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Listen in: Healthy Start Florida celebrates 30 years, but Black babies and moms still lead in maternal and infant mortality in the state

Photo: Danielle Prieur
Photo: Danielle Prieur

Florida’s Healthy Start program celebrated 30 years today and several milestones including a drop in infant mortality. 

WMFE reports there are still several challenges that Black moms and babies face in the state when it comes to having a healthy birth.

Read the full story below or listen to it by clicking on the link at the top. 

April Johnson was 19 years old when she reached out to Orange County Healthy Start. 

Johnson was, as she describes it, pregnant, alone and afraid, a single mom who didn’t know anything about giving birth or being a mom. 

“They gave me resources where I could go and get food, if I needed food, if I needed Pampers, if I needed milk. Things like that. They taught me how to breastfeed. I was a breastfeed mom."

She credits Healthy Start with the successful birth and delivery of both of her daughters, who are now 26 and 29 years old, along with her two grandsons.

Over the last three decades, Healthy Starts across the state have helped reduce infant mortality in Florida by 32 percent. But Desiree Schnoor with March of Dimes says significant gaps still remain along racial lines.

“In 2017, in Orange County right? Right in our back yard, Black babies were more than four times more likely to die than white babies.” 

Ocoee Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown says those rates remain high for Black moms and babies in part due to a lack of access to culturally competent healthcare even when it comes to Healthy Starts. 

“There’s not enough Healthy Starts. We have 67 counties and what you heard here today there are a little over 30 Healthy Start initiatives.” 

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.