October 2, 2022

Acquanyc

Health's Like Heaven.

Florida Healthy Start celebrates 30 years helping mothers, children

5 min read

Emma Gay , a mother participated in the Healthy Start program gives her testimony during a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the program in Lakeland Fl. Wednesday Oct. 27 2021.Healthy Start is part of the umbrella and safety net for the maternal and child health system of care in Florida. Healthy Start was officially created by the Florida Legislature in 1991 to address the alarming rates of infant mortality and precariously low birth weights in Florida, and to remove systemic barriers to prenatal and early childhood health care. Today, Florida's 32 Healthy Start Coalitions are responsible for implementing systems of care in every community statewide, as well as providing services for pregnant women, young children, and families up to the age of three.  
ERNST PETERS/ THE LEDGER

LAKELAND — Last year, Emma Gay, who is now 25, found herself alone, pregnant and depressed, but the Healthy Start program in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties provided the help she needed. 

“I didn’t expect to be a single mom. I was emotional, constantly crying,” Gay said Wednesday morning. “They helped me out with emotional support, including counseling and pre-natal appointments. I always had a support system — someone I could call and talk to.” 

She was also anemic and her doctors made sure the baby, Bealyn Gay, was born a healthy weight in February. 

Gay was part of the 30th anniversary celebration this week of Florida’s Healthy Start, a program founded to address the alarming rates of infant mortality and precariously low birth weights in Florida, and to remove systemic barriers to prenatal and early childhood health care. The 32 Healthy Start Coalitions around the state have implemented systems of prenatal care in every community, as well as provided services for postpartum women, young children up to the age of three, and their families. 

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