charletta Montgomery - (225) 201-8888

Lafayette - Family Tree Healthy Start - Glynis DeRoche - (337) 295-7021

Monroe - Healthy Start ABCs - Gatha Green - (318) 330-7700

New Orleans - New Orleans Healthy Start - Pharissa Dixon - (504) 658-2809

Maryland

Baltimore - Baltimore City Healthy Start - Natasha Ramberg - (410) 396-7318

Massachusetts

Boston - Boston Healthy Start - Xandra Negron - (617) 534-7828

Worcester - Worcester Healthy Start - George Mike Portuphy - (508) 854-2124

Michigan

Detroit - Detroit Healthy Start - Carolynn Rowland - (313) 876-4902

Flint - Genesee County Healthy Start John McKellar - (810) 424-4352

Grand Rapids - Strong Beginnings - Peggy Vander Meulen - (616) 331-5838

Kalamazoo - Healthy Babies - Healthy Start in Kalamazoo - Carmen Sweezy (269) 373-5165

Saginaw - Great Beginnings Healthy Start - Dawn Shanafelt - (989) 758-3853

Sault Ste Marie - Maajtaag Mnobmaadzid - A Start of a Healthy Life - Rick Haverkate - (906) 632-6896 x134

Minnesota

Minneapolis - Twin Cities Healthy Start - Doriscile Everett O'Neal - (612) 673-2622

Mississippi

Greenville - Delat Health Partners Healthy Start - John Bierma - (662) 335-4300

Missouri

Kansas City - Kansas City Healthy Start - Jean Craig - (816) 283-6242 x225

Portageville - Missouri Bootheel Healthy Start - Cynthia Dean - (573) 379-2020 x327

St. Louis - Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition - Sandii Handrick - (314) 289-5680

Nebraska

Omaha - Omaha Healthy Start - Judith Hill - (402) 455-2229

New Jersey

Camden - HMHB Healthy Start - Wanda Roby-Dutton - (856) 963-1013

East Orange - Isaiah House Healthy Start - Sandra Schwartz - (609) 292-5616

Trenton - Childrens' Futures - June Gray - (609) 989-3307

New Mexico

Deming - Luna County Healthy Start - Linda Macias-Miller - (505) 546-9254

Las Cruces - Dona Ana Healthy Start - Jonah Garcia - (505) 524-0767

New York

Brooklyn - Healthy Start/Brooklyn - Tamara Benjamin Green - (646) 253-5618

Manhattan - Central Harlem Healthy Start - Segrid Renne - (212) 665-2600 x324

Rochester - Healthy Start Rochester - Patricia Brantingham - (585) 546-4930 x211

Syracuse - Syracuse Healthy Start - Kathleen Coughlin - (315) 435-2920

North Carolina

Pembroke - Healthy Start Corps - Linda Greaver - (910) 521-6181

Raleigh - NC Eastern Baby Love Plus Healthy Start - Belinda Pettiford - (919) 707-5699

Raleigh - NC Northeastern Baby Love Plus Healthy Start - Belinda Pettiford - (919) 707-5699

Raleigh - NC Triad Baby Love Plus Healthy Start - Belinda Pettiford - (919) 707-5699

Ohio

Cleveland - Cleveland Moms First - Lisa Matthews - (216) 664-4281

Columbus - Columbus Healthy Start/Caring for 2 - Grace Kolliesuah - (614) 645-1697

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City - Central Oklahoma Healthy Start - Don Anderson - (405) 769-3301 x1263

Tulsa - Tulsa Healthy Start - Corrina Jackson - (918) 595-4404

Oregon

Medford - Family Foundations - Lillian Koppelman - (541) 774-8095

Portland - Healthy Birth Initiative - Sharon Smith - (503) 988-3387

Pennsylvania

Chester - Crozer-Keystone Healthy Start - Joanne Craig - (610) 497-7460

Philadelphia - North Philadelphia Healthy Start Project - Deborah Roebuck - (215) 685-5255

Philadelphia - Southwest & West Phila. Healthy Start Project - Deborah Roebuck - (215) 685-5255

Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh/Allegheny County Healthy Start - Cheryl Squire Flint - (412) 247-4009

Uniontown - Fayette County Healthy Start - Cheryl Squire Flint - (412) 247-4009 x 344

West Chester - Healthy Start for Chester County - Renee Fairconeture - (610) 344-5370 x107

Puerto Rico

San Juan - Puerto Rico Healthy Start - Teresa Taboas - (787) 274-5677

South Carolina

Columbia - Palmetto Healthy Start - Kimberly Alston - (803) 296-2786

Denmark - Low Country Healthy Start - Virginia Berry White - (803) 793-6000

Florence - Pee Dee Healthy Start - Madie Robinson - (843) 662-1482

South Dakota

Rapid City - Northern Plains Healthy Start - Lisa Dobyns - (605) 721-1922

Tennessee

Memphis - Memphis & Shelby County Healthy Start - Calondra Tibbs - (901) 545-7099

Texas

Dallas - Dallas Healthy Start - Gerilyn Laurence - (214) 590-2586

Ft Worth - Forth Worth Healthy Start - Barbara Beaty - (817) 534-0814 x3923

Harlingen - Valley Primary Care Network Healthy Start - Gloria Casas - (956) 425-6205

Houston - Sunny Futures - Healthy Start - Walter Jones - (713) 669-5250

Laredo - BCFS Healthy Start Laredo - Cindi Garcia - (956) 712-4700

San Antonio - San Antonio Healthy Start - Paola Tovar-Kurth - (210) 299-5035

Virginia

Richmond - Richmond Healthy Start - Rose Stith Singleton - (804) 646-3340

Richmond - Virginia Healthy Start Initiative/Loving Steps - Linda Foster - (804) 864-7764

West Virginia

Morgantown - West Virginia Healthy Start H.A.P.I. - Penny Womeldorff - (304) 293-1560

Wisconsin

Lac du Flambeau - Honoring Our Children With a Healthy Start - Barbara Stoddard - (715) 588-3324 x122

Milwaukee - Milwaukee Healthy Beginnings - Pat McManus - (414) 933-0064

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