News Column

U.S. Rep Castor: Major investments to reduce infant mortality headed to Tampa Bay

September 3, 2014

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) announced today that two Tampa Bay organizations are recipients of Healthy Start grants for a five-year cycle to fund initiatives that reduce infant mortality rates in Tampa and South St. Petersburg.

For the rest of this fiscal year, All Children's Hospital, Inc. in St. Petersburg will receive $850,109, and REACHUP, Inc. will receive $1,421,155.

"I advocated for these investments to save lives and reduce infant mortality rates," U.S. Rep. Castor said. "A high infant mortality rate is a sign of economic distress and the focused attention will lift families and our communities so we are all more productive. Healthy births prevent costlier medical issues later in life and reduce overall health costs for our communities."

Central Hillsborough County has received Healthy Start investments since 1998, and the infant mortality rate in the designated federal project area (zip codes 33602, 33603, 33605 and 33610) has decreased by more than half since that time - from 19.2 to 9.4 in 2010, according to REACHUP's evaluation team at the USF College of Public Health.

"Our black babies are still dying at a rate twice of our white babies, which is unacceptable," REACHUP Executive Director Lo Berry said. REACHUP serves more than 1,200 families through the Healthy Start grant. The new grant provides a boost of about $500,000 to designate Reach Up as one of only 15 mentoring sites in the nation. Reach Up will mentor Healthy Start and other maternal and child health programs across the country to achieve the same high results.

All Children's Hospital hopes to serve about 1,100 participants annually with its Healthy Start grant, addressing any and all barriers that lead to the area's high infant mortality rates.

"The issue of infant mortality is so complex. The grant attempts to address all of the health care and social issues that will impact the life trajectory of these women," said Dr. Sheila Devanesan, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at All Children's and is named the principal investigator for the Healthy Start grant.

Today's announcement is part of $65 million in Healthy Start grants awarded by the U.S. Health & Human Services Department to 87 organizations in 33 states to address access to care, women's health, quality services, family resilience and collective community impact. Tampa Bay received two of the six grants awarded in Florida.

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Source: Congressional Documents & Publications

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