First Coast healthcare: from substance abuse to food deserts

Substance abuse, lack of affordable housing, transportation needs and even food are pressing concerns that need to be addressed to improve the health of Northeast Floridans, according to a new study by Jacksonville-area health care providers.

The Community Health Needs Assessment is conducted every three years by the Jacksonville Nonprofit Hospital Partnership using focus group data, selected interviews and regional surveys in the five First Coast counties.

Some critical concerns among the nine individuals identified in the study relate to cancer treatments, substance abuse, housing, maternal care and transportation.

The report claims that about 20% of a person’s health is determined by the quality of their medical care. A larger factor – almost half – are societal factors such as economic status, affordable and stable housing, access to transport and availability of healthy food.

In Duval County, priorities for addressing health deficiencies and inequalities include improved care coordination, affordable food throughout the metro area, more Medicaid-based providers in Westside and Northside, and more funding for substance abuse and mental illness treatment, it said in the report.

Michael Mayo, President of Baptist Health, said the study is the result of an important and unique collaboration between nonprofits, stakeholders and government agencies that began in 2011.

Although he believes progress has been made over the past decade, Mayo says the collaborative work helps providers and policymakers stay current on issues facing the community today.

“The challenge is that economic conditions in our community are constantly changing,” Mayo said. “So it’s an effort that can’t be put on hold; it must be implemented. We have great data, and if we move forward, we can make better changes in people’s lives.

The partnership includes 13 hospitals from five health systems: Ascension St. Vincent, Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic and UF Health. The fourth Community Health Needs Assessment is available at this link where residents can view all of the priorities identified for Duval, St. Johns, Nassau, Clay and Baker counties.

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