Program gives moms healthy start

The Healthy Start Partnership is expanding to provide assistance to pregnant women attending Florida A&M University. The FAMU division of the program started in October 2007 to make help more accessible to student-parents.

“Income increases as education increases,” said Dr. Yolanda Bogan, director of FAMU’s counseling center at the Sunshine Manor. “We want [students] to graduate so that they can be in a better position to provide for their families.”

The program offers childbirth preparation, nutrition education, home visits, help to quit smoking and family and individual counseling, according to the Healthy Start Web site.

The program also includes breastfeeding support, parenting education, emotional support and baby care instruction.

In addition, Healthy Start provides risk screening to both pregnant women and infants in order to predict whether poor birth, health and development issues may arise.

Bogan described the project as being one of the first of its kind in Florida.

Students need only to be pregnant, or the mother of a young child and a Florida resident to be eligible.

“I think this is a great opportunity for young mothers to receive help. Nobody wants to struggle,” said Wilhemina Dixon, a 20-year-old sophomore elementary education student from Tampa. “Work, school and childcare really stresses student mothers out. This program is really going to help.”

A high infant mortality rate among blacks is another problem that the initiative attempts to address.  The program seeks to assist women by providing a supportive atmosphere, good medical care and means of reducing stress.

“We just want (students) to be comfortable,” Bogan said. “Getting information and academic support in a nonjudgmental setting is very important.” 

Tomica Archie Smith, quality insurance director at Capital Area Healthy Start, said this program seeks to alleviate the stress of pregnancy, which can put women at risk for losing their babies.

“Labels stress are a cause for the growing numbers of small or pre-term babies,” Smith said. “Regardless of her education or how much money she makes, any woman can be at risk of losing her child.”

Many of the services provided are designed to inform all women about the risks they could face.

Smith said many students who attend FAMU are not actually from the Tallahassee area. As a result, health centers located around the city are not easy for them to find.

The quality insurance director also said the program’s extension to FAMU will provide a more accessible place of refuge.

Bogan explained the Florida Healthy Start program was signed in to law in 1991, and the FAMU division was initialized this past fall.

“It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard either,” said Smith, a FAMU alumna who helped Bogan formulate the idea. “I had been working there for four years. Bogan was a counselor at the University; it was a natural fit.”

She and Bogan, along with the director of Healthy Start RoseAnn Scheck, created a list of goals for the project. They drew up a memorandum of understanding and got approved by Vice President of Student Affairs Roland Gaines.

“It’s slowly starting,” Bogan said. “We just want to get the word out. FAMU is a family and we just want students to know that we care about them and their babies.”

For more information concerning the program visit, or stop by the FAMU Counseling Center. Students can contact Tiffany S. Jones at Sunshine Manor 599-3145 or 414-7845.