Central Hillsborough Healthy Start: Keeping Our Babies Alive
More than 16 of every 1,000 babies born in central Hillsborough County die before their first birthday. The Central Healthy Start (CHHS) Project provides services to mothers and babies in this central Hillsborough County area where over 70% of the births are to Black mothers who are typically young, unmarried, undereducated, and Medicaid eligible. CHHS is a federally-funded program designed to keep babies alive in central Hillsborough County zip codes 33602, 33603, 33605 and 33610. Supplemental funding from the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County provides services in zip code 33607.
Despite the economic, health, and social challenges, the service community stakeholders, program participants, project staff, and project partners pool and mobilize their unique resources to level the playing field for Central Hillsborough’s Black mothers and infants. Since 1997, program participants, residents, churches, schools, health care providers, and project staff have committed their efforts to reach out, engage, support and guide emerging families toward a more healthy beginning.
Focusing on the family and community, not just mom and baby, CHHS services include home visitation, case management, health education, perinatal depression screening, interconceptional care, doula (labor coach) services and male involvement, among other activities, to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth. Additionally, CHHS hires staff from within its service community, partners with community churches to provide many of its services, contracts with community agencies that have a history of serving families in central Hillsborough County and work together with community residents and organizations to attract additional funding to support its families.
The CHHS Project is one of 105 federal Healthy Start initiatives across the country specifically focused on reducing infant mortality, reducing the incidence of low-birth-weight babies and eliminating racial disparities in perinatal outcomes. Geographic areas eligible for Healthy Start programs have infant mortality rates 1.5 times the national average.
The Good News—A 2009 study showed that CHHS services reduced the level of low birth weight and preterm delivery by about 30% among women who received our services as compared to those who did not.
(Salihu, H. M., Mbah, A. K., Jeffers, D., Alio, A. P. & Berry, L. (2009). Healthy Start Program and feto-infant morbidity outcomes: Evaluation of program effectiveness. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 13(1), 56-65. doi 10.1007/s10995-008-0400-y)