Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies

Past Projects

Healthy Futures Perinatal Research and Systems Design Project:
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Linda Detman, Ph.D.

Healthy Futures was a qualitative research and systems designed project, carried out 2005-2010, aimed at exploring personal, social, contextual, and environmental factors that may contribute to adverse maternal, birth, and infant outcomes (specifically low birth weight and prematurity) among African American women in Florida. The research phase involved two in-depth interviews of African American women one month and six months after giving birth to explore their experience with perinatal care and the environment in which their pregnancy occurred. The system design phase of the project entailed working with stakeholders in Leon and Pinellas counties to identify, develop, and implement enhancements to their perinatal health care systems based on the findings from the research phase. The project was funded by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Rapid Assessment of Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Delores f. Jeffers, R.N., M.P.H.
Co-PIs: Deborah Austin, Ph.D. and Gwendolyn Quinn, Ph.D.

The intent of this study is to assist the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County to use scientific research methods to gather the opinions and thoughts of representatives of African American regarding the rise in Black infant deaths in Hillsborough County.  Focus groups (14) will be conducted concurrently on July 21, 2007, at the USF College of Public Health; transcribe and analyze the data for a rapid feedback to the participants in repeat focus groups on September 14, 2007.  After validating our findings with the study participants, the information will be disseminated to maternal and child health program, policy and practice decision makers for use in improving services and ultimately perinatal health outcomes in Hillsborough County.

Longitudinal Study of Parent Engagement in Healthy Families Pinellas
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Darlene L. Shearer Dr.P.H. M.P.H.

The objective of this exploratory study is to examine parent engagement of a randomly selected cohort of Healthy Families Pinellas families who participated in the home intervention program for high risk families with young children between 1998 and 2005. The study is currently reviewing 450 randomly selected client records to (a) describe characteristics of families who were enrolled for a short term period, a moderate period, and a long term period and (b) to compare outcomes of these families in the areas of engagement, development, autonomy, and well-being. The group has been stratified by length of enrollment. Short term families were enrolled in the program for less than 9 months; moderate term families were enrolled between 9 and 27 months; and long term families were enrolled for more than 27 months. Findings from the exploration study will provide important data to inform the development of a larger prospective study of relationships among families and program staff that predict and support successful family participation, adaptation, and development.

Evaluation of WAIT Training
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Darlene L. Shearer Dr.P.H. M.P.H.

WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training, is a curriculum that delivers key health and youth development messages to middle school and high school students receiving WAIT Training in Hillsborough County Public Schools and some private schools. Evaluation of WAIT Training is the focus of this project. The goals of the evaluation are: 1) to evaluate the effectiveness of the WAIT curriculum to influence attitudes and knowledge about the consequences of sexual activity, management of peer pressure, and abstinence; 2) to describe characteristics, social capital, and assets of teens in the Tampa community; and 3) to examine the effect of teen characteristics and assets on how well teens receive and use WAIT Training messages. To measure these effects the project revised pre and post training surveys currently used and added additional questions to identify social capital and youth assets. The responses to both surveys are then linked together to measure the effect of the WAIT training. In a second phase of the project a 4 month follow-up survey will be pilot tested with a volunteer sample of students to see if their responses change over time, if they can recall important information learned from the training, and determine use of the learned information. The project is funded by the USF Collaborative for Children, Families & Communities and the Children’s Board.

Black Infant Health Community Collaborative (BIHCC)
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Hamisu Salihu MD, PhD

The purpose the Black Infant Health Community Collaborative (BIHCC) is to combat the alarming rise in Black Infant Mortality by sustaining the momentum developed by the Black Infant Health Practice Initiative (BIHPI) in developing solutions for reducing the disparity between Black and White infant mortality in Florida. This project will be carried out by the joint efforts of county specific Community Action Teams, USF COPH (University of South Florida College of Public Health) and FAMU (Florida A&M University) with funds provided by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

