In January, 2019 a Health Inclusion post describing some of Jacksonville’s efforts to reduce health disparities and promote health equity drew a great deal of response. Health providers, insurance companies, community organizations, health advocacy organizations and government are “all-in” on the important effort. The reasons why are clear, according to Healthy People 2020, social determinants of health are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risk.
Examples of social determinants include:
- Transportation options
- Public safety
- Access to health care services
- Exposure to crime, violence and social disorder
- And much more
The Heart of The Matter
Betsy L. Thompson, MD, Director, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention for the CDC reports that as the leading killer of Americans, heart disease and its associated behavioral causes are distributed throughout the U.S. However, some groups of people are more affected than others. Poverty and lack of education have long been associated with poorer health status and heart disease is no exception, occurring more frequently among people with lower incomes and less education.
The CDC points out that racial and ethnic minorities, including African Americans and American Indians, whose histories in the United States are marked by severe trauma such as slavery, genocide, lack of human rights and loss of ancestral lands, and who today are often disadvantaged in terms of income and education, also experience higher rates of heart disease.
Some geographic areas, such as the Southeast, Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, places often characterized by poverty, lack of opportunity and low education, including lack of access to health care and community supports for healthy behaviors also have higher rates of heart disease. Some Jacksonville and Northeast Florida communities fit this description. Dr. Thompson describes the CDC priorities regarding heart disease, strokes and related conditions, especially hypertension in this brief video.
First Coast Health Equity
The First Coast is five counties: Duval, Baker, Nassau, Clay, and the healthiest in Florida, St Johns. The most populous Duval County is improving, but critical barriers are holding it back:
- Heart disease causes one in every five deaths and is the second leading cause of the death behind cancer.
- 29 food deserts make access to healthy food a challenge for some community members.
- Life expectancy can vary by 6 years depending on where residents live because of certain social determinants.
Despite these sobering facts, First Coast hearts are stronger than ever and beating together with pride. A strong collaboration of healthcare, non-profit, business, and faith-based organizations are committed to making our community the healthiest in Florida.
The American Heart Association (AHA) First Coast Jacksonville Health Equity Committee is such a collaboration. I’m pleased to be a member, along with 14 other representatives from organizations committed and actively focusing on health equity initiatives. The First Coast Health Equity Committee is chaired by Catherine Christie PhD, RDN Associate Dean, Professor, and Nutrition Graduate Program Director at Brooks College of Health University of North Florida. The committee is working with Chelsea Reeves, MPH Community Impact Director, American Heart Association to provide strategic insight and develop a roadmap of strategies that address social determinants of health to transform Jacksonville health and wellness. Roadmap focus areas are:
- Increase Healthy Living Behaviors
- Sustainably Transform Diverse and Underrepresented Communities
First Coast Healthy Living
The Health Equity Committee is utilizing multiple AHA resources to develop wellness education and health empowerment events and initiatives. Healthy for Good™ is a revolutionary healthy living movement to inspire you to create lasting change in your health and your life, one small step at a time. The approach is simple: Eat smart. Add color. Move more. Be well.
- Eat Smart: Healthy eating starts with healthy food choices. You don’t need to be a chef to create nutritious, heart-healthy meals your family will love. Learn what to look for at the grocery store, restaurants, your workplace and any eating occasion.
- Move More: A good starting goal is at least 150 minutes a week, but if you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more! Find forms of exercise you like and will stick with, and build more opportunities to be active into your routine.
- Be Well: How do you want to live? Along with eating right and being active, real health includes getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness, managing stress, keeping mind and body fit, connecting socially, and more.
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