Guest Post: Three trimesters at the Coalition

Jul 26, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

15107479_1301651523190104_6145002733163771469_nRejoice Asomugha recently completed the 2016-17 AmeriCorps term with the National Health Corps Florida program, an initiative of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. She served 1700 hours and 10 ½ months at the Coalition, working with pregnant moms and prenatal care providers to improve birth outcomes. She shares her personal and professional growth and what she learned during her time in the program.

It is hard to believe that July 21st marked the end of my chapter as both a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member and outreach coordinator for the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. Fortunately for me, the culmination of my experiences have left me with invaluable lessons that I will carry with me beyond the walls of Healthy Start. Throughout my 10 ½ months with the Coalition I have experienced exponential growth, both personally and professionally, while having forged meaningful relationships along the way.

We all know that a full-length pregnancy lasts nine months, separated into three equally important and distinct trimesters, but for the purpose of this post I will stretch each trimester to cover the 10 1/2 month experience I had. With each trimester showcasing my own growth and development.

First Trimester18157068_1465781263443795_1746989385874954679_n

When I first started, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous, confused, and overwhelmed by the amount I did not know how to do yet. As with many people who find themselves in new situations, I was quiet and kept to myself. One of my biggest fears was being asked questions that I did not know how to answer and I found that happening a lot. I was meeting with moms, talking with them about Healthy Start, enrolling them into the program, helping them apply for Medicaid and more.  My little shy self-was trying to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could. One thing I really learned from this period of growth was that most people are willing to help, especially all the Healthy Start people I had at my disposal. All I had to do was ask.

Second Trimester

After getting used to the changes that came with the “first trimester” of my service term, I found myself more confident and comfortable. I became more aware of the challenges that not only those in Jacksonville were facing, but others in our community at large. Serving the underserved and hearing their stories increased what I already believed to be a pretty decent sense of life’s inequities. IMG_0235It became apparent to me that what I was doing probably would not create a major dent in society’s problems, but for those I encountered, could make a noticeable difference. It was during this stage that I truly began to see the importance of all the education, resources and support that Healthy Start aimed to provide to mothers and their families. I began to attach more of an importance to my role as an outreach coordinator, health educator and conduit to assistance that a woman and her family might need.

Third Trimester

Now, the end to anything is always about the strong finish and the same can be said for the last few months of my time as an AmeriCorps member. However, even though finishing strong and meeting goals are important, it is also good to reflect on one’s journey. I did a lot of reflection in this “trimester.” Mostly because I was envisioning what I felt was next for me. I thought back to my different moments interacting with clients, serving the community, and even talking with others about their own aspirations, trying to pinpoint defining moments that would give me reassurance of the revamped life goals I had for myself. And I did.
Each of the struggle moments I had, the conversations, the community service, the exposures to places and people I otherwise would not have known, they all contributed to giving me a well-rounded experience. I am truly grateful that I was led to join this specific program and to have been a part of the Coalition. It was there, just like many of the families that they serve, that I was given the tools to flourish, grow and develop. It was there that I was given the tools to have a Healthy Start.

Fun in the sun: Protecting yourself and baby

Jul 24, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

Photo courtesy of the Bump

Photo courtesy of the Bump

In Northeast Florida, families spend many hours at the beaches, parks and zoo. Protection against the sun’s dangerous rays is important especially if you are pregnant or have young children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids often get sunburned when they are outdoors unprotected for longer than expected. It is important to take precautionary measures when planning a trip out because just a few serious sunburns can increase you and your child’s risk of skin cancer. Sunburns are particularly dangerous for infants because they are prone to burn more easily and have an increased risk of heat stroke.

According to the March of Dimes during pregnancy, an expecting mother’s skin is more sensitive to sunlight which can increase the risk of skin cancer, sun burns and signs of aging. Pregnant women are encouraged to take extra precautions when being out in the sun.

Tips for safe fun in the sun:

Apply sunscreen: Sunscreen can protect the skin from dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays. The CDC recommends using sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB protection every time your child goes outside. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen is not recommended for infants, especially if they’re under six months old.

