HKHC: Jacksonville, Florida

November 2013

Health Zone One: It is the urban core of Jacksonville, an area where 40 percent of children struggle in poverty and 100 percent of residents live in distressed neighborhoods. It is a place where crime is high, traffic is fast and heavy, and many children risk their safety simply by walking to school. Messages about eating are never subtle here, from the barrage of snack and fast-food advertising on billboards and convenience store windows.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Jacksonville (HKHJ) is intent on showing how Health Zone One can live up to its name. Led by the Duval County Health Department, its focus on policy and environmental changes has started removing barriers to healthy eating and physical activity in the primarily African-American community. Lessons learned here can be used to power the same effort in five other health zones, with a goal of dramatically helping children citywide.

The choices people have often dictate what they are able to do in terms of healthy living and active lifestyles.  As a consolidated city, Jacksonville is a mixture of many distinctive neighborhoods.  Whereas new and improved neighborhoods have been built with access in mind, many citizens find it nearly impossible to lead an active healthy lifestyle because of lack of nearby grocery stores, farmers markets, bike/pedestrian paths and parks.

HKHJ has benefited from the work and experience of the Healthy Jacksonville Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, which has been addressing childhood obesity for over ten years. Critical partners include Florida Blue Foundation, Jacksonville Community Council, Inc., Ruckus Advertising and Public Relations, the City of Jacksonville, Duval County Public Schools, Jacksonville Farmers Market, Southern Food Policy Advocates, Inc., Second Harvest of North Florida, Nemours Children’s Clinic, University of North Florida, ALS Architects and many more.

Dr. Laureen Husband, HKHJ’s project director, reflects on the initiative’s connection to neighborhoods and the potential impact it can have on the city. “Healthy Jacksonville has worked with residents and neighborhoods to address their unique needs. Whether it is bicycle access or community gardens, the partnership looks at what each neighborhood needs most and involves the community at each step along the way. Moving forward, this initiative is making Jacksonville a destination – a place where people can shop at their local farmers’ market, enjoy a bike ride as a family and live happy, healthy lives.”

Jacksonville’s youth have also been an integral part of the work to create a healthier city. HKHJ partners have given voice to elementary, middle and high school students as well as opportunities for them to act on health-related needs close to home. Young people helped create and administer a school nutrition survey to determine potential improvements to the school food contract. They have also surveyed farmers’ markets to determine variability, access and cost of products offered.  In addition, the youth have been instrumental in mapping play areas and recommending improvements to city officials.

Key accomplishments:

For more information, view a short film about their work.