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Taking A Holistic Approach With 'Health In All Policies' Initiative

University of North Florida

Gyms are packed this time of year with people who have resolved to get in shape in the new year. Meanwhile one local organization is starting a new push to create a healthier First Coast.It’s called "Health In All Policies"— a major effort underway this year to make Northeast Florida a healthy place for families.

That involves everything from our built environment, to the food we eat, to our medical care and insurance.

Dawn Emerick, CEO of the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida, and health care navigator Nikole Helvey, who’s been helping Jacksonville residents sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, joined Melissa Ross for more on the new program and health care in the Sunshine State.

In a presentation on the new initiative, the council points out that despite Jacksonville being associated with many well respected health providers, from UF Health to Mayo Clinic, there are health disparities across the city related to factors including socioeconomic status and race. 

"There is a disconnect between having a world class health care system and population health," Emerick said. "We have to look at health as a holistic approach; it's not just the individual's responsibility for their health."

Emerick gave the example of a diabetic living in an area with no sidewalks and limited access to healthy food. Despite being a responsible and informed patient, it is still difficult for someone living in those conditions to manage the disease.

The council points out infrastructure development and wellness programs in cities like Atlanta, Baltimore, and Nashville that could act as blueprints for Jacksonville.

Part of the initiative is a road race, the Community First Hale & Hearty 7K Run/Walk, sponsored by Community First Credit Union of Florida.

The race, scheduled for the evening of June 7, will be run through the Avondale and Riverside neighborhoods. Organizers hope that participants will advocate to bring the walking and bicycle friendly features of the neighborhoods back to their city lawmakers.

As for Obamacare, Helvey said the council's nine navigators are now focused on making people aware that they can still get coverage through the online Health Insurance Marketplace this year. The deadline to apply is March 31.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.