Rev. Alton Coles is a long-time member of the Healthy Start Coalition Board of Directors and currently holds the position of Vice Chair. He represents the AME Ministers Alliance. He shares his role in preventing infant mortality:
Rev. Coles identifies his care for the health of all people and desire to educate on improved lifestyles and behaviors as his reason for involvement with the Coalition’s Board of Directors. He has been involved with numerous Coalition and other health initiatives throughout the region.
Rev. Coles participated in a local Community Research Advisory Board and worked with the Mayo Clinic on an initiative to increase African American participation in cancer research. He also helped bring a Vitamin D screening and education event to the Magnolia and Azalea projects.
Beyond his officer position, he was the long-time chair of the Coalition’s Florida KidCare Steering Committee, focused on guiding outreach activities and spreading the word about the children’s health insurance program.
But Rev. Coles sees the Coalition’s greatest success as being more inclusive of men and dads in the goals of Healthy Start. Rev. Coles has advocated for establishing and growing the Coalition’s Responsible Fatherhood program and including fathers and father figures as a key component of Coalition services.
The community came together on September 13 to bring awareness to infant mortality at the inaugural Jacksonville Baby Buggy Walk in the Park.
The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition hosted the city’s first annual walk along with cities across the country in honor of National Infant Mortality Awareness month. The event emphasizes the important role of parents and the community as a whole in preventing infant deaths and promoting health birth outcomes, particularly in minority communities.
Event-goers participated in a health festival and 2.2 mile fitness walk at the Magnolia Project, a federal Healthy Start program in the Jacksonville urban core aimed at improving the health of women prior to pregnancy. The free family event provided an opportunity for families to come together for exercise and fun activities, receive valuable health information and screenings and enjoy a fun day in the park.
Moms and dads were pushing babies in their buggies and community members walked in honor of babies that died and to celebrate the babies that made it to their first birthday. After the walk, attendees had an opportunity to speak with various vendors whose focus was on healthy lifestyle and eating. Children who attended were able to listen to a story from a local storyteller from the public library, get their face painted and play arts/crafts. To wrap up the day, participants had the opportunity to participate in a Zumba demonstration.
The Baby Buggy Walk is a unique event that was developed in 2012 by Baltimore Healthy Start, Inc. with a goal of empowering women of the reproductive age and mothers to take care of their health and the health of their children through education with a theme of fitness, fun, and family.
The Coalition would like to give a big thanks to our generous sponsors and donors; community leaders, volunteers and everyone who came out and made the event a success! A special thanks from the support of our local legislators for speaking on the importance of the event. Speakers included Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Senator Audrey Gibson and Representative Mia Jones.
Winnie Holland is a member of the Healthy Start Coalition Board of Directors. She is currently the Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health — Clay County Health Department. She shares her role in preventing infant mortality:
Clay County Health Officer Winnie Holland is relatively new to the Northeast Florida region, but not to Healthy Start and the issues women and babies face.
“The Healthy Start Program is an important aspect of the public health focus of improving and enhancing health outcomes. I was involved with Healthy Start at my position in Hendry/Glades Counties when I worked on an outreach grant to ensure that pregnant women and infants received appropriate medical care. My involvement with the Healthy Start Coalition in North Central Florida continued when I became the health officer for Bradford/Union. The program makes a difference in the lives of women and children and is important at engaging our community partners in the health of vulnerable women and children. I appreciate both the work of the coalition and especially the work that the case managers and other support staff to help women and children get a “healthy start”.”
As Health Officer, Winnie oversees many programs, including Healthy Start, within the health department. She was also instrumental in bringing the 4Me Teen Health Project to Clay County youth in the Fall of 2013.
“I am from a very large family and love Moms and babies. I think in today’s society it is even more important that communities support the new Moms to ensure they have the systems in place to ensure they are successful being “Moms”.”
Kerri Stephen is the Community Liaison with the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County and ACOG Region 3 contact for the 39 Weeks project. She shares her role in preventing infant mortality:
“The timing of my pregnancy couldn’t have been more perfect. I had just begun working for the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County when I discovered I was pregnant. I was going to be a first-time mom! Due to the nature of my work and what Healthy Start is all about, I was equipped with a plethora of knowledge about having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Perhaps the information I found most intriguing was learning how my baby was growing and developing inside of me, including crucial development occurring up to the very last weeks of pregnancy.”
One way I’ve become knowledgeable of the important developments occurring during the last weeks of pregnancy is through the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalition’s implementation of the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” campaign in Florida. The campaign has been made possible by funding from March of Dimes, with the purpose to increase the understanding of the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy and the contributions of this period to healthy fetal development and reduced health complication for mothers and babies.
Coalitions around the state have received March of Dimes materials about the importance of the last few weeks of pregnancy that have been distributed to local hospitals and provider offices. Rack and wallet cards were also created from the information obtained from focus groups around Florida as part of the grant. These materials were also disseminated around the state.
I am fortunate to say that I had a very healthy and complication-free pregnancy, which I credit in part to my wanting to do all that I could possibly do to give my baby the very best start…exercising, eating healthy, reducing stress, getting enough rest, etc. Also in wanting my baby to be the healthiest he could be, it was no question to me that I wanted my baby to be born full-term (39 Weeks) and that I wanted my labor to begin on its own. Of course, you never know what may happen, so I did my research and attended a childbirth class to learn about possible pregnancy complications, reasons for interventions, medications during pregnancy, and more. I wanted to be well-informed and aware of my options and any risks they may pose to me or my baby so in the case something were to go not as planned, I would be prepared to make the decision considered best for me and my baby. It was also important to me to have a birth plan and make sure my provider of care was on the same page as me.
On August 20, 2011, my baby was born full-term (a day or two shy of his due date), weighing in at 8lbs. 11oz, and he was definitely worth the wait! I am proud to say my labor began on its own and I delivered medication and intervention-free at a birth center. I was fortunate that I didn’t have any medical complications during labor and no interventions were needed, and I know this is not always the case. From infancy to now toddlerhood, my “baby” has amazed me with his strength, good health, and intelligence. As a mom of such a healthy boy, I would encourage all moms-to-be to consider the importance of waiting 39 Weeks and letting labor begin on its own if there are no medical complications.”
Ashley Roussell is a Preconception Peer Educator and Chamberlain College of Nursing student. She shares her role in preventing infant mortality:
“As a Preconception Peer Educator, I want to raise awareness about Infant Mortality in our community. I would love to decrease the number of lives that are lost each year and to see more babies live past their 1st birthday. ”
The Preconception Peer Educator training is part of the Office of Minority Health’s “A Healthy Baby Begins With You” campaign, which began in 2007. The purpose of the program is to enlist college students as peer educators not only on college campuses but also in the community at large, to help disseminate essential preconception health messages.
During her time as a PPE, Ashley has recruited volunteers and presented safe sleep information to a day care. She is also part of the Jacksonville Infant Mortality Alliance, a collaboration between local PPEs and community organizations.
“I want to continue to educate and inform parents, grandparents, community leaders and health care workers in the Greater Jacksonville area.”