Fighting the bite: Protection against the Zika virus

May 25, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

Although it may seem like the risk has passed, women who are pregnant or hope to become pregnant and their partners should be wary about the Zika virus and the serious birth defects it can cause. While the risk of defects from Zika is relatively small according to a new report, it is still important for women and their partners to protect themselves from the virus.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, could be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus and lead to birth defects like microcephaly and other complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year, there were 51 babies born with Zika-related birth defects in the United States. Nearly 1,300 pregnant women, in 44 states, had laboratory evidence of a Zika virus infection in 2016. Around 970 of those women have completed their pregnancies. Overall, the risk of severe birth defects was about five percent among women who were infected with Zika during pregnancy and rose to 15 percent of those who were infected during their first trimester, according to the new article. While there has been no confirmed local transmission of Zika in Northeast Florida, protective actions against mosquito bites can prevent Zika.

There are local efforts in place to address Zika in Northeast Florida. The Florida Department of Health Duval (FDOH Duval) has launched a Zika task force to make sure that the proper safety measures are being taken to protect the community against the harms Zika can cause. Partners of the task force includes the CDC, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the local county mosquito control office. FDOH Duval, as well as the surrounding counties, has also put together a prevention package which includes three insect-repellent towelettes, a male contraceptive and literature on Zika and protective measures. The Coalition will also be distributing Zika prevention packages through its MomCare, Azalea, Healthy Start and Healthy Families Jacksonville programs and at community events.

As there is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus, the CDC strongly recommends taking the following protective actions to prevent the transmission.


  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.

Insect repellent: 

  • Repellents that contain Deet are the most effective during pregnancy
  • Picaridin is an alternative repellent that is safe to use during pregnancy
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than three-years-old.
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two-months old.

Sexual transmission 

  • Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.

Many people affected with Zika will have mild symptoms or none at all. Symptoms could include a fever, rash, joint pain, headache or conjunctivitis (red eyes). If you have experienced any of the symptoms and have been to a region where the Zika virus is present, it is recommended that you visit a physician or healthcare provider and request testing.

To get more information about the Zika virus and possible ways of prevention, visit:


Florida Department of Health

March of Dimes


The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition launches its new Volunteer Program

May 23, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition is excited to launch a new Volunteer Program. As we continue to grow, we are eager to give tomorrow’s healthcare professionals the opportunity to learn and work with women, babies and families in Northeast Florida. Our first volunteer cohort includes three interns who are working towards their Masters of Public Health degree, respectively.

Originally from Tennessee, Keri Pirtle holds a Bachelors in IMG_3650Health Science from Wichita State
University and will complete a Masters of Public Health in August 2017 from the University of New
England. Keri is a graduate intern with the Azalea Project, focusing on increasing recruitment and
participation of the group education sessions. She is most excited about working closely with clients to develop positive, sustainable plans for the future. Keri has over a decade of experience working with infants, children, and families, and will certainly put that to good use. Keri is a married, fur mom of one, who loves Tennessee Volunteer Football, Nashville Predators Hockey, and fitness.

IMG_3654Dr. Aruna Manisekaran is a public health intern who will also be working at the Azalea Project. She is currently a Master in Public Health candidate at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville. She graduated with first class honors for her undergraduate studies with a Bachelors in Dental Surgery. She also works for the Graduate School at UNF. During her term as an intern for the Azalea Project, Dr. Aruna hopes to expand her horizon as a public health student, learn about working as a public health professional and how to apply her knowledge gained as an MPH student.  In her free time, she likes to think of ways to help those in need and begin her initiative to collect toiletries, socks, and condoms to be distributed to the homeless of Jacksonville. When Dr. Aruna is not working she enjoys activities such as photography, arts and crafts, singing, reading books, and cooking. She is a well-rounded individual who lives with passion, dedication, and grace.

Samantha Williams is a current Master of Public Health (MPH) student at the University of North Florida. SheIMG_3646 earned her Bachelors of Science in Biology as well as a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. She is currently interning with the Fatherhood P.R. I.D.E Initiative, with the goal of promoting the Fatherhood program, increasing recruitment of new fathers to the program, as well as recruit community partnerships through community and internal outreach. As an intern, she will also be facilitating job skills classes and helping with special events such as the 2nd Annual Barbeque Competition on June 17th. After recently giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, she became increasing interested in improving the health outcomes and lives of babies through the Healthy Start Program, specifically through the Fatherhood P.R.I.D.E. Initiative. She is excited about working with the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition and hopes to make a difference in the lives of the men that she will help, as well as their families.

For more information about the Volunteer Program, contact Jennifer Larramore


Magnolia Project celebrates National Women’s Health Week

May 19, 2017  •   Written by Erin Addington   •  no comments

IMG_3745The Magnolia Project hosted a variety of activities May 14-20th to empower women to make their health a priority at every age, as part of the 2017 National Women’s Health Week.

National Women’s Health Week is an observance held each May and led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority, while also serving as a time to encourage women to take steps to improve their health.

IMG_3774Magnolia’s activities included a participant appreciation day, healthy eating demonstrations, a beauty day and concluded with health screenings and an open house. Magnolia staff, participants, Board members and community partners came together on the May 18th to talk about the services Magnolia offers and the impact it makes on the community at the open house. Thank you to the local legislators and staff who came, including state Rep. Tracie Davis; state Sen. Audrey Gibson; Charlotte Jones from state Rep. Kimberly Daniels’ office; and Tony Hill from Congressman Al Lawson’s office.

Magnolia is a federal Healthy Start project that works to improve the health and well-being of women during their childbearing years by empowering communities to address medical, behavioral, and cultural and social service needs. Clinical and case management services are available before, during and after pregnancy for women living in Jacksonville’s Health Zone 1.

Open Position: Family Support Worker

May 17, 2017  •   Written by Erin Addington   •  2 comments

The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition is accepting applications for a Family Support Worker with the Healthy Families Jacksonville program.

The Family Support Worker is primarily responsible for initiating and maintaining regular contact with families in their home and providing referrals to other needed support services. The FSW also establishes rapport with the family to strengthen the parent-child relationship through home-visit activities. View the full job description here.

Resumes and cover letters should be e-mailed to

Employment Opportunity: Front Desk Coordinator

May 15, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

The Magnolia Project/Oasis Front Desk Clerk is responsible for the reception area (Front Desk) at the site. Includes greeting of all guests, answering phone calls, assisting guests with questions regarding the Magnolia Project/Oasis services, and creating and maintaining a welcoming and inviting atmosphere for consumers.

Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter to

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities
1) Must be detailed-oriented and have the ability to multitask.
2) Ability to be efficient and productive in a fast-paced environment.
3) Must have enthusiasm and possess excellent customer service skills.
4) Enjoy working with people and possess a friendly and outgoing personality.
5) Excellent communication, listening and computer skills.
Basic Qualifications
1) Associates degree preferred will substitute High School Diploma and at least two years working/volunteering with the public in disadvantage communities.
2) Experience with engaging, educating and working with community residents is preferred.