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Clinton-Backed Health Initiative Unveiled In Jacksonville

Rhema Thompson

The health of Northeast Floridians ranks among the best and the worst, depending on where you live. St. Johns County ranks best in the state, but nearby Baker County falls just short of the bottom of the list--number 62 of 67.  Duval County ranks number 47.

But across the five-county region there is plenty of work to do. Only about a quarter of adults get an adequate amount of physical activity and about half of adults in the region suffer from chronic illness.

Finding long-term solutions to the health concerns plaguing the region was the aim of launching the Northeast Florida Blueprint for Action.

The plan, unveiled Thursday at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, is part of the national Clinton Foundation initiative to improve public health care and curb health disparities.

Rain Henderson is the acting CEO of the Clinton-backed initiative.

“Unfortunately, there is a great need in Northeast Florida and Jacksonville, in particular to have greater access to health and health care,” she said. “We’re doing this here because there is a need and also, because there’s real traction and willingness on the part of the community to make the kinds of investments that are necessary to address the health and well-being of residents.”
Back in December, led by Northeast Regional Clinton Health Matters Director Ashley Smith-Juarez, about 100 stakeholders from Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St Johns counties met to discuss a plan of action to improve the health and well-being of their communities.

They came up with 45 recommendations, broken into nine different related categories: Clinical Care; Disease Prevention; Employment, Education and Income; Family and Social Support; Healthy Eating; Physical Activity; Physical Environment; and Substance Abuse, Alcohol and Tobacco Use.

Among the measures listed in the 31-page blueprint, the group recommended communities:

-Implement a Northeast Florida transportation plan to access education and employment opportunities

-Expand community access for mental health services

-Increase prevention programs to reduce youth crime and violence

-Provide bike lanes to connect neighborhoods and commercial centers

-Regionally source and distribute public funds dedicated to substance abuse and prevention and intervention

-Use creative strategies including social media and smart phone technology to address family diet.

Thursday those plans were discussed by a panel of community leaders including Florida Blue Senior Vice President Jason Altmire and State House Representative Mia Jones.

“I think we’ve got to stop talking out of both sides of our mouth and we have to say, this is the direction that we’re going in and we want to help your city, we want to help your state but most importantly, we want to help your family,” Jones said.

While the Clinton Foundation facilitates the meetings and private-public partnerships to get the discussion going, it does not provide any direct funding to implement plans, Henderson said.

“There’s not a grant that comes from the Foundation, but there will be other grants that come from other organizations to support the implementation,” she said.   

Meetings will be held to bring investors from the business and philanthropic community to the table, Henderson said.

In the months to come, stakeholders will divide into working groups throughout the community to begin implementing those plans.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.