Coalition receives grant to reduce rate of substance-exposed newborns

Aug 14, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  1 comment

The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition was awarded a three-year grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (HHS OWH) to reduce the alarming rate of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition experienced by neonates exposed to opioid prescription or illicit drugs during the prenatal period. The grant will be managed by a prevention director at the Azalea Project, an initiative of the Coalition focused on substance-misusing women.shutterstock_32776084

With this new grant, the Coalition will provide primary prevention education workshops to health
consumers and health providers in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties on topics such as recognizing the signs of substance abuse, resource education, an overview of the opioid epidemic and proper disposal of prescription drugs. High-risk consumer groups will be targeted, including women with a history of domestic violence, adults who didn’t finish high school, faith-based organizations and college-aged young adults. Additionally, health care providers and their staff will be trained on Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), an evidence based tool, that aims to increase the screening of women for substance use prior to pregnancy

The Coalition will also establish a new partnership with Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) Health Systems to train a cohort of 60 peers (20 per grant year) as Certified Recovery Peer Specialists.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2002 and 2013, heroin use among women increased by 100 percent nationally. A March 2015 report released by the Florida Department of Health shows that Northeast Florida has high rates of infants born with NAS. Nassau (#5), Baker (#7) and Clay (#10) counties all ranked in the top 10 counties with the highest rates in the state, 145-187 percent higher than the state rate. Duval County has the highest number of babies born with NAS than any other county at 450 babies.

The Coalition, which has a long history of addressing substance use in women, was one of 16 projects selected for funding across the country. In 2003, the Coalition launched the Azalea Project in a storefront in Jacksonville’s Springfield neighborhood to reduce risk-taking behavior in substance abusing pregnant and parenting women. The project works to break the cycle of substance use and other at-risk behaviors by providing outreach and intensive case management services. The OWH grant will allow Azalea to expand into primary prevention and support the efforts of the Coalition’s Substance-exposed Newborn Task Force.


Breastfeeding: Get the support you need to continue

Aug 8, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 9.45.48 AMAs World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2017 comes to an end, the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition supports the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other organizations that babies should be breastfed exclusively for six months and continue breastfeeding for the first year of life and beyond.

World Breastfeeding Week is organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The WBW 2017 theme was Sustaining Breastfeeding Together. While breastfeeding can sometimes be a challenge, mothers can be successful with support and encouragement. Coalition Breastfeeding Outreach Coordinator Denise Mills, provides breastfeeding classes in the community and encourages mothers to set goals each month and try to reach them. The next month they should set new goals and grow from there.IMG_2152

Both baby and mother gain many benefits from breast feeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Breastmilk is easy to digest and contains antibodies that can protect infants from bacterial and viral infections. A baby’s risk of becoming an overweight child declines with each month of breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed may have lower rates of ovarian cancer and certain types of breast cancer. It also allows mother more time to bond with baby.

Mothers may experience latch issues, engorgement or concerns about your milk output concerns. Mothers can find support and resources at their delivering hospital, their local WIC office, the La Leche League — Northeast Florida, the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 1.800.994.9662 and online resources like and For mothers living in Northeast Florida, the Coalition hosts weekly community breastfeeding support groups at several locations throughout Jacksonville:

  • Tuesdays from 11:30 am until 1:00 pm at the Azalea Project
  • Wednesdays at UF Health from 1:00 pm until 2:00 pm

Denise Mills can be reached at or 904.723.5422 x 127

Coalition holds safe sleep training for community partners

Jul 28, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

20170726_091129The Coalition hosted a safe sleep training for home visitors and health care professionals to explore causes of sleep-related deaths on July 26. The training included a presentation by Dr. Emmanuel Peña, UF College of Medicine Jacksonville Assistant Professor & Child Abuse Pediatrician.

One hundred attendees from the Coalition, Jewish Family and Community Services, Children’s Home Society, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, Family Support Services of North Florida, THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health and Baptist Health attended the training.

The presentation delved into the history of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs) and how unsafe sleep practices are causing babies to die. Dr. Peña also discussed the importance of applying safe sleep recommendations to individual family situations and the need for changes in the SUID death scene investigations and autopsies.

The training ended with a Q&A where the participants were able to ask Dr. Emmanuel Peña specific questions pertaining to situations that they have experienced.

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.