Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Anonymous Donor Helps Healthy Start's "Save My Life" Program Combat Racial Birth Disparities

Maybe guns aren’t the biggest threat in Newtown.

Perhaps the biggest threat is the area’s staggering rates of poor birth outcomes, such as premature birth, fetal mortality, and infant mortality. Despite a statewide decrease in deaths among children younger than one year old, the infant mortality rate for African-Americans in Sarasota County has continued to creep upward. And disparities between rates of fetal mortality, infant mortality, and prematurity between blacks and whites continue to be alarmingly present. Sarasota County’s most recent 2008-2010 rolling average data indicates the African-American rates for fetal mortality is more than twice as high as whites; infant mortality is 3.5 times as high; and preterm birth is 1.7 times as high.

Aimed at reversing this alarming trend, the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County created the “Save My Life” Program in 2008, an education and support-based Childbirth and Parenting Education program centered in the Newtown area. The Save My Life Program offers small group and individual classes on the importance of health during childbearing years and during pregnancy, stress reduction, childbirth education, breastfeeding education, in-home support for breastfeeding, and safe sleep practices for infants. Outreach efforts, education, and classes are offered by the only African-American Childbirth Educator in Sarasota County, Beverly Phelps.

“Early intervention to begin reversing this cycle must begin prior to pregnancy, and continue throughout pregnancy and after pregnancy. The early experiences of any human, from the beginning of pregnancy into the first few years of life are crucial,” said Jennifer Highland, Executive Director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County. “By focusing on education, support, and prevention, we aim to improve chances young families will stay healthy.”

Funding for this vital program comes from donations and grants, both of which are currently threatened. After 3 ½ successful years, this program will end in spring of 2012 without additional funding. However, the Healthy Start Coalition has been presented with a unique opportunity to continue funding this important program: an anonymous donor has come forward with a $10,000 Challenge. If $5,000 is raised by the community before February 15, the donor will match it with another $5,000.

“This is an important opportunity for our Community to get involved in the health of our youngest citizens”, continued Highland, “It is time for us to rally as a community to save our babies!”

For more information, contact

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An Evening for Healthy Start

On Thursday, January 26th, from 6 to 9 pm, Sarasota Architectural Salvage will host the 3rd Annual “An Evening for Healthy Start” Fundraiser to benefit The Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County. The event will be emceed by former Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner, and will feature live music by local Latin, Caribbean, Funk and Motown dance music band, Big Night Out.

The event comes at a critical time in the Healthy Start Coalition’s fiscal year, when funding for critical programs threatens to expire. This year’s event has the potential to raise more money for Sarasota’s pregnant women, infants and young children than in previous years, due to the generosity of several local business members and individuals, including those from the fields of obstetrics, perinatology, midwifery and pediatrics.

Sarasota Architectural Salvage paints an eclectic and distinctive backdrop for “An Evening for Healthy Start,” making it one of the most unique fundraising events of the season. Guests will be treated to light fare provided by local restaurants, including Nancy’s BBQ, Caragiulo’s, Nellie’s Deli, Carrs Corner CafĂ©, The Lollicake Queen, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Vin Cella and Local Coffee and Tea. The event will also feature a raffle and silent auction, featuring an exquisite pendant necklace from world-famous jewelry designer Ned Bowman of Bowman Originals in Sarasota.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door, and include two beverage tickets and a coupon for Sarasota Architectural Salvage. To purchase tickets, call (941) 373-7070, or

The Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County is a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of pregnant women, infants, and young children in the community. Healthy Start coordinates a variety of specialized programs to serve high-risk groups and address specific risk factors that contribute to fetal death, prematurity, low birth weight, and infant death. For more information, please call (941) 373-7070 or visit