Wear a hat: Wearing a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears, and neck gives great protection. Although baseball caps are popular, they do not offer protection to the ears and neck area.

Seek shade: UV rays are the strongest and most harmful during midday. Seeking shade underneath a tree, umbrella, or a pop-up tent can offer protection from the sun. Although shade can offer a form of relief from UV rays, it doesn’t provide full protection.

UPF Clothing: Clothing is the first line of defense against UV rays. A long sleeve shirt with a high neckline can be a great barrier for the skin. The UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is a rating system that measures the UV protection provided by fabric.

Think 20:20: Protect your baby’s eyes from UV rays by putting on a pair of sunglasses that blocks as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.

If your little one will be attending a summer camp or summer daycare, remember to pack these items into their backpack or nursery bag.

For more information about sun safety and to find more helpful hints, visit the CDC’s website.

Make a Difference! Leadership Academy Spring 2017 class graduates

Jul 21, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

Six participants graduated as part of the Spring 2017 Make a Difference! Leadership Academy on June 8, the eighth class to finish the grassroots IMG_3944program, an initiative of the Magnolia Project and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

The goal of the Leadership Academy is to support the efforts of local residents to make changes in neighborhood factors that contribute to disparities in health and birth outcomes. The Academy trains individuals and assists them in the development of a Community Action Plan that outlines a specific project to move a community to action.

The graduating class participated in and completed several community projects. One of the biggest accomplishments the group celebrated was creating a safe bus stop for children living in the Blodgett Homes apartment complex. The group spent several hours advocating at city official offices to have the unsafe bus stop be moved from a busy intersection to a vacant grassy area. The new location allows kids to play and roam freely away from passing cars. The group also advocated for a crossing guard to be present to ensure that the children were escorted safely to and from the bus. On June 24, the group participated in their final service project, a neighborhood cleanup for their apartment complex.

Devin Coleman, chairman of the Coalition’s Northeast Florida Fatherhood Task Force, delivered the commencement speech and encouraged the graduating class to keep advocating for what is right.

For more information about the Make a Difference! Leadership Academy, please contact LaRonda Howard at

National Health Corps Florida members complete their 2016-17 term

Jul 17, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

The 2016-17 class of National Health Corps Florida members completed their service term on July 21 and were recognized for their commitment to service and contributions to the community at a Recognition Ceremony on July 13.IMG_0253

Twenty-one members completed the 46-week, 1,700-hour term, providing direct service in various public health-focused nonprofit and government partners in four counties in Northeast Florida, including Baker, Clay, Duval and Nassau counties.

At the ceremony, mentors took the time to reflect on the service the members provided throughout their term.

The 2016-17 sites were:

Education and support: Key essentials for successful breastfeeding

Jul 12, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

The Healthy Start Coalition has launched new opportunities for mothers and babies to get the support and education they need to successfully breastfeed. Breastfeeding is beneficial for baby and mom, promoting bonding between mother and baby, potentially leading to weight loss for mom and giving baby good IMG_2151 bwnutrients to help build their immune system.

The Coalition hosts weekly community breastfeeding support groups at several locations throughout

Classes will soon be offered at the Highlander Apartments community.

Participants are encouraged to set their own breastfeeding goals and receive help and support to reach them. At the end of the course, the participants reflect on their goals to see how well they did. The participants also discuss new topics weekly from an evidence-based curriculum, are encouraged to share their stories with their peers and are offered one-on-one breastfeeding care.

In addition to offering breastfeeding education and services in the community, the Coalition also hosts groups at three Duval County Public Schools high schools that now have breastfeeding stations for students, faculty and staff to utilize: Englewood, A. Phillip Randolph and William Raines.

“Students love that they have a comfortable and private place to pump, store their milk and access to breast pads and storage bags” according to Coalition Breastfeeding Outreach Coordinator Denise Mills.

If you are interested in establishing a breastfeeding support group or attending a group, contact Denise at 904.258.4523 or