The economic and physical health statistical realities in Jacksonville, Florida’s Health Zone 1 resemble those of third-world developing nations and stand in sharp contrast to the vibrant city adjacent to it. The area has a 26 percent poverty rate; median incomes are 50% below the county’s average and adverse significant health disparities abound. All of the residents in this urban-core area live in distressed neighborhoods which are also home to 40 percent of Jacksonville’s public and multifamily HUD assisted housing communities.
The overwhelming public health issues and significant economic challenges are being addressed through the collective efforts of community-based organizations, state and local leadership, and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities as part of the areas designated in 2010 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as the only Region IV-based, Environmental Justice Showcase Community Pilot.
The result is the Jacksonville Integrated Planning Project (JIPP). The data collection, communication, and partnership coordination capacity instituted by the JIPP resulted in a Community Action Plan that strategically targets public health and environmental improvements. Further, it distilled the community’s goal of increasing access to health care and integrated community quality of life concerns into a single community-based improvement plan which established the framework for a community coalition.
Additional success includes Jacksonville’s Empowering People Inspiring Change (EPIC) initiative. Based upon input from residents, EPIC is focused on integrated, community-driven goals such as expanding housing investment, increasing family wealth, expanding economic development, and improving access to quality education. JIPP and EPIC recently merged to focus on the near-term projects of mobile health clinic and urban agriculture, and the broader goals of cleaning up the environment, increasing access to health care, recreation, affordable, healthy, and safe food.
Change is happening and HUD to proud to be a partner in a process that is helping the people of Jacksonville’s Health Zone 1. All of the engaged community and governmental partners will continue to forge and expand local collaboration to leverage efforts that use housing and other tools as platforms to enhance the quality of life and economic opportunities for residents.
Matt Stewart is a Management Analyst in HUD’s Jacksonville Field Office.