  • Recent estimates released from the Florida Department of Health for the year 2005 showed a dramatic upsurge in Black infant mortality rate (IMR) to more than four-fold that of white infants [IMR= 22.7/1000 and 5.2/1000 for blacks and whites respectively].
  • BIHCC supports the development of Black leaders, chosen by their community, to remain engaged and mobilized in the efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities in infant health in their communities and across the state of Florida.
  • Our focus is to respond to the self-identified needs for information and technical assistance in the implementation and evaluation of local and state action plans.
  • As a first step of this collaborative, all community team members were brought together at the Black Infant Health Community Collaborative Partners in Leadership Conference. This two day assemblage of leaders in the fight against Black Infant Mortality resulted in the invaluable collaboration of ideas and information that will used to develop an array of technical assistance and support for participants and their communities.
  • During the remainder of the project, USF and FAMU faculty and staff will provide and implement the support plans developed in collaboration with the community partners. Examples of support services that may be provided include:
    • Training and assistance in secondary data analysis
    • Training and assistance in grant seeking and writing
    • Literature searches and reviews in topics pertinent to the reduction of Black infant mortality and morbidity
    • Public policy development and advocacy
    • Leadership development training

* To view Program Description, click here.

For more information about BIHCC please contact:

Julie Burgan

Central Hillsborough Healthy Start Project
Principal Investigator and Program Director:: Estrellita Berry, B.A.

The purpose of the Central Hillsborough Healthy Start Project (CHHS) is to narrow the gap in the existing racial disparities in perinatal outcomes in Tampa neighborhoods where Black infants die in the first year of life at a rate more than twice that of White infants.  The project currently serves mothers and babies in 17 of Tampa’s urban census tracts where over 70% of the births are to Black mothers who are typically young, unmarried, undereducated, and Medicaid eligible.  Despite the economic, health, and social challenges, the service community stakeholders, program participants, project staff, and project partners are committed to pooling and mobilizing their unique resources to level the playing field for Central Hillsborough’s Black mothers and infants.  Together program participants, residents, churches, schools, health care providers, and project staff are committed to reach out, engage, support and guide the emerging families toward a more healthy beginning.  Strategies for project goals and objectives address low birth weight, preterm infants, repeat births, Healthy Start screening rates and perinatal depression screening. Integrated community, county, and state efforts are complimentary.

Closing the Gap (CTG) in Infant Mortality Project –Summary
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Estrellita Berry, M.A.

The goal of the Closing the Gap in Infant Mortality (CTG) is to decrease racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and infant mortality rates.  CHHS, with CTG, fosters the development of joint partnerships with public and private organizations, state and local government, faith-based organizations, social service providers and nontraditional partners.  CTG activities in Hillsborough County provide educational information and screening on maternal infections and periodontal disease.  The Project also provides educational information and trainings on (1) maternal nutrition, (2) baby spacing, (3) maternal infections, and (4) periodontal disease to women, their extended families and the community.  Furthermore, the Project provides marketing campaigns that include new and innovative methods (developed from focus group data) to advertise Project services and general information about the racial disparity gap that currently exists in infant mortality.

Central Hillsborough Healthy Start/Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Neighborhood Initiative Innovation Mini-Grant
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Estrellita Berry, M.A.

The goal of the Allegany Franciscan Ministries Neighborhood Initiative Innovation Mini-Grant is to increase opportunities and resources to build the community’s capacity to promote and protect the health and well-being of its citizens, especially mothers, infants, and young children and their families by providing small grants, and technical assistance to obtain and manage those grants to grass roots agencies, not-for-profit 501(c)3 and faith based organizations that serve East Tampa families. 

March of Dimes/Central Healthy Start Faith and Outreach Initiative (FOI)
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Estrellita Berry, M.A.

The goal of the March of Dimes/Central Hillsborough Healthy Start Faith and Outreach Initiative is to use the faith community and local health and outreach fairs to educate area women of childbearing age, their families and the community about screening and treatment for reproductive infections, periodontal disease and depression.   Focus is placed upon increasing access to and quality of health care for women and infants.

Community Health Worker National Education Collaborative (CHW-NEC)
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Darlene L. Shearer Dr.P.H. M.P.H.

