Last week Florida’s infants, children and families lost a champion with the passing of the state’s former first lady, Rhea Chiles, wife of the late Gov. Lawton Chiles.
During the early 1990s, the Chileses worked tirelessly to persuade the Florida Legislature to enact bipartisan legislation establishing a statewide system of care for all expectant mothers and their families in the state. Florida is the only state in the nation that has a universal screening for prenatal mothers and their infants, which benefits more than 90 percent of all pregnancies. This legislation also empowers local public and private partnerships in each community to prioritize their needs and take action on behalf of families.
While there is much work still to be done to reduce infant mortality, particularly among the minority populations, we would not have realized the success we have today were it not for the efforts of Gov. Chiles and Mrs. Chiles.
Floridians owe them a debt of gratitude, and on behalf of the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, I express our sincere condolences to the Chiles family on their personal — and our collective — loss.
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James E. Michalik, executive director, Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, Tallahassee