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FL Groups Get $4.7M for Healthy Start

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Six Florida groups have been awarded a total of $4.7 million in federal Healthy Start grants aimed at improved maternal health and lower infant mortality rates.

The Florida grants are part of $65 million that will go  to 87 organizations in 33 states, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.

The largest Florida grant, $1.4 million, was awarded to REACHUP Inc. of Tampa.

Other state award-winners were:

  • Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition in Jacksonville, about $852,700.
  • All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, $850,000.
  • The Center for Health Equity in Quincy, $533,000.
  • University of Miami, $533,000.
  • Florida Department of Health in Orlando, $530,000.

All Children's physician Sheila Devanesan said the first priority is to set up pregnant mothers with "medical homes," with healthcare providers they see regularly.
"If they have issues that are addressed during the pregnancy  we can start to help change that trajectory by engaging patients and helping to address their concerns of stress or economic strain," she said.

REACHUP, Inc. has been receiving this kind of grant since 1997.  But this year it was awarded nearly a half million dollars more. The group's previous high rate of success is why the organization got more money, said Dr. Deborah Austin, director of community engagement for REACHUP.
"We started out with that infant mortality rate in our community in 1998 of 19.2 and we're down to 9.4," she said. "Of course, 9.4 is still too high, but you can see the tremendous drop that we've made over the years that we've been working in the community."

REACHUP is one of only 15 sites nationwide chosen to mentor other programs on effective techniques to lower infant mortality rates.

The HHS web site offers the complete list of grant winners. The Healthy Start program is operated by HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration.

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. For more health news, visit

Megan Milanese is an intern with WUSF’s health reporting project Health News Florida.