The CHW National Education Collaborative is a project that brings together leaders in the CHW field to develop a consensus around “best practice” approaches to community health worker education. The Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center serves as a Core Technical Assistance Institution on this project that is funded by the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center and the Arizona AHEC. Between 2002 and 2005 The Maternal and Child Services Workforce Development Program (MCS-WFD) at the Chiles Center was funded by the U.S Department of Labor and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop postsecondary education for community health workers. In cooperation with 3 community college partners (St. Petersburg College, Hillsborough Community College, and Central Florida Community College), the MCS-WFD Program successfully pilot tested and evaluated a 21 credit hour Applied Technical Diploma program that articulates toward an associate degree in Human Services and Counseling. Students of these programs are primarily non traditional, socio-economically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse students who are employed by health care and human service agencies to work with, teach, and support clients with similar demographics. The three programs continue to operate in Florida. Under the auspices of the CHW-NEC, the Chiles Center MCS-WFD and the three Adapter Institutions are actively participating and helping to inform best practices in CHW education.

Mr. and Mrs. Stanley N. Graven, M.D.Child Development Education Programs
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Stanley N. Graven, M.D., Professor Maternal and Child Health and Child Development

The 3rd International Conference on Brain Monitoring and Neuroprotection in the Newborn.  Jan 16-18, 2008 Vienna, Austria:
Advances in perinatal, fetal, and neonatal medicine have resulted in reduced infant mortality. Consequently there has been a shift in focus towards understanding and managing neuro-development, and in particular, neuroprotection.  Brain monitoring and neuroprotection are rapidly growing fields in neonatology. Strong scientific foundations in the lab are now finding clinical application, most notably in continuous EEG monitoring and protective hypothermia.
Plenary sessions will address the interface between research and clinical practice in management of infants at high risk for brain injury. Workshops will give clinicians of all experience levels in-depth exposure to these new technologies. Abstract presentations provide participants with an insight into current research activities in these fields.
This conference will provide a comprehensive educational offering for users where they can learn pertinent clinical information, application and emerging research. Researchers can benefit from this opportunity to discuss potential collaboration and new initiatives.

The 21st Annual Gravens Conference on the Physical and Developmental Environment of the High Risk Infant. Jan 30-Feb 2, 2008 Clearwater Beach, FL:
The Physical and Developmental Environment of the High- Risk Infant Center conducts organized and systematic studies and analyses in the intensive care practices and environmental factors that provide a platform for in-depth evaluation and synthesis of relevant science. It then develops recommendations for environmental and care standards for professionals working with high-risk infants in intensive care. The Center's Professional Advisory Committee has identified several subject areas for study. These encompass the physical environment, infant care issues, family care issues, and promotion of optimal development. Topics currently under review are: light, sound, sleep/sleep deprivation, positioning, motion, smell, taste, NICU design, and the impact of all of the above on newborns’ neurobehavioral development, as well as the impact of the environment on early brain development and function.
The 2008 conference provides a forum for healthcare professionals, basic scientists, architects, administrators, parents and other interested individuals to report current studies/activities and to share experiences regarding the neonatal intensive care unit environment and practices. A variety of plenary sessions, workshops, and seminars will feature current and emerging research and promote discussion among health-care professionals at basic scientists address the complex problems of the NICU environment.
For more information, visit the conference web site at or email Bobbi Rose at

Links to other important web sites:

Refugee and Entrant Technical Assistance Project

Coordinate and deliver eligibility determination and Florida KidCare training to community based organizations to increase refugees’ access to economic and health care services

Publications/Abstracts/Policy Papers
Duval County Refugee Health Care Utilization Process

Links to other important web sites

Brain Research to Ameliorate Impaired Neurodevelopment (BRAIN): Home-based InterventionTrial (HIT)
Principal Investigator and Program Director: Darlene L. Shearer Dr.P.H. M.P.H.

The major goal of this clinical trial is to test the efficacy of a home-based parent-provided early developmental intervention in three developing countries, designed for infants who have had birth asphyxia. In partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, personnel from the Chiles Center trained paraprofessional staff and community health workers in rural Zambia, India, and Pakistan to conduct home visits and to teach parents specific developmentally appropriate interactions with their child in the course of daily life in order to foster and support the child’s development. The study will examine developmental outcomes of target children and will examine other child and family characteristics that influence participation in the child’s intervention.