Healthy Start Coalitions were created by the Florida Legislature in 1991 as part of the landmark Healthy Start initiative (s.383.2161, F.S.). The intent of the Healthy Start initiative is to improve the health and well-being of Florida’s pregnant women and young children. Two of the major components of this comprehensive legislation were the creation of the Healthy Start program and the Healthy Start Coalitions. The Healthy Start Coalitions were given the legislative mandate to ensure that adequate and accessible systems of care are in place for all pregnant women and young children. In order to achieve this comprehensive directive, Healthy Start Coalitions are required to perform a number of key functions, including the following:
- Building and maintaining broad community input and collaboration.
- Increasing overall public awareness of the importance of investing in pregnant women and children.
- Performing short and long range planning for the target population.
- Allocating available federal and state maternal and child health funds on a local level for the provision of Healthy Start services.
For more information about Healthy Start Coalitions, and to read about the history, facts, and standards and guidelines of the program, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website or click here. In addition to the above mandates, the Healthy Start Coalition also provides oversight and management of the Healthy Start program. The financial structure of the Coalition is unique in that the organization both receives and allocates funds from various state and local funding sources.
The legislation pertaining to the funding and operations of Healthy Start Coalitions includes the following provisions:
- Coalitions receive base operational funding of $147,900 annually with a 25% local match requirement in order to secure additional local funding and support for the initiative.
- Coalitions were created as non-profit, “quasi-governmental” entities, and as such are required to adhere to the dictates of Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine” law.
- Coalitions are legislatively prohibited from providing Healthy Start services to clients. Due to this restriction, Coalitions are able to maintain neutrality and objectivity in regard to service delivery system analysis, allocation of funds, and evaluation of program services.
During the past twenty years, the Coalition has become an integral component of local systems of maternal and child health and well-being. The Coalition has developed a broad-based membership including representatives of the business sector, local government, public health, social service agencies, and private citizens invested in maternal and child health issues. The membership serves as the base from which volunteers are recruited to serve on Healthy Start committees. Over the past several years, the Coalition has leveraged thousands of hours of volunteer time to address issues relating to pregnant women and young families.
In addition to building a large and diverse membership, the Coalition also strives to foster collaboration among numerous social service providers, governmental entities, the business community, and civic and volunteer organizations regarding maternal and child health issues. One of the results of these collaborative partnerships has been the ability to successfully leverage additional funds to support specific projects and the overall improvement of our systems of maternal and child health and